During Ramadan, there is a peak in the local retail cycle as families prepare for the holy month with shoppers looking for household essentials, non-essentials (clothing and accessories) and gifts and Ramadan-related foods. Shoppers are returning to malls and physical stores in the UAE, but with new habits and demands – challenging retailers’ most basic know-your-customer (KYC) requirements.
Sellers are on the front line and face an increasingly connected consumer, which shifts the balance of power towards the customer, even inside a store. For retailers, this could be a difficult situation.
A recent study by Kearney UAE showed that brick-and-mortar stores play an important role across all categories of personal items that may require more touch and feel. UAE shoppers prefer shopping for clothes, bags and accessories in-store, driven by convenience (51%), improved shopping experience (49%) and competitive pricing (44%).
All about store staff
These are tough expectations for any retailer to achieve and a lot depends on store associates to deliver a branded and engaging experience and complete a transaction.
These younger, connected consumers want more than a purchase transaction and are looking for personalized, branded shopping experiences to enhance their own personal brand “story”. What they buy, where they buy it and how they buy it are part of the story they share with their friends and social media followers.
It’s not just about fashion; according to the published results of the Adcolony study of smartphone users in the United Arab Emirates (16-34 years old), 45% of respondents plan to shop in stores this Ramadan.
Shoppers benefit from information – thanks to consumer technology – and shoppers are way ahead of store associates in information and ideas, when they walk into the store (we asked store associates store and they accepted). Before even shopping, this connected consumer studies the options at home. This is forcing retailers – and frontline associates in particular – to catch up.
Better informed buyer
Retailers know all about this do-it-yourself (DIY) consumer who may know more than their in-store associates about their existing product line, new products and what’s in stock. How can they respond? How can retailers and their in-store associates “save on sales” with a shopper who may already be checking your in-store inventory, looking at other store options, and even doing mobile shopping with a competitor (genuine behavior omnichannel purchase)?
Information is key to the power imbalance and therefore technology (enterprise-grade connected consumer mobile devices) is an important part of the retailer’s solution to empowering associates – but only one part.
The personal touch
The other part is the human factor – the store associates itself. A connected and knowledgeable store associate can help create a new balance of power and even get ahead of the connected shopper.
It doesn’t stop there. Store associates need more training, confidence and empowerment – becoming more of a “friend”, advisor, influencer and problem solver in store – and in the right store environment with a new approach to retail. Retail ROI is not just the transaction. Other factors include the customer’s reaction to the experience when shoppers get their personal brand story, and the retailer receives a positive word-of-mouth recommendation along with the data the retailer is able to collect.
All of this leads to greater potential for a more personalized shopping experience next time – and therefore a new shopping story. All thanks to a new appreciation of the true value of the in-store associate as the critical point of customer engagement.
The drama school recruits?
In this new world of omnichannel and hyperconnected retail, stores must evolve and operate on all channels. If shoppers want a (literally) dramatic in-store shopping experience, retailers need to recreate stores as a shopping theatre.
Training is essential and looking at associates differently can also help – recruiting associates from acting schools is another solution. It’s already arrived !