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Exclusive: Reem Mall discusses its revolutionary new app that will transform retail

Reem Mall has introduced an exciting new app that will change how customers in Abu Dhabi shop forever. Milat Sayra Berirmen, Reem Mall’s Director of Digital Innovation, shares some insights with us.

"Unlike common players across the region, Reem Mall is not only a real estate investment – the mall is also an investment in technology and logistics" "The shopping mall needs to transform from a traditional concept to an overarching entity that can truly connect the consumer with the retailer" "The app encompasses innovative and customer-centric solutions that provide seamless unprecedented experiences that prioritize tailored product discovery and personalized experience"

With the coming of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have seen many changes and evolutions coming to sectors across the business spectrum. In the retail sector, this amounts to exciting new possibilities such as an AI-personalized buyer experience, AR changing rooms, returning customer facial recognition in stores, and a lot more. 

One recent instance of these developments is the debut of a new app at a major mall in Abu Dhabi: the $1.2 billion Reem Mall. 

 Milat Sayra Berirmen, Reem Mall’s Director of Digital Innovation

This app provides digital access to more than 450 local and international brands, hypermarkets and department stores at Reem Mall. The aggregated app will also allow customers to benefit from hands-free shopping online, with the added flexibility to collect their purchases from a digital locker or have it delivered to their homes. The app will also offer users exclusive benefits, including a gamified loyalty program that works conjointly with a digital wallet to reward shoppers and guide them to similarly relevant brands and products, and smart parking and indoor navigation. Users will also receive special updates on the latest deals, offers and discounts from their favorite brands and products.

Hoping to learn more about this new digital product, AMEinfo spoke with Milat Sayra Berirmen, Reem Mall’s Director of Digital Innovation.

What prompted Reem Mall to develop this new app, and what issues were you trying to address?

At Reem Mall, we are gearing up to bring in some very exciting changes and developments to make the mall the world’s first fully enabled, offline-to-online, technology-powered life and business center. The launch of our aggregated mobile application to our business partners, retailers, and stakeholders marks a significant milestone for us in this journey. 

We first envisioned our digital innovation transformation two years ago, when we actively started a tremendous drive in the amalgamation of digital with offline capabilities. With the COVID-19 pandemic, witnessing first-hand the seismic change that has been brought about in people’s lives truly pains me. However, from a digital transformation perspective, this calamity has been the main catalyst in helping the retail industry realize that the days of the traditional shopping mall are truly over. There is now an even bigger need to target and engage with a new breed of digitally native buyers who are becoming increasingly aware of the convenience of online shopping.

Reem Mall, therefore, is actively endeavoring to reinvent the traditional concept of a shopping mall. We are developing a new model that serves three major categories. Unlike common players across the region, Reem Mall is not only a real estate investment – the mall is also an investment in technology and logistics. This is particularly crucial for us because the global retail landscape has long been enjoying the benefits of the digital realm. So, for us, the sole focus on just leveraging a real estate opportunity did not make much sense. Instead, what powered our planning and discussions was the single statement that the shopping mall needs to transform from a traditional concept to an overarching entity that can truly connect the consumer with the retailer.

With this rationale, we have been able to filter every single one of our critical digital assets through one of two lenses: (i) is the mall addressing a customer need, and (ii) how well is the capability that the mall is deploying enhancing that customer need. The answer lay in committing valuable investment in technological innovations.

And this is precisely what guides the functionalities of our aggregated mobile application. The app encompasses innovative and customer-centric solutions that provide seamless unprecedented experiences that prioritize tailored product discovery and personalized experiences. The app is the consumer-facing side of our solutions, addressing critical consumer pain points – whether it is concerns over malls getting too big, difficulty in navigating from parking to preferred points within the mall, or simply confusion in terms of identifying relevant offers and promotions.

So essentially, the app will serve as a sort of e-commerce platform for stores located in the mall that previously might not have had an online offering, correct? If that is the case, then this could prove truly revolutionary for the UAE’s retail sector, especially companies that have yet to expand their business online. 

Yes, correct. As the first of its kind, our aggregated app brings the entire mall ecosystem together on a singular platform to revolutionize the experience for retailers and consumers – complemented with an onsite fulfilment center.

In addition to providing digital access to more than 450 local and international brands, hypermarkets and department stores at Reem Mall, the aggregated app will allow customers to benefit from hands-free shopping online. This means that shoppers can utilize the on-premises logistics hub to simply drop-off their bags at individual retailers and have them collected at a digital locker or delivered to their homes. The app will also offer users exclusive benefits, including a gamified loyalty program that works conjointly with a digital wallet to reward shoppers and guide them to similarly relevant brands and products; and smart parking and indoor navigation. Users will also receive special updates on the latest deals, offers and discounts from their favorite brands and products.

But not only that – data harvesting, analysis and insights will also lie at the core of all operations to truly reinvent the experience for retailers as well. The app’s capabilities will extend to a robust digital infrastructure for business partners, powered by the world’s leading mega omnichannel ecosystem. What this means is that we will be able to create 360-degree buyer personas, segment them, and based on this segmentation, allow our retailers to link personalized promotions to each segment.

How were you able to bring the over 450 brands in the mall to make the transition to your app? 

It is no secret that the current global economic uncertainty has had a massive impact on shopping behaviors and sentiment. We have all seen how the pandemic has accelerated the popularity of online shopping. For us at Reem Mall, listening to and observing these changes has never been more important. 

Our conversations with our partners and stakeholders began with acutely studying the increasing need for unprecedented digital adoption in the face of today’s new reality. Together, we evaluated what this means for the malls of tomorrow and concluded that business models must adopt an agile approach to deliver innovative customer-centric solutions.

The aggregated app presented our partners with a clear solution to do just that: adapt to the changing times by accelerating their digital transformation. This is true for all retailers and brands – enabling established businesses to expand their existing online offerings, while also empowering emerging businesses to widen their reach by harnessing the full potential of our app.

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Can you give us more details about your in-app wallet feature, and can you explain in what sense your loyalty program is gamified? This has been a growing trend with loyalty programs worldwide, taking a page out of mobile gaming’s book. Additionally, what savings can customers expect?

The app’s digital wallet works hand-in-hand with our gamified loyalty program. By offering a cashless and convenient way of shopping through the app, both these features address another pain point – that consumers want to make quick and easy payments and be rewarded for their purchase. The progressive reward mechanism, embedded within the loyalty program, not only enables the consumer to access enhanced reward through higher spend but also interaction. For our retailers, it provides yet another innovative platform to connect with their customers and guide them to relevant brands and products.

With e-commerce retail portals that are already well-established in the industry, we see that users are met with a system that understands their unique needs and wants, and accordingly presents them with tailored offerings. However, with traditional malls, there is still tremendous friction in compiling relevant promotions for shoppers. What sets Reem Mall apart and allows us to truly reinvent the shopping experience is the personalization of promotions based on the data gathered. What this means is that we will be able to predict customer behaviors and actively personalize and target specific promotions to them.

What do you foresee will be the long-term impact of an app such as the one Reem Mall has now developed? 

The launch of our app marks the first time that a shopping mall, that wears the hat of a mall operator, is focusing on an area that will be on par with some of the biggest players in the e-commerce industry. It firmly positions Reem Mall as a landmark destination that will redefine retail experiences for both retailers and consumers as a game-changer in the global industry.

It also underscores our commitment to driving the overall competitiveness and sustainable growth of the region’s retail industry, helping our industry partners and stakeholders understand what the future of retail and customer experience could look like when more and more retailers are empowered with data analytics. For a shopping mall to stay and become even more relevant, the mall must continually evolve itself; where it not only becomes a generator of physical demand but also a generator of digital demand. The successful companies of tomorrow will undoubtedly be the ones that address rapidly evolving consumer demands now and in the mid- to long-term, leveraging all opportunities to navigate the customers’ online preferences, improve supply chains, build capacity, and adapt to innovations more quickly.

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