GCC Retail Sector : A shift toward Artificial Intelligence
With a growing understanding of the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to have on customer relations and sales, retailers across the world are exponentially investing in AI with an estimated global annual spending reaching around 7,3 billion dollars by 2022.
Artificial intelligence has become a future strategic imperative for retailers. Through enabling process automation, customers’ experience personalization and demand prediction, artificial intelligence can increase overall revenue and productivity. According to Business Insider projections, AI is to increase profitability in retail and wholesale by nearly 60% by 2035.
Quick to spot the potential, retailers in the GCC are eying AI and are making considerable strides to push towards embracing technology to enhance retail experience.
Three notable examples of large, GCC based, retail groups accelerating AI deployment are the following:
Majid Al Futtaim (MAF):
Majid Al Futtaim is an Emirati holding company that operates in 15 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. According to its CEO, Alain Bejjani, digitization is a crucial component of the company. Some components of the digitization strategy of MAF are the following:
+ Build a data-driven knowledge through heavily investing on Data Analytics. Mainly the company is planning to develop “the Majid Al Futtaim Golden Customer Record” by collecting customer and transaction data from its various business units namely Carrefour, Vox and WI-FI, this is in the aim to turn the vast amounts of collected data into results in real time.
+ Enhance the company’s advanced analytics capabilities through recruiting data engineers and scientists that will integrate the company’s various departments and also launching MAF’s own School of Analytics and Technology that will offer curriculum for nearly 40.000 employees. The curriculum is said to include everyone in the company from the CEOs to frontline workers.
+ Explore new technologies by partnering with LA based technology company I.am, that will provide MAF with its Omega platform which is an AI powered conversational and contextual voice assistant that delivers deep cross domain knowledge for a smooth customer experience.
Al Shaya is an international retail franchise operator based in Kuwait; it handles around 90 consumer retail brands across the MENA region, Russia, Turkey and Europe.
Last year, and as part of a wider transformation plan to enhance operational efficiency and assist ongoing growth and innovation, Al Shaya has agreed on a multiyear partnership with Manthan, a leading provider of AI- augmented advanced analytics.
This partnership is to enable Al Shaya to streamline its current businesses by building an enterprise data lake from numerous data sources including back-end systems, customer engagement platforms, HR systems, finance and logistics, in the aim to act as an analytics hub.
Overall, Manthan will provide Al Shaya with complete end to end analytics coverage enabling insight-based decision making across the breadth of its portfolio.
Landmark Group- Home center:
Landmark Group is a Dubai based conglomerate that operates mainly in the MENA region and South east Asia.
Earlier this year, the group’s home retailer brand Home Center has started operation in its first fully automated National Distribution Centre in Sudair (Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones- Modon).
The facility is the first fully functional automated Distribution Centre of its kind in Saudi Arabia that operates state of the art AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) in conjunction with automated conveyor systems.
The warehouse accommodates autonomous driverless vehicles that will help in streamlining processes, and further strengthen Home Centre’s position as the leading home-grown retailer in the region.
Beside these three leading retail groups, more and more retailers across the GCC are getting serious about exploring what Artificial intelligence can offer. Based on 2018 Global Consumer Executive of Mind Survey, 40% of UAE- based CEOs in the retail industry plan to use AI in the next two years to enhance store experience.
However, despite all the current hype around AI, it is an overlooked reality that to achieve AI’s transformative potential, companies need mature data practices as well as AI expertise. Also, it is primordial to ensure individual privacy which requires from companies to put proper data handling policies to ensure anonymity.
Accordingly, it may be regarded as certain that the future of artificial intelligence in GCC retail sector is in a seamless correlation with how realistic retailers are in regard with their preparedness to deploy Artificial Intelligence.
Nouha Abardazzou, Senior Analyst