In a highly competitive and dynamic market and with digital transformation hitting the world by storm, retail brands are in a marketplace of ‘disrupt or die’. Building a disruptive retail experience, now more than ever, has become one of the most paramount competitiveness edges of any retail brand. The Brandberries has exclusively interviewed Sam Hosn, Director of Asset Management at Al Futtaim’s CFCM, for his take on the next big thing for retail brands.

BB: A consumer’s buying decision is primarily influenced by his attitude towards a brand. In your opinion, and from CFCM’s strategy manual, how do you see the impact of a pleasant retail experience in developing customer loyalty?

SH: Customer Loyalty is a paramount to any operation. The old days of not focusing on the consumer have been long gone. In all our strategies the main focus is the consumer and how to create a remarkable consumer experience in order to foster loyalty and bring the consumer back. There is a fierce competition in the market and having an exceptional customer experience is a differentiator; how the consumer feels when they are here, are they safe, are we providing them with all the right choices. This is the primary focus of our strategy and so far we have been extremely successful in creating a strong base of consumer loyalty for CFCM.

BB: Now, more than ever, retail brands need to understand their consumers’ drivers, motivations and emotions so they can effectively manage their experiences, the thing that leads to consumer satisfaction. How can retail brands design a holistic brand experience strategy synchronized across in-store and digital channels?

SH: A lot has changed with the digital transformation; it’s all about the Omni channel approach. It is a cohesive and comprehensive approach to marketing. You need to give the consumer the full experience by combining the product, the consumer and the information to deliver the experience.

Going digital is absolutely the way forward and we embrace it to a great extent, but our retailers are the guiding force, we support them as much as we can. The retailers customize the experience to the consumer and really give them what they are looking for. By understanding their consumers shopping habits, with technological tools, they can anticipate their needs.

For example, CFCM saves no effort to develop its social media platforms more as we believe that it’s an important means to read the market and stay in intact and even interactive communication with the consumer. Social Media is our little window towards a smarter and accurate anticipation of what the consumer wants. The more the tools of social media advance, the more they get smart. Now we have “Artificial Intelligence” and machines that learn, in the time of IoT, we benefit a lot from the least search a consumer does, because details are what constructs the best way to serve the shoppers in a better way.

BB: How do you see CFCM venturing into eCommerce ? Are malls going to disappear in the face of of eCommerce platforms or they will survive in parallel ?

SH: On the contrary from what can be pre-assumed, we embrace e-commerce because it cannot be a threat to the existence of malls, especially us. We strongly believe that there is a complementary role between the existing malls and e-commerce platforms, which eventually benefits the consumer. CFCM positions itself as a market leader that is flexible enough to contain trends and evolve into something more inclusive of all development of the retail sector. There is a huge CFCM expansion coming up very soon because there is such a strong demand from retailers. CFCM is celebrating its five years anniversary, throughout which the mall has been able to position itself firmly in the market.

BB: From you extensive global experience in the retail industry, how can a mall concept go as disruptive as possible?

SH: The entertainment ingredient! Keep your consumer entertained! Malls need to introduce an array of out of the box creative ideas to keep the consumer inside for the longest time possible. The most successful malls are those that come up with ways that give the consumer and their families more reasons to stay.

BB: One of the big pillars of a remarkable retail experience is tapping into the five senses of consumers into the retail environment. How can retail brands build a multi-sensory experience?

SH: Retailers are very smart and creative. When you bring several retailers into an environment like this we create the pillars of a great shopping experience where the consumer can taste, smell and feel different options. Again it all boils down to the offering and creative ways to engage the consumers in a full shopping experience.

BB: Can you tell us a little bit about the CFCM shopper? What attracts the Egyptian consumer to a mall ?

SH: The Egyptian consumer is very sophisticated and knows exactly what they are looking for. The majority of them have travelled and experienced different cultures and ways to shop. What is interesting is that the Egyptian consumer no longer travels as much anymore because they find most of what they are looking for locally.

We are a perfect example of that with all the international brands we have and the full experience in food and beverage and entertainment. It’s up to us to give them what they are looking for.

BB: CFCM won one of the most prestigious retail awards in the region. MECSC 2018. The award comes as recognition for CFCM’s duo efforts with Coca-Cola in bringing the world cup spirit to the mall experience. What does this award mean for CFCM brand? And how it helps reinforcing CFCM’s positioning as the retail brand of choice?

SH: We are very proud to have won that prestigious award and how it is a solid reflection of the positioning of the mall. This award is a result of hard work and shows the power of cooperation and teamwork between several agencies and members.

It took the agency, the mall team and the sponsors to work together and come up with such a creative concept… The event itself was iconic, one of the biggest events held in Cairo, and people really enjoyed it. It makes us very proud to win such an award, which positions CFCM in a category on its own. Next year it will be even bigger.

The award is an important manifestation of the power of brand partnerships which are here to stay and grow. CFCM has the highest level of traffic and footfall, which makes it a stronger eye impression than a highway. For a brand to partner with us is a win-win. They win, even bigger, because they are gaining high exposure to their products. Partnerships will grow a lot more because companies are realizing the importance of the mall audience. CFCM welcomes partnerships, encourages it and will build on it more going forward.

BB: Can you give us a sneak peak on the next big thing for CFCM?

SH: Besides the expansion, our focus now is on bringing more international brands on board. We are digging really deep into what brands consumers want.

Furthermore, he added several conveniences, such as free Wi-Fi and charging stations to make sure that when you come to our mall you enjoy the best shopping experience.

CFCM wants to precede, being a step above anyone in the market, we look at CFCM as an international model and so far it has been carved that position in the market.