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With plans for new retail developments surfacing every week, the fight for consumers' time, attention and money can’t be easy.

February 18, 2013 11:18 by

With the 18th edition of the largest shopping festival in Dubai now behind us – and the 19th just months ahead – it’s time both retailers and brands started re-evaluating their shopper marketing techniques.

It can’t be easy being a retailer here, especially when you have to compete for consumers’ attention against an indoor ski slope and the world’s largest fountain – which happens to be adjacent to the world’s tallest building. It doesn’t end there, though. We’ll soon be seeing the likes of the world’s largest Ferris wheel (on an island) and the mega development of Mohammed Bin Rashid City. With plans for new developments surfacing every week, the fight for consumers’ time, attention and money can’t be easy.

“You’re right, the ski slope can serve as competition. But it can also serve as an attraction,” says Dina Howell, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X. She says that it’s imperative for brands to practically differentiate between a consumer and a shopper because – although they complement each other – they’re entirely different things. We’ve all been slouched on our living room couch, absent-mindedly watching TV commercials and wondering how they could ever compel anyone to buy anything. Well, most of the time, they’re not meant to.

“If you’re watching an ad for a car on television, that’s meant to create equity in your mind,” says Howell. “It tells you who they are, what they stand for and what you can expect. It’s only when you’re actually ready to buy the brand that you start noticing the features and the price. You start doing your own research and asking your family and friends how they feel about it. You become a shopper.”

Still, even with branding being mostly intended to create value and familiarity in our mindset, it’s easy to see how the two stages rely on each other. If you didn’t have a good sense of the brand from ‘above the line advertising’ then you might not even consider going to the next step of actually buying the product. Of course, retailers also need to be thoroughly informed on the behaviour of consumers. Do most shoppers visit the mall once a week? If they did than a retailer should know better than to leave the window display unchanged for that duration because a consumer will more likely be deviated to a different retailer that did, in fact, inspire them.

“When it works best, they’re compatible,” adds Howell. “If you’ve never heard of the brand, you might not consider any of them. At the store level, we try to educate you. We try to inspire you to buy the brand.”

There are three separate and equally significant steps that help encapsulate the heart of shopper marketing; navigation, education and inspiration. James Tracy-Inglis, Managing Director of Saatchi & Saatchi X, says that what retailers really need to focus on is the inspiration factor, rather than just the standardised ‘meet-and-greet’ because that’s unlikely to inspire anyone, let alone leave behind a positive sentiment with the brand. “Almost every store in the Middle East has someone there to greet you, but it has to be engaging and not just a standardised ‘Hello Sir, Hello Ma’am’ welcome,” he says.

James talks about real examples of actual engagement, like having QR codes on Sushi rolls for diners to scan and learn about the freshness of what they’re about to eat, Build-a-bear that doesn’t let customers see any bears until they’ve engaged with them for at least a few minutes, the Joy Ride Elevator campaign made to change the perception of Cadbury’s as being a chocolate for children in Saudi Arabia, and a Lurpak butter campaign offering mothers baking recipes and cooking sessions. Inspiration can be all different shapes and forms, tied to all  kinds of occasions and seasons, but the one mistake a brand shouldn’t make is to worry only about ‘today’s sale’ while neglecting tomorrow’s responsibility. For instance, 85 percent of all clothing purchases made by women in Saudi Arabia are eventually returned – because they didn’t try them on in the store – due to lack of engagement.

All in all, for retailers to succeed the ‘barriers to purchase’ must be broken. If a retailer notices that customers are buying fewer chocolates than they’d like them to, there must be a reason. It’s unlikely that chocolate has spontaneously lost its mass appeal, but rather that shoppers need reminding that a couple of chocolate bars in their basket is a good idea. There are some brands that you’ll never change, says Howell. We’ve used them since our mothers taught us how to, but at least half of the brands we buy, we are willing to change.

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  1. chaz on February 19, 2013 6:06 am

    yes agree with you but even at a base level for consumers this is not happening.
    I was disptached to get a white good for the kitchen at the weekend so duly went to a store.
    They didnt have much choice in the showroom but did online.
    However I couldnt buy it online with them. I had to go back home to do this.
    Bricks and mortar shops having an online presence must complement each other.
    As I had to go online to order it, guess what? I bought it from another retailer.
    I gaine, that retailer loses out as they let me walk away without a purchase because their own staff cant get me an online sale in their own store.
    Not rocket science, just needs more joined up thinking.

  2. chaz on February 19, 2013 10:17 am

    There has to be a mindset change and realise that bricks and mortar shops, must work hand in hand with online offerings.
    Some have leaped over that moon and even offer you to buy online and collect in store.
    Witness here this weekend.
    I was dispatched to buy a kitchen white good offering in one of the big stores.
    It wasnt available.
    I could not guy online in the store and order it there and then because that is not an item they stock. It is only purhcased online.
    Not rocket science, just needs brain cells to be connected.
    So I went home and ordered it from another store and it arrived the next day.
    I learnt and lesson and they lost a sale.
    One day huh.


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