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Tue 14 Jan 2020 12:13 PM

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Retailers in the Middle East need to invest in data, tech to cater for today's customers

E-commerce versus brick-and-mortar is no longer a battle in the retail world, says Ishwar Chugani, MD of Giordano Middle East

Retailers in the Middle East need to invest in data, tech to cater for today's customers

Ishwar Chugani is the managing director of Giordano Middle East and has 40 years of global retail experience.

The rise of e-commerce in recent years has challenged brick-and-mortar retailers to ramp up their in-store experience and offer incentives to shoppers that cannot be acquired online.

Consumers today seek convenience, choice and unique products. They also understand the trade-offs between both ‘online’ and ‘offline’. Cyber shopping offers convenience and flexibility minus the intimacy of a traditional in-store experience.  

The notion of in-store customer experiences isn’t new, but consumer expectations of these experiences are rapidly evolving. It is no longer enough to greet your customers, offer personalised recommendations, and deliver a seamless checkout process. Today’s customers want more.

Investing in data technologies and a high-quality customer relationship management and/or point-of-sale system is key to delivering a more personalised shopping experience.

With accurate contact information, such as validated email addresses, you stand a better chance of reaching your customers in a timely fashion with news, promotions and other valuable upsell opportunities. Tracking consumers’ purchase history lets you know what customers are interested in, and the data collected over time allows for a lasting relationship, as well as a more personalised service and shopping experience.

Collecting data about your customers is great, but how do you determine what data is most valuable and how might you apply it to your business?

The key here is that we don’t need big data – we need real data. Avoid being an “askhole” - in other words, don’t bother your customers with too many irrelevant questions and ensure that there is a purpose behind all the information that is collected. Your data is only as valuable as the actions you take based on the data.

E-commerce versus brick-and-mortar is no longer a battle in the retail world. The two are growing at similar rates and it is no longer enough to simply exist and sell via one channel. A hybrid shopping approach, blending in-store purchases with online shopping, however, brings its own wave of challenges.

Retailers need to look for more innovative approaches to training and staff development in order to adapt to the evolving retail landscape. To be a salesperson isn’t enough - retail employees are ambassadors of the brand and integral to the human experience.

To consistently exceed customer expectations, brands must ensure that customer interactions are rooted in empathy, engagement and emotional intelligence - areas that haven’t been talked about enough.

Retail employers are waking up to the fact that beautiful stores also need to have switched-on, socially conscious and empathically driven teams. Happy employees will lead to happy customers.

To succeed, today’s retailers also need to embrace the challenge of relationships by leveraging technology to establish and maintain an omni-channel which will help connect with their customers effectively and serve their customers more efficiently. The goal is to remove friction from the customer’s purchase and fulfilment experience.

Technology is great for driving the backend of the business. Up front it is all about people connecting with other people.

Today’s retail market is short on “distinct experience”; so, when you create one, you create an instant relationship with your customers.

Ishwar Chugani is the managing director of Giordano Middle East and has 40 years of global retail experience.