Picture for illustration purposes only.


What retail businesses need to avoid going extinct: experts’ insights in Dubai


DUBAI – Retail businesses risk irrelevance and potential extinction if they don’t embrace change and adapt to the convergence of retail and technology in catering for the ‘hyper-connected’ modern-day consumer.

The “evolve or disappear” message was delivered by an assortment of retail industry professionals during an exclusive preview event for The Retail Summit 2020, which will take place in March at Atlantis Hotel, The Palm.

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, described the retail scene as “a time of great transition for global retail as industry players navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, deal with disruption and embrace advanced technologies that are improving the customer experience.”

“The inability to engage today’s hyper-connected consumer means your relevance and business are in danger of becoming extinct,” said Gary Thatcher, CEO and co-founder of The Retail Summit.

“We live in a time where a company’s approach to technology and how products are marketed digitally has a direct impact on sales. This trend is global and Gulf-based retailers need to wake up to the fact. First-mover status is already gone, but the race for relevance is heating up,” Thatcher said.

“Examining the local market, the UAE has a 99 percent internet penetration rate – accounting for over nine million residents online every day. Out of those, 93 percent use the internet for an average of eight hours per day. There’s huge potential for digital-savvy retailers to tap into these evolving consumer habits and online interactions,” he added.

How experts think retailers should interact with consumers

Fahad Kazim, VP, Meydan Malls, Meydan Group, said: “We approach it in two ways. One is with the tenant mix and how we partner with the right retailer – who has that reach, who’s in the know, who’s trendy. Trends can be short-lived and fall off the radar in months, so brands need to be updated and relevant. The other aspect is engaging customers in the mall; we need to be very close to them when it comes to social media or personalised offering – we must adapt to what’s happening in the market. We have to evolve the product and avoid regurgitating a traditional offering which is not what today’s customer needs.”

Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO of Novo Cinemas, added: “At present, 45 percent of our business is conducted online. We have a very young and tech-savvy audience, so it’s about personalisation and understanding and adapting to customer profiles and needs. We’re focused on upgrading our app because it’s a very competitive market; things change fast and you can be left behind.”

Mark Tessyman, CEO of Liwa Trading Enterprises, believes research and relevance play crucial roles in retail success: “The region deserves to be recognised for its unique challenges and opportunities – they are multi-faceted in every essence. “Historically, retailers buy in experience from abroad and they repeat what they’ve done elsewhere – that’s not the right thing to do. You have to research and build models applicable to different countries because laws and cultures differ per market – get that right and retail will not struggle. There must be groundwork; retail has been around for hundreds of years – it will continue – but people must go into granular detail to get anything out of it.”

Conversely, Ishwar Chugani, CEO and Managing Director of Giordana, believes retailers must not forget the roots of their industry and always prioritise customer interaction. “Retail has existed for centuries; it will never die, but we shouldn’t forget the basics of why retail works. Retail will continue to evolve, there will always be news things to adapt to, but the customer is the constant. No matter how much technology or data there is at hand – data can be obsolete – understanding your customer is vital to building trust and, ultimately, surviving,” said Chugani. DAJ/Expat Media


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