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Rough ride for online fashion retailers in the Middle East

online fashion retail in the Middle East

Notwithstanding the optimism fueled by internet savvy and style conscious Middle East consumer, online fashion retail is having a bumpy ride on the sand dunes of the Middle East. Kipp finds the reasons.

July 31, 2012 11:31 by

Industry experts believe two things about the Middle East fashion consumer deter him/her from making a purchase online- one, that the consumer is accustomed to the mall culture which offers a plethora of brands to choose from, and two, he/she does not trust online transactions, especially while dealing with a local or regional e-retailer.

So how are online fashion retailers in this region, planning to lure the fashion consumer towards virtual shopping carts, passwords and wait lists, especially since access to the world’s best brands is not a concern?

My-, a global online retailer who recently entered the Middle East market believes the young and internet savvy Middle East consumer is ready for a change.

David Worby, says, “The internet has created a dynamic environment where you can shape the way people shop, bringing each item to life through photography, editorial and inspirational features. Being able to maintain a personal approach through a knowledgeable and easy-to-reach customer service team, we can recreate key parts of the shop floor experience.”

Given the fact that internet and mobile penetration is one of the highest in the Middle East, coupled by the fact that there has been a marked increase in online shoppers here in the past 5 years (primarily on flight tickets and group discount websites), global and regional fashion e-retailers are flocking to set up their virtual shops here. However, the wealthy Gulf fashion consumer is proving to be difficult to convince, mostly due to the deep set consumption pattern found in the region.

In fact, according to a regional survey by Mastercard, 43% of consumers in the UAE still do not feel secure shopping online. Some retailers even find that their walk-in customers at their stores come after browsing their website first. Instead of making the purchase on the online store of the brand, consumers decide to visit the physical store. This is a peculiar and striking behavior pattern of the Middle East fashion consumer- The ‘shopping experience’ for the Middle East consumer is extremely important in making the purchase decision.

Even so, online retailers seem determined to persuade the regional consumer and are willing to go the extra mile to make online shopping more comfortable for the consumer. Federica Mazza, Creative Director, LEMUDA.COM says, “People are apprehensive as they are unaware of the websites and their services and hesitant to divulge credit card information. To instill confidence in our consumers we also offer an option to pay by cash-on-delivery and have equipped our organization with all the tools in order to safeguard our customers and serve them with complete transparency.”

Despite offering the cash on delivery option to consumers, Dubai based retailer Niesh Boutique says that the revenue from their online store accounts to just 10% of its entire bespoke fashion accessories business, which includes two physical stores in the city.

Mikky Jethani, founder, Niesh Boutique says, “The biggest challenge we have faced as an online store is giving people of UAE a reason to buy online. As we all know, UAE as a country has a very strong mall culture. People are always flocking to the malls to shop and entertain themselves. Having said this, people have limited time to shop since everyone is trying to balance a work and home life schedule. We as retailers want to fit into their schedule and help them obtain what they want. One of the best ways to get customers to shop with you is to provide excellent customer service. At, when we receive an order or a query, we are quick to respond and offer help upon request. This has helped us create a trusting relationship and repeat customers.”

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1 Comment

  1. SidB on July 31, 2012 2:53 pm

    Online retail has always worked well servicing the smaller out of reach cities in a country. The big cities like dubai will always have physical malls, and that will ALWAYS be competition. But Online retailers can reach much farther inside, and work on developing the market in places where there aren’t too many physical store options.


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