Middle Eastern consumers adore shopping and love new experiences in malls and stores. What kinds of innovations can they expect in 2019? And how can traffic data help retail businesses in this region meet ever-rising shopper expectations?
Fertile market conditions
While the Middle East market has seen challenges in recent years, as our recent report explored, substantial growth between now and 2021 is forecast. In fact the size of the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) retail sector is on track to grow by 25%, from $250.5 billion (AED919.33bn) in 2016, to $313.2bn (AED1.15 trillion) by 2021, driven by economic and population growth, and an increase in tourist arrivals, according to recent research.
International brands flying in
Impressive innovations are on the horizon. During 2019 Dubai’s shoppers will be welcomed into the city’s next-generation malls, including the Nakheel Mall (on the Palm) and Deira Mall (on Deira Islands), the Dubai Hills Mall (at the intersection of Al Khail and Umm Suqiem roads), and another at Nad Al Sheba.
International brands are arriving to fill this plush new retail space. For instance, Brazilian fragrance giant O Boticario is entering the Gulf region’s largest beauty market – Saudi Arabia – under a new deal with its Dubai-based partner Millennial Capital. Fashion brand Urban Outfitters has signed a franchise partnership deal with Azadea Group to expand its business across the Middle East and North Africa. The first Urban Outfitters store will open in Dubai later this year as part of the franchise partnership.
Trailblazers embracing technology
Majid Al Futtaim, a pivotal player in Middle Eastern retail, is blazing a trail of customer experience innovation with high profile tech investments. The Dubai retail giant’s plans for 2019 are characteristically ambitious and are setting the bar high for other retail and property groups in the region.
Through its partnership with Carrefour, Majid Al Futtaim is investing in self-checkout under a “scan&go” branding. This is the latest innovation as part of Carrefour and Majid Al Futtaim’s ongoing commitment to creating seamless shopping experiences for its customers.
The new technology allows customers to scan and bag chosen items as they move around the store, without the need to queue at traditional checkouts after completing their shopping.
Speeding up the shopper journey
The scanner’s intuitive touch screen lets shoppers view all the items in their basket and easily add or deduct items to monitor their total bill. When they’ve finished shopping they can simply scan their QR code at the designated scan&go terminal, insert a payment card to pay, and exit the store. As international retailers have found, the system can speed up sales processing, reduce queuing time, and give customers more control.
Majid Al Futtaim has also announced a partnership with Los Angeles-based technology company, I.AM+, founded by global music artist, will.i.am. Under the deal, I.AM+ will offer Majid Al Futtaim its Omega platform, an AI-powered conversational and contextual voice assistant that will enable a new level of experiential retail at various customer touchpoints. Watch this space for how the technology brings a new dimension to shopper journeys.
Knowledge underpinning innovation
This kind of commitment to innovation, and a pioneering attitude to offering amazing customer experience is at the heart of progress in Middle East retailing.
More reliance on data insights means there is less guesswork when new ideas are scoped out and tested. Key players in the region have had long partnerships with ShopperTrak and committed to gathering and understand their shopper traffic data for this reason. These retail groups are now able to benefit from valuable insights, for instance, knowing when the peaks and troughs in shopper traffic should be expected throughout the year and planning around that knowledge. They can be fully resourced for when sales opportunities are most likely, and work towards improving dwell time, conversions and spend per shopper in their stores.
Tracking performance is a must
Retailers and mall owners are also interested in tracking year-on-year traffic performance, which can provide a health check annually, and help in rental negotiations. It’s also possible to benchmark retail performance region by region, learning what formats and customer service elements work best, where. Traffic data is also increasingly used to optimise marketing spend, helping marketers understand how their campaigns are performing in stores.
Retailers and mall operators who choose to actively pursue competitive advantages with innovative retail traffic counting and advanced retail analytics solutions stand to capitalise on every consumer footstep and keep pace with change.
It’s clear that shoppers in this region have plenty to look forward to in 2019. They can expect high profile shopping festivals, stunning new locations, fantastic brands, and ever-improving customer service. It’s going to be an incredible year.
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