By Said Daher
As shoppers pursue distinct styles, retailers must respond with more stores, more brands and better customer experience
Retail in the Gulf has been arguably the most interesting industry for the last decade, which goes to prove that there is nothing constant but change.
Today, consumer behaviour has developed and evolved in the GCC; millennials want a different relationship with brands.
In a region where the majority of the population is dominantly young (and below 30) retailers are developing themselves to reflect and adapt to the very sophisticated lifestyle of the consumers. The millennia sees shopping as an experience; in fact, more than 60 percent of customers in the GCC believe that experience is at least as important as the brand, which compels retailers to reinvent their product mix and services.
Consumers seek distinct personal styles and are more prone to embrace differentiated concepts allowing them to stand out from the rest. In an era where trends come and go, where personalisation is a reality and customisation is key, retailers will thus be challenged to continuously answer the changing needs of the market.
In that sense, retail within the Gulf is, and will remain to be, a promising market to welcome new international concepts, contributing to various offerings and distinguished consumer experiences. In fact, the UAE has the second highest market penetration of franchising concepts after the UK, attracting more than 55 percent of internationally recognised brand retailers to the region.
This comes in parallel with the rise in the availability of new real estate projects, allowing growth for businesses and especially retailers, in countries such as Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where more than ten malls are expected to be inaugurated.
In 2017 alone we expect to see a growth of around 2 million sq m in retail space in the GCC. Malls within the Gulf will also be challenged to continuously introduce creative approaches to entertain shoppers, promoting retail-tainment in all its forms.
As opposed to solely focussing on retailer products, the retail mix is being fine-tuned to cope with the differing demands by including brands that provide shoppers with a 360-degree, one-of-a-kind experience. Millennials today are looking for convenience; they want to have it all and all at once.
Experience is also virtual; as demand keeps evolving, utilising social media and e-commerce is becoming increasingly more popular and an unavoidable means to engage with the consumer. E-commerce will continue transforming how we interact with brands; research shows that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are expected to be some of the fastest growing e-commerce markets globally in the next few years.
And while sizeable budgets are being invested into digital technology, customer service in stores is not forgotten; it remains to be the most vital component of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
The digital age has proven to disrupt traditional customer service models as more touchpoints have virtually been made available, largely leading to a decrease in real life human interaction.
This has elevated in return the importance of human relationships, making it fundamental more than ever for retailers to put their customer service at the forefront — a relationship that goes far beyond the initial sale. In fact, this goes hand in hand with recognising that your people are your most valuable asset.
As businesses grow, more efforts will be poured into unlocking people’s potential and effectively channelling talent to allow excellent return on investment.
As the customer continues to be king, people will prevail to be the most pivotal foundation of the new millennia in retail.
Said Daher, CEO at Azadea GroupFor all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.