Being relevant and looking at a new way of doing things can be a challenge for retailers today.
This is because it means parting ways with things that have worked very well for you in the past, said Julie Hamilton, chief customer and commercial leadership officer of The Coca-Cola Company. Speaking at the Retail Summit 2019, she said that retail is no more a "one size fits all" industry anymore.
"Now we have entire brands that are operating through social media. We have had to build new capabilities in our systems to see how we can bring new experiences to life. This involved working closely with our partners and looking at scenarios that we didn't have five to ten years ago," she said.
Social media, she noted, has created a lot of opportunities for both older and more established players in the market as well as new and smaller brands.
"It is important to understand what the brand is, who are your consumers, and then create a social programme for them. Social has given us a great low cost entry to test and determine if there is interest, before we go into production."
"Today, it is all about experiences and story telling," she added. "We have looked at incorporating technology to bring new ways of engaging with consumers. We have coolers that can interact with consumers through AI, and you can customise the interactions. We have coolers that greet customers, play different music when they select a drink, and record videos of their reactions."
Anthony Spary, associate director and head of Retail at CBRE, noted that consumers and retailers are living in a world of change and that has led to an evolution in the way that they interact with each other. "We are seeing more of an omni-channel approach that is delivered on multiple platforms, as well as new technologies that are letting consumers become more intimate with brands and products."
While there is undoubtedly a greater shift towards the convenience that comes with shopping online, shoppers in the UAE still like to have the experience of going to a mall and physically interacting with brands and products, he explained. "Malls in the UAE are unique in that they are destinations, where you can go to enjoy a full day of activities ranging from F&B to entertainment and not just shopping."
Antony Marke, group managing director at OmniServ and Blackjack Promotions, said that retailers today have become much more perceptive to the trends in the market and the importance of investing in training their staff
"Having a winning company culture involves training the staff in such a way that they become brand ambassadors," he said. "It is important today to understand what a brand is about and its heritage. It is not about welcoming someone into a shop and saying that you have a great product; it's about telling people the history of the product and highlighting all the other properties that make it unique. No customer wants to enter a store and find out that they are a better authority on a product than the salesperson."
He added that it has become much more difficult to build brand loyalty today, because there are no shortage of options for shoppers in the market. "This is where we are particularly good in what we do; we work very closely with brands to find out what it is that makes them really special, and we then teach the staff to promote the brand in a way that forms an instant emotional connection with customers."
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