Can the Gulf’s ecommerce space accommodate more than two behemoths, after Amazon and noon? The answer to that – at least in the Saudi online retail space – will be known soon enough as cenomi.com moves closer to a full-scale launch of its e-marketplace.
Cenomi is the new branding for the Saudi retail giant formerly known as the Fawaz Alhokair Group and owner of Arabian Centres. It was last month that the group announced a full-scale transformation – and not just the name change.
The e-marketplace will give Cenomi – who represents 92 brands including Apple – an additional channel to connect with shoppers in the Kingdom. “When a retailer with 1,700 plus stores decides to launch an online platform of this scale, it creates opportunities for Cenomi and the brands themselves,” a retail consultant told Gulf News. “Saudi Arabia is the next big Middle East market where the ‘omni-channel’ experience for consumers is forecast to grow exponentially.
“This is why the cenomi.com launch – expected in Q1-2023 – is perfectly timed.”
Retail sources say that apart from the 90 plus brands Cenomi has direct access to, the new e-marketplace will attract others once the portal goes live in the coming weeks.
In the last two years, the UAE retail space has seen the trend pick up where shoppers may use the online channels to browse and order/book a product they like. And then head for the brand’s physical stores to pick it up. Retailers such Emaar, Majid Al Futtaim Group, Landmark have done this to good effect, thus creating opportunities for online and offline shopping.
Cenomi is betting that this trend will catch on fast with Saudi shoppers too.
“We are known for building world-class shopping centres, home to some of the world’s best-loved brands,” said Mohamad Mourad, Managing Director and CEO, Cenomi Group, in a recent interview to Gulf News. “We brought many of those names to Saudi for the first time. For Cenomi, this is about more than simply taking our offline business online – it is about creating a complete ecommerce ecosystem that encompasses an immersive variety of brands and products.
“Both online and app-based, Cenomi will completely reimagine ecommerce for consumers in the Kingdom, providing them with the omni-channel experience they deserve.”
A three-way race
At least in Saudi Arabia, what was until now a two-way race for shoppers’ riyals, will turn into a full-on three-way battle. Retail sources say that Cenomi’s existing consumer base can easily provide the initial boost when the portal gets going. And if the average spend settles in at a higher level, the new e-marketplace can make things happen.
On its part, Cenomi will be deploying ‘in-country fulfilment centres to ensure clear tracking of product inventory levels,” said Mourad. “Both within those centers and within our stores, to provide quick, convenient and hassle-free delivery to consumers’ doors or the ability to click-and-collect at a time of their choosing.
“Cenomi.com is an ecommerce platform never seen before in the Kingdom. It will truly augment the relationship between online and offline retail in an omni-channel environment that offers customers the choice, convenience and experience they should expect whenever and wherever they choose to shop.”
Saudi shoppers make for heavy online presence
By some reckoning, 91 per cent of Saudi consumers shop online, similar to other developed ecommerce countries.
“According to Checkout.com, 14 per cent of Saudi consumers say they shop online at least once per day,” said Mohamad Mourad of Cenomi Group. “We know this is a business area with consistent and phenomenal growth prospects.
“Within Cenomi Retail, our brand franchise operation, we have a solid and growing ecommerce business that supports existing and new partners to deliver online retail to customers across the Kingdom. This includes brands such as Zara, Mango and Aldo, and we directly manage more than 30 mono-brand websites with millions of visitors every month.
“This will continue in addition to the launch of the Cenomi.com e-commerce marketplace in 2023.”