The sweet smell of "digital" success for Oud retailer, ASQ

Heritage

Not many businesses throughout the world can point to a heritage that goes back 170 years.

However, the Al Qurashi family’s links with perfume and Oud stretch all the way to 1852, with the unique fragrances entrancing and enthralling those who have come into contact with them over the years.

Their reputation originally grew through word of mouth – and secrets were passed down from generation to generation – until the company, Abdul Samad Al Qurashi (ASQ), began trading in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, 88 years ago.

  • Over 20,000 orders on National Day (and days surrounding)

  • Site visitors up by 250%

  • New customers up by 52%

  • Repeat buyers up by 48%

  • Business grown by £11m in year to March 2020

“We wanted to invest in digital and work with a company we felt could complement our ambitions. SQLI was the obvious choice as its work in the region spoke for itself.”

Firas Moazzen ecommerce manager at ASQ

Why SQLI and Adobe?

With a large percentage of revenue generated in its stores, ASQ turned its focus to a complete digital overhaul that would reflect its stature and growth in the region and set it up for the future.

Smaller businesses under its umbrella tended to sit on other platforms, but after trading on Magento 1 for several years and with the aim of having a platform capable of serving a multi-market that was easily scalable, ASQ sought a partner to help it make the transition to Adobe Commerce. 

Firas Moazzen, ecommerce manager at ASQ, said: “We were experiencing some issues on the existing platform. There were also lots of new operation and business processes which needed introducing to the ecommerce set-up.

“Prior to this, ASQ had worked closely with a Saudi agency, but we felt it was time for a fresh start – and that we needed a global agency that could grow with the business.

“The intention was to invest in digital by not taking any risks, so working with the best partner in the market.

“We opted against a formal procurement process. Having seen the success of SQLI's, formerly Redbox Digital, partnership with Nahdi – one of the Middle East’s biggest pharmacy groups, it put them ahead of any other agencies we considered and was a natural choice.”

How did SQLI meet the brief?

The new omnichannel digital experience is built on Adobe Commerce, integrating the company’s existing back-office Oracle systems.

Sarmad Hassan, SQLI's UAE country manager, said: “One of the key areas ASQ needed more help in was having integration between its Oracle back-office retail systems – which also had a finance component to it – and its ecommerce operation. They wanted to ensure that the reporting produced from a retail and ecommerce perspective was unified.

"SQLI achieved this and over the course of the project, we introduced a host of features including integration with Aramex, ensuring they are now able to fulfil orders from multiple locations and markets. They now have a single 360-degree view of all its sales across the globe.”

A range of feature-sets were also introduced to enhance personalisation and perfume selection choice for customers. They allow the customer to select perfume quantity (in “tola”), the bottle design and even an engraving option.

Challenges

A complex solution with major back-office integrations mean there are always likely to be challenges.

Sarmad said: “One of the biggest challenges we had was with the integration of the legacy systems. We invested a lot of time and effort to meet them in person, understand their requirements and come up with the right solution.

We were also able to give examples of how certain processes had worked with an implementation such as Nahdi to allay some of its concerns. As there are so few good omnichannel implementations in the region, it helps to be able to give identifiable solutions and examples.”

Other challenges to overcome involved different payment methods across multiple markets.

Sarmad said: “In this region if you wish to sell something you need different bank accounts for each country that you sell in. We resolved this by implementing checkout.com with a single backend that works with multiple currencies.

“In the Middle East, digital retailers have further payment challenges through their reliance on cash on delivery. We supported ASQ’s implementation of tabby – improving and configuring the plug-in which gives customers the choice of paying in monthly instalments or 14 days after delivery and helping ASQ become one of the first companies in the region to provide this.”

Results

While the focus was on redesigning the whole customer experience, and with one eye on the future, the immediate results speak for themselves.

Turnover grew £11million in the year from launch, with site traffic up by 250 percent and new customers up by 52 percent. Repeat buyers went up by 48 percent and monthly unique visitors up to 900,000, with an average basket value per order of $120.

Firas said: “During the two or three days over National Day, we processed over 20,000 orders making some of the highest sales in the region.

“The beauty of the platform is that we can upscale or downscale as needed.”

ASQ also saw other major benefits from the implementation, including no site downtime during one of its busiest periods and being digital-ready when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Firas said: “When stores were closed due to COVID, the only source of revenue was through online. Other businesses were scrambling about to improve their own systems, but we had invested wisely and had prepared for the long term.

“Our new platform has achieved an alternate sales channel that can be relied on in a pandemic, while giving us immediate exponential growth.”

The future

The relationship between ASQ and SQLI continues to thrive and grow.

Sarmad added: “Through the global pandemic ASQ has witnessed the benefits of investing in digital commerce and is continuing to do so. Most of its focus now is on having an alternate sales channel to the stores in case of a second wave.

“We are working with them to scale up the omnichannel experience, allowing customers to order through the retail stores, as well as via the warehouse.

“We have had a very successful implementation but see it as only a small step on our journey together.”

Profile

  • Industry: Perfumery
  • Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
  • Background: With a history going back almost 170 years, Abdul Samad Al Qurashi has gone on to become the biggest perfume manufacturer in the MENA region. Its ecommerce platform serves more than 100 countries worldwide, with multi-currency, multi-payment and multi-language options.

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