This week, Ooredoo announced the opening of a new “Express Shop” in Qatar and a new “Smart Shop” in Algeria.
Ooredoo’s Express Shop, the first of which opened in Qatar in April 2019, is a smaller franchise space located in existing third-party outlets designed to “ensure that customers can find an Ooredoo shop wherever they are.” The Smart Shop model, which Ooredoo first introduced in early 2016 and brought to Algeria in October 2021, is a fully digital retail space whose design aims to provide customers with a more interactive shopping experience.
These new locations are part of the operator’s ongoing effort to expand its retail presence across its markets.
At a time when shopping experiences of all kinds are increasingly moving into online space, Ooredoo’s continued focus on retail locations could be viewed as almost antiquated. However, it is worth noting that, while much has been made of the digital shift and digital-only MVNOs, brick and mortar locations are still critical for telcos in many markets.
The availability of these stores and the quality of the customer experience in them is one of the main tools for major MNOs to combat against disruptors. As we have seen with Apple, whose physical stores have proved a key factor in the brand’s continued success despite higher prices, many consumers are willing to pay more for the security of knowing that there is always a direct way to access face-to-face and immediate customer support.
Indeed, Ooredoo has acknowledged the importance of physical stores in combination with a digital presence in their strategy. In an interview with the Gulf Times, Khalid al-Hamadi, Senior Director of Consumer Sales, explained that the operator is “fine-tuning the correct mix of ‘bricks and clicks’ to ensure that the needs of all [their] customers are [met].”
There is one important caveat to this approach, however: this is not just a “more for the sake of more” strategy. In order for physical locations to truly help MNOs counter discount competitors, customers must actually receive a high-quality experience and leave satisfied at these stores. This includes ensuring that stores are designed with comfort, access and ease of use in mind, and are staffed with knowledgeable and well-trained representatives in sufficient quantities to efficiently handle the flow of customers. Anything less harms the customer experience, which would make such retail locations just another expense.