Dedicated to the customer experience both online and in-store, aswaaq has undergone a significant digital revolution across its entire service portfolio. Grasping that the traditional ‘weekly’ shop has become a somewhat outdated concept, shoppers are now shifting towards purchasing goods on the go, driven by the adoption of increasingly busy lifestyles and transforming expectations surrounding not only the quality of perishable goods, but the way in which such products can be accessed, bought and stored.
Established 10 years ago, aswaaq has won a number of awards surrounding the quality of its products and ongoing focus on personalised services. “Our concept is really to provide services in communities around the city of Dubai. The city is growing, and it's difficult for people living on the outskirts to get the essential services that they otherwise require,” observes Deputy CEO, Affan Al-Khoori. Joining aswaaq back in the mid-2000s, Al-Khoori has seen the company grow exponentially, seeking ways to gain an edge over the competition by catering to the changes in consumer preferences and evolving pace of the retail market.
“We don't aim to become a destination store like much of our competitors,” adds Al-Khoori. “We're more convenient. In a way, we're trying to make customers comfortable so they come more frequently. We try to make the shopping experience as fast as possible, which is the opposite strategy of what big stores are doing by increasing the amount of time the customers spend in their store.”
Guaranteeing convenience through utilising digital tools, aswaaq provides a complete interactive shopping experience for its customers, both online and in-store. The company’s new unmanned store particularly highlights how customers are continuing to embrace new digital services, such as fingerprint technology. Customers are able to enter the store through this technology, purchase products and check out without using cash or credit card, as all services are linked to the customer’s mobile phone, explains aswaaq’s Innovation and Future Director, Manoj Vijayan.
Additionally, the company’s collaboration with LS Retail, Philips, Aisle411, GBM and Valuelabshas seen not only the development of its mobile app, named aswaaq Reach, but has enabled customers to gain the ability to build personalised shopping lists. Once complete, the use of Philips’ Visible Light Communication provides customers with a mobile navigation system (or mobile map) of the store, suggesting the quickest routes for customers to locate items and whether they are available.
“We're trying to take the concept of convenience to a new level,” says Al-Khoori. “We want the customer to have a positive shopping experience. We’ve created this unmanned environment that is within communities. The product range will be designed and will accommodate the needs of that specific community.”
Through machine learning, regular items on a user’s shopping list will also be suggested, prompting items that may have been forgotten, as well as further information surrounding potential deals or discounts on items that may be of interest that day.
Nonetheless, customer engagement remains vital for aswaaq. Discarding its physical loyalty card five years ago, the company’s digital loyalty program, named Wafa, has become fully integrated with a customer’s mobile number, where all services can be now accessed. “We have almost 80,000 customers on this app. We don't have a card, it is now completely mobile,” notes Vijayan.
“Our loyalty card is something we started 10 years ago. However, most loyalty cards focus very much on members being UAE nationals,” observes Al-Khoori. “So, we took that idea and built it up, so that we are now able to include everybody who's living in Dubai and cater for up to 200 nationalities, for the people who are living in the heart of Dubai.”
Through the use of this digital platform, aswaaq is able to track the popularity of its products and the frequency in which its customers visit its brick and mortar stores, where they can gain and redeem traditional loyalty points. All items on offer also have a unique QR code, which is utilised by customers at aswaaq’s self-checkout services, creating a completely seamless customer experience across the board.
“This loyalty program applies to everybody. It is free to join and can pay up to 10% cash within the next month,” explains Al-Khoori. “So, it focuses a lot on the loyalty of our customers, where they will be eligible to gain points leading up to 10% in terms of savings they can earn.”
Additionally, aswaaq's commitment to its customers has also been strengthened through a partnership with Noor Bank. The launch of the Noor Credit Card has provided a multitude of advantages to its customers. “Our loyalty programme is built on a one-step format, which is 1% return on any purchase below AED 1,500 during the period of a month, a 5% return on any purchase below AED 3,000 a month and 10% return on any purchase above AED 3,000 in a month,” continues Al-Khoori.
With such focus on providing an exceptional customer experience, aswaaq is continuing to look at areas of further growth. With plans to build four new community centres in 2018, the company is also behind the construction of a new distribution centre.
“The distribution centre will be 300,000 sq ft and is expected to open by the end of 2019,” reflects Vijayan. Placed in the centre of Dubai, the facility will seek to service aswaaq’s operations, such as its supermarkets, online centres and trading businesses, enabling it to further cater to the rising demands of its customers for years to come.
“Looking at how things are moving, especially here in the UAE, people’s lives are becoming busier. The hypermarket concept is still strong, but people are turning more towards convenience and even online, although not much right now. But, we see the times moving more and more towards online and having the convenience of getting things done faster,” concludes Al-Khoori.
“Time is expensive and is something our customers are acutely aware of. This was one of the first things that we stacked on when we gauged the look of our store to become something friendlier in terms of something that will hold your customers in place now and in the future.”