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The retails companies of the UAE are following different digitalization strategies. The industry ranks third overall in our 2018 study and also ranks third in the e-commerce dimension while ranking fourth or fifth in the remaining dimensions.

For this study, we analyzed three local holding companies and three of their most famous brands, as well as an online retailer. The brands analyzed are franchises of local and international companies.

The three holding companies have different strategies when it comes to digitalization. One holding company, which owns only international luxury brands, is developing its online shop under its name. For this reason, the holding company itself is a brand that customers know and look upon to find luxury goods. In this setting, the brands themselves each have their marketing strategy, but if the customer wants to buy their products online without going to a physical store, they must use the online store operating under the holding company's brand. This strategy creates multiple contact points for customers and can confuse them. Indeed, both the holding company and the individual brands have their own customer service offerings and marketing campaigns which are not always aligned.

The second holding company's international brands have their online stores responsible for selling their goods in the UAE. In this case, the holding company is essentially invisible; the customers do not need to know about it or contact it for any reason. This results in a poor score for the holding company, but customers have unique points of contact to buy products, get support or follow the news related to a brand.

The last holding company manages only local brands and has decided that each brand should have its own online store. However, these stores all use the same technology and concept, allowing customers to use the same loyalty program and checkout system for all the stores. In this setting, the brands themselves are responsible for their own marketing and customer service, but by sharing one online platform, they also share the same resources, leading to an outstanding e-commerce and e-CRM experience for customers.

Finally, the online retailer leads the mobile and marketing dimensions for the industry, though it fails to compete in e-CRM and social media, as it is more of a marketplace than a brand in and of itself.

To conclude, the digitalization process for the UAE's retail industry is still ongoing, and different actors are experimenting with different strategies to gain market share. They should improve their online shopping experiences by providing more alternatives for customers to receive their products and to interact with the brands.

Industry reports