As 2017 comes to an end we sat down with General Manager, Dubai, Sanjit Gill to see if he had any key trends from the year that he wanted to share and what he thinks we should be looking out for in the new year.
Q: Can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your role?
I’m Sanjit Gill, General Manager of Collinson Group Dubai. I’m responsible for our operations in the Middle East and helping our clients in the region drive real business growth. We help our clients develop and drive their customer engagement through data analytics and innovative loyalty strategies. Our diverse client base includes top brand names in the retail, banking and travel sectors.
Q: As we wrap up the year, have you seen any key trends in 2017?
If we look at the Middle East in particular, retail is a very interesting sector to talk about. In 2017 we really had to take into consideration the bricks versus the clicks and by that I mean the physical retailers versus the online giants.
It was the year when we saw Amazon purchasing Souq.com (our regional equivalent) which gives a clear signal that e-commerce in the Middle East is poised to take off. There is something different about the GCC however, here shopping is experiential. Malls are both social spaces and entertainment destinations for all age groups so physical stores here are perhaps more resilient against the online retailer’s might than in a Western economy.
Throughout the past few years, and probably a result of the global increase in online shopping, today’s consumer wants real engagement from brands and seamless experiences, their preferences remembered and to feel valued by their chosen retailer. This is more easily achievable in the online world where data can be optimised to make experiences quicker and better.
Q: So, how can physical retailers continue to remain resilient and relevant in an increasingly digital world?
There is still an opportunity to bridge the gap to meet demanding consumer expectations if the bricks get the most from the clicks. In other words, physical retailers need to make sure their multi-channel customer experience is remembered, rewarded and refined each time their customers visit their physical or online store. Physical retailers have an advantage. It’s much easier for them to use their data and information in a more sophisticated way to bring all the benefits of the online world to shoppers than it is for online giants to become more experiential.
Q: What do you think will be the future of the industry in 2018?
Well, in 2018 we will see another dynamic at play with VAT introduction in the UAE. It will be interesting to see how retailers react. Are we going to see them play with margins to offset price increases? No doubt we’ll see retailers vie for share of wallet, particularly the non-essential segment. Take consumer electronics for example. According to Euro monitor International, consumer electronics are predicted to be hardest hit by the introduction of VAT. Recent ICLP research across the UAE found that electronics retailers are actually already leading the way in building loyalty with shoppers. This does beg the question, are they getting ahead of the VAT challenge already and building deeper devotion with their consumers? Will we see other retailers follow suit to cushion the blow of VAT by playing with their margins or meaningfully segmenting and personalising their customers’ experiences? VAT is happening, how retailers react remains to be seen.
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