AI helps Dubai shoppers find best deals

  • October 13, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson
Abdul Baset Al Janahi

Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping shoppers in Dubai find deals, discounts and offers from local stores and malls.

The initiative from business discovery platform HiDubai uses map-enabled discovery, powered by AI-search capabilities, to aggregates all offline discounts and promotions from multiple brands across Dubai on a single platform.

HiDubai was created by Tejuri Com, a joint venture between Dubai Economy and Dubai World to support the business ecosystem of Dubai.

“Dubai is a renowned shopping hub for residents and tourists alike,” said Abdul Baset Al Janahi, member of the board of directors of Tejuri Com. “Our research in the past indicated a lack of information flow between the retail community and customers. There had been a surge of couponing and deal platforms circa 2008 to 2012 to solve this problem. We observed that such a model covers only a tiny portion of retailers who continuously offer deep discounting. The idea is sold to them under the pretext that the customers make repeat purchases.”

With the growth of global ecommerce, users were shifting to ecommerce apps to discover products. In 2020, the ecommerce market was eight per cent of the retail sector in UAE. On the other hand, offline retailers were offering competitive deals to counter deep discounting by ecommerce platforms.

“Unfortunately, the complexity and cost of taking this information to customers continued to be a practical challenge for retail businesses,” said Al Janahi. “We realised that there is a scope to address the offline deal discovery challenge faced by 92% of the retail sector. To address this customer need, we introduced this new feature intending to enable offline retail transactions. Initially, during the MVP [minimum viable product] phase, the feature was retail customer-centric. However, we ended up solving a more significant challenge faced by retailers by offering a technology-enabled model to broadcast their deals, discounts and offers.”

HiDubai’s engineering team initially approached this from a low-effort-high-impact point of view, leveraging open-source frameworks to ship the feature faster. It launched the MVP a few months back and constantly listened to users to build this feature and eventually coded 80% of the feature in-house.

“We experimented with Algolia to create an AI-enabled search engine for this feature, where users can discover deals by brand, store, malls and even location,” said Al Janahi. “This worked out quite well, in addition to being the first-ever map-based deal discovery platform. During the beta stage, we could generate over 900,000 visitors that benefitted over 3000 retailers in Dubai.”

A wide range of categories is available on HiDubai Deals to help users discover all types of brands on sale. It also has a location-based search that allows users to find all the offers around their location.

Behind the scenes, HiDubai is investing in field efforts to keep the content fresh and relevant. Each offer goes live with a validity period, detailed description, brand information and GPS-enabled store location. This feature is updated daily to ensure shoppers never miss a sale. On an average day, shoppers can find 700 discount offers to choose from.

Retailers who want to use this facility need to claim their business on HiDubai through a two-minute process.

HiDubai lists business information of more than 153,000 companies from Dubai and, through social features, helps B2C and B2B customers discover those businesses and engage with them. The platform has generated 3.16 million leads for companies in Dubai. HiDubai gets over a million visits a month from 138 countries.