DUBAI: Data is key for forecasting consumer behaviour, asserted experts as The Retail Summit 2019 drew to a close yesterday (Thursday, February 14, 2019). The Summit was organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and in partnership with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Meydan One.
The Summit saw leading retailers and decision makers from around the world engage in constructive discussions, exchange insight and expertise, and announce major strategic decisions, one of the most notable among them being Lego Group’s announcement about opening a Dubai office – the company’s first headquarters in the Middle East.
“The Retail Summit 2019 has achieved tremendous success, bringing together the biggest names in the international retail sector and offering them a platform to explore potential commercial opportunities in Dubai,” said His Excellency Hamad Buamim, Dubai Chamber’s President and CEO. “We are committed to removing all obstacles and making it possible for the world’s most renowned brands and decision makers in the retail sector to benefit from this Summit, and use it as a platform to announce their entry into the Dubai market. These developments echo the growing confidence in our emirate as a global hub for retail.”
“We are delighted to have had such constructive discussions with industry leaders at the Summit, who represent tier-one global retailers that have yet to break into the Dubai market,” H.E. added, asserting that the Retail Summit has bolstered the emirate’s reputation as a leading destination for retailers who are looking to expand into the Middle East and surrounding markets.
Data Is Key in Determining Shopping Preferences
In her keynote on innovation, Julia Goldin, CMO at Lego, said: “It is our job to figure out what the world of the future is supposed to look like; we believe we can inspire builders all around the world. We think the future is full of opportunities and we are very happy to be here and to be opening – in just a few hours, actually – our first office in the Middle East.”
“To build the future, we need to innovate across everything we do,” Goldin continued. “For us at Lego, we have several ways we go about it, first of which is product experience; I don’t see digital as a threat but an opportunity. That said, I don’t think the Lego ‘brick’ will go obsolete, because kids will always want to engage with the physical world. Second is the ‘power of the crowd’; Lego’s system is democratic and allows people to build whatever they want, which then inspires us – we even have a Lego Ideas Platform for people to pitch their ideas for potential Lego products.”
Meanwhile, panellists at the session titled “Cross-Sector Snapshot: Surprising and Delighting the Customer” asserted that a unique, frictionless shopping experience is non-negotiable if retailers want to remain relevant. Passion is essential, they asserted, but “omnidirectional passion is not necessarily a good thing,” noted moderator Paul R. Charron, Former Chairman and CEO ay Liz Claiborne Inc., “you need to focus that passion.”
Answering Charron’s question about a “gold standard” in marketing to consumers, Edie Rodriguez, Chairman – Americas at Ponant Cruises, said: “It means different things to different people at different times. It is about understanding what guests want in this moment. We need to be perpetually working to understand that because clients change, and we need to anticipate what they want. When I travel I look at everything with a marketing eye to learn and understand.”
“Technology can play a role here; it is critical to use technology to understand customers’ needs. Companies have to make financial investments in technology and establish a culture that embraces technology, and then let the technology drive us towards knowing our customers. Every brand has the power to be global; you just have to position yourself correctly,” she added.
“You need to stay ahead of your competitors and the way to that is to innovate,” said Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO at Novo Cinemas. “Movies will always be our core business, however, using my background in hospitality, I wanted to change what it means to be in a movie theatre. We now offer many different experiences, such as the big screen experience, the luxury experience, an experience tailored to children, and so on.”
“It’s all about intuiting what the customer needs and wants and delivering it to them without being too intrusive,” she continued. “We constantly engage with our customers to understand what they want. Some of our clients asked why we don’t screen sporting events. So, we did. We broadcast the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning and we had 8,000 people show up.”
For her part, Holly Gagnon, CEO and President at Seneca Gaming Corporation, said: “The golden standard for me is an experience that creates a personal connection with the brand, where consumers feel the experience is tailored to them personally. A brand should always be looking for ways to differentiate itself from competitors. For us at Seneca, it is the emotional connection clients have with our brand.”
“Engagement is always key, but it is not only about engaging the customers, but also about engaging our team who are delivering the brand day in and day out. Employees are an asset and the biggest brand ambassadors,” Gagnon concluded.
On a similar note, the session titled “Embedding Innovation in your Organisation’s DNA” featured three company founders and CEOs who had successfully diversified their respective business models to reach more customers and increase their organisations’ turnovers. Moderated by Patricia Waldron, CEO & Founder of Vision First, the session featured Richard Flint, COO of HEMA; Julien Callede, co-Founder of made.com; and Wilhelm Josten, Executive Managing Director of Butlers GmbH & Co. KG.
Discussing how his company had embraced the concept of innovation, Richard Flint highlighted how automation and robotics had been integral to transforming the way he was able to do business.
“If you want to know what your customers want, you just ask them. Retailers have a lot of data from their customers. I always say go out there and get feedback from your customers, but to be honest, you don’t even have to do that. If you just go through the emails you are getting into your inbox – which a lot of retailers say they do but they don’t – you will find out what they want. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said.
Furthermore, session titled “Vision 2030: Implications for Retail Growth in Saudi Arabia” brought together Ahmad Bindawood, CEO of Danube & Bindawood Stores; Hosam Alqurashi, CCO at Panda Retail Co.; and Faraz Khalid, CEO of Noon.
The retail sector is an important component in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, noted Ahmad Bindawood, adding that under the directives from the Saudi leadership, the first council for the retail sector was formed to work on solutions for pressing challenges and set strategies for the future of Saudi Arabia, most notable of which was increasing the number of Saudi nationals working in the sector.
For his part, Hosam Alqurashi highlighted the great success enjoyed by initiatives launched to empower women in the retail sector. Government support in that regard has helped empower women and hone their skills through various training programmes, Alqurashi added, reaffirming that the Kingdom’s retail sector has a bright future ahead of it, particularly in light of the new laws and regulations that seek to develop it.
Meanwhile, Faraz Khalid revealed that the Saudi retail market is witnessing great turnout, especially e-commerce outlets specialising in retail and fashion. That said, the growth of e-commerce in the region still lags behind the rest of the world, he said, citing, nonetheless, many indicators that point to positive shifts in consumer behaviour.
The Retail Summit was organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Meydan One to facilitate discussion across the ecosystem including how to innovate, embrace digital and build an agile organisation, enabling you to thrive in this environment. More than 900 industry leaders and experts from around the world attended the two-day inaugural Summit in Dubai, representing some of world’s most prominent retail brands. News Desk