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This VR-Powered Digital Mall Will Target Emerging-Economy Millennials

A venture capital firm based in Dubai plans to launch a $500-million “digital mall” targeting the 90 percent of the world’s millennials—and their expected $4 trillion spending power by 2030—who reside in emerging economies.

Scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2020, Mall.Global claims to offer the “world’s first hybrid retail experience,” combining a mash-up of the latest technologies and features to deliver the tech-powered, customer-first experience that the next generation of shoppers expect. Mall.Global said it will empower more than 2,500 global brands across fashion, baby care, electronics, pet care and other categories not just to sell their wares in typical e-commerce fashion but also to “recreate” the magic of the physical retail experience.

It plans to do so by offering participating brands a virtual reality toolkit to design and incrementally update their platform stores in order to execute their campaigns, showcase new collections and refresh the shop layout seasonally—just as they would in a brick-and-mortar setting.

“Some of the best innovations of our time have come as a result of need,” said CEO Sofya Shamuzova, a serial entrepreneur who previously helmed Dubai realty firm Stars Dome Group and hotel furnishings group Casa Shamuzzi. “The need, in this case, was to attain a higher level of value and convenience, maintain all aspects of online shopping that consumers are used to and retain the essence of brand personas as in traditional retail.”

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The platform will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize and personalize the shopping experience, while customers can turn to a chatbot for tailored recommendations. Mall.Global will address some of e-commerce’s drawbacks, especially where fashion and apparel are concerned. “The platform is designed to address the most common wishes of customers with features like ‘Try & Buy’ where shoppers have the option of receiving certain products like apparel and footwear in a size above and below their chosen order to ensure 100 percent satisfaction in every sense of the word,” Shamuzova said.

Regardless of which brand store they shop with, customers are offered a multi-platform loyalty program that gives them the choice of how they want to be rewarded for purchases.

Like any offering focused on young shoppers, Mall.Global will showcase reviews posted micro-influencers, and shoppers can see how many “likes” a product has, offering greater decision confidence. Customers can take advantage of a custom social feature so they can “find out what their friends think about their choices,” according to Mall.Global.

Acknowledging the global problem with counterfeits, Mall.Global will incorporate blockchain technology to secure its supply chain and ensure that all product sold on its platform are authentic goods direct from the manufacturer. The startup said blockchain also will be used to protect financial transactions, and it will accept popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether, in addition to credit cards and cash.

Available for desktop, mobile web and all popular mobile operating systems, Mall.Global said the 2020 go-live will be followed by staggered launches across the Arab States, China, India, North Africa, Europe, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. More than 500 brands are on board as of now, according to Mall.Global’s website, and all orders will be fulfilled free of charge with “worldwide fast-track shipping.”

Shamuzova believes e-commerce as we know it will only evolve and become more immersive in the years ahead.

“We often hear that e-commerce is the future of all retail; I say it is its present, at best,” Shamuzova noted. “The future is a place where customers don’t just browse and buy products but actually experience the brand before they do so, and Mall.Global will offer just that.”