By: Sara Aref, Snr. Manager – Brand Marketing at Majid Al Futtaim

Retailers react to inflation and rising costs of living by focusing more and more on promotions. However, this approach may not be capable of making retailers stand out in 2023. To succeed, the retailers should be empathetic and should imagine themselves in the place of customers. Now let us dive into five ways in which retailers can succeed. 

Instead of coaxing them into buying, genuinely educate customers how to save

In the post-pandemic era, the customers are confused between living by the idea that ‘you only live once’ and saving for the rainy day. As a result, both the value brands and premium brands are projected to grow in 2023. However, the customers today are smarter than ever; they are not waiting for retailers to push more promotions. They, instead, do their own search pre-shopping and have the ability to compare using technology. They also resort to ways to save, for example, eating out less, switching to cheaper products and sticking to a budget.

There are so many ways in which retailers can help customers save beyond deals. This can include using technology to track spends. Imagine if a retailer created a wrap up of your year like Spotify. Now imagine that on a monthly basis (thinking of copy writing this idea!). Other ideas include educating customers on how to use loyalty programs, promo codes and weekly magazines to save more. Educating customers on how to save using distinct tactics and promoting premium products that customers are willing to splurge on, would help retailers stand out in this mad promo world.

Remember: brick and mortar stores are here to stay 

Physical shopping is not dead; it has just changed. Customers are now balancing the tradeoff between shopping from the comfort of their couch against going to the store. If they have to go to the store, they want the commute to be worth it. This entails much more focus on making their shopping trip digitally enabled (digital maps, ability to compare & check stocks online), making their journey efficient (faster checkout), and also experiential and exciting. Simple steps like collaborating with famous coffee brands to provide coffee while customers shop, ensuring that the food-to-go offering is attractive and also provide instant gratification through sampling. Think of Disney land and candy stores for big formats for example, how they make your journey exciting and their products lucrative and replicate that at a retail level. There are many ideas like BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) that are still nascent in our region. Retailers have to re-evaluate their strategies and invest in technological advancements that will produce maximum results, while offering the best possible customer experience.

Stop labeling certain products as ‘healthy’; instead enable healthier living everyday.

The word healthy tagged on products or sections is the same ideology my mum uses to convince me that anything home cooked is healthy. Customers in the post-Covid are trying to make healthier choices, however, their choices reflect many factors like their level of education,cultural background, age, etc. This brings us to the fact that there is NO one size fits all idea of healthy.  Instead of labeling items as healthy, make this an intrinsic choice, and educate customers throughout their shopping journey on how this can happen in their day-to-day life without the need to pay more. Retailers need to be genuine about this, for example, checkout displays and promotional aisles need to have a representation of better-for-you choices. 

Sustainability is more than reducing plastic waste

The narrative (perpetuated by brands which keep talking about plastic) around sustainability needs to shift in our region. Brands need to shift the conversation around living sustainably, which has many aspects. There are other equally important goals like reducing food waste and making an environmental impact through making choices like buying local. There is also the huge untapped circular economy market that brands still are figuring out how to tackle. Today’s ‘conscious consumer’ needs to know what their product is made of, where it is made, and what they can do when they have finished using it. Retailers need to respond by being 100% transparent about how their products incorporate values of sustainability, environment-friendliness, and human ethics.  

Let your presence in social commerce be noted

Lastly, if you look at the advertising world; with the tiktoktization of entertainment, customers are looking for highly entertaining ads that tell stories. More than ever, it is important to understand the psyche of customers who are scrolling through endless pieces of entertaining content. Would they stop for your ad or scroll on? Social commerce just shows how customers are allergic to ads. They will mostly stop to shop if the ad is personalized or displayed through their favorite influencer. Brands need to bring authenticity in the conversation with customers, displayed in their campaigns and influencer choices. It is also important to note that customers are automatically favoring smaller and local brands on social media. So big brands need to be original by embracing a more personal and relatable approach. 

Lastly, the retail world has a huge potential in our region. Marketing is still centered on promotional periods, and there is a lot of room to standout and own a unique voice.