[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]ccording to a report by payments technology company Worldpay, Singapore’s e-commerce market is expected to expand 48 per cent to US$7.4 billion (S$10.3 billion) by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of 7 per cent. Yet 39-year-old Simon Naga, vice-president of Al-Futtaim Group, Asia, believes that the rise of e-commerce doesn’t necessarily sound a death knell for brick-and-mortar stores. The Dubai conglomerate’s retail arm, which has over 125 stores in Singapore, counts brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti and Ted Baker in its portfolio.

While Al-Futtaim’s retail strategy straddles both the online and offline aspects of retail, Naga says that storefronts not only allow customers to assess the physical product, but also serve as tangible marketing platforms that drive traffic to a brand’s website.

For many businesses, the key to survival in the digital era is the ability to collect and analyse data to create products consumers desire. Retail stores provide another opportunity to do just that, says Naga. Employees at fashion brand Massimo Dutti, for example, are trained to interact with customers and capture their aesthetic preferences. Using these insights, the Italian clothes manufacturer is able to calibrate upcoming collections specifically for the Asian physique. “If you don’t have all this data, you cannot have a successful e-commerce or retail business,” says Naga.

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