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Future of Retail in focus at Retail Leaders Circle MENA summit

During the 2019 Retail Leaders Circle MENA summit, the titans of industry gave their diagnosis of the global retail market. They reported that the heart of retail was very much beating but there were two vital but underutilised components that could reinvigorate the retail industry; technology and the personal touch. Similarly, all delegates were in an agreement that traditional retail is here to stay as 90% of all purchases are still made in physical stores.

Although e-commerce is expected to grow to three times its current size, reaching 28.6 USD billion in the UAE by 2022, the consensus was that the future of both on and offline retail will be data.  Moving beyond logistics and stock management, retailers must now use the data they capture to inform every step of the customer journey, to hyper personalize and remove pain points. As Christina Rogers, Global Consumer Lead at EY said, ‘There’s a difference between shopping and buying. Retailers need to think about an experience that is meaningful and highly personalized as customers want more than a transaction’.

An interesting discussion also broke out on the first day of the annual conference as to who owned the data; the customer or the recipient company. Marcus Freeman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer from The Chalhoub Group, which is currently leading a 900-day digital transformation argued, ‘At the end of the day, if we want our customers to trust us then we have to trust them. And hopefully if we delight them then they will trust us to give us their data.’

During the summit, multiple reports and case studies from companies such as EY, Microsoft and Google were released to showcase innovative growth strategies and efficient operations. When reviewing the traditional franchise model, Mark Tesseyman CEO of Liwa said, ‘We used to have the old mantra to not upset the franchise partners because they’re our lifeline. Those days have gone. They now have to understand that if they catch a cold, we catch the flu. With all our partners, we have had to negotiate and agree on new terms – we have to make money.‘

The overall tone of the summit was positive with the understanding that to thrive through disruption retailers must be future facing, taking risks and leveraging data and technology for better decisions.

‘‘Whether you are a physical brand, a mall operator or a digital native, all strategies must focus on engaging with your client to offer a personalized, frictionless customer journey. Although complex, data sourced from websites, apps and social media give retailers unprecedented information about their customers. Therefore, to thrive in an age of millennials and digital disruption, retails must use this data to constantly adapt to changing consumer behaviour by offering an immersive bespoke experience,’ commented Panos Linardos, Chairman of Retail Leaders Circle Global.

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