Service with a smile? Not enough anymore
The future of shopping is not retail, it is service, said Tim Greenhalgh, chairman and chief creative officer at Fitch.
Speaking in a session at the Retail Leaders Circle Mena 2018, Greenhalgh stressed the growing importance of great service in the industry, especially since shoppers today are well informed about what they are purchasing.
"Before, we used to think of service with a smile as the peak of what we can offer shoppers," he said. "However, that is not enough anymore. Service today has changed and is considered to be a priority - a necessity that shoppers have come to expect. What I like to say is that we are moving towards a generosity of behaviour."
Greenhalgh added that retailers and brands today are surrounded by expert shoppers. "They walk into a store, and they know exactly what they want," he said.
"The chances are that they have done their research about the product, and that they know the price which is most favourable to them."
He also noted that it is increasingly important to understand how different demographics shop.
"Younger shoppers are very suspicious and uncomfortable about salespeople who are overly friendly and trying to sell something inside the store. Service used to be seen as a privilege many years ago, but today it is an expectation that retailers need to meet. The service has become the experience."
"As a market matures, the demand for services also grows," he added. "Moving away from transitional to experiential has not been easy for retailers, because it is not what they do. However, if you look at brands that are making a difference and have strong loyalty numbers worldwide, you will see that they are mainly app-based."
The event brought together over 300 industry leaders to discuss the future of the evolving retail landscape in the region and worldwide. The event is being held under the theme of 'Re-imagining Retail in Middle East: Innovation and Disruption', and is a partnership with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said retailers around the world are increasingly focusing on creating original and personalised customer experiences, as well as integrating technology and harnessing data to engage customers at every touchpoint. "It is crucial that retailers in the UAE and Middle East and North Africa adapt to such trends and align their approach with the evolving expectations of their customers."
His thoughts were echoed by Ramy Fares, head of Retail, Travel, and Hospitality at Microsoft Middle East and Africa, who added: "The retail industry is undergoing seismic shifts stoked by swift and unprecedented technology innovation."
Panos Linardos, chairman of Retail Leaders Circle Mena, added that the global retail industry is currently in a state of flux. "With customers in the driver's seat, retailers find themselves in the hot seat, not only to keep these consumers engaged, but to streamline their shopping journey and provide personalised customer experiences. The landscape worldwide and in the region has changed due to the new technologies that are available to retailers."
"Right now, there has to be more of an emphasis on delivering an experience that the customer will remember, and which will build loyalty and trust," he added. "Brands need to understand the formula that will help them better engage with their shoppers, who have the power of technology to make increasingly informed choices."