By Rohma Sadaqat Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) How can you attract and retain customers in retail? That was a question tackled by some of the world's most successful brands at the recent "World Retail Congress" in Dubai.
Traditional retail formulae that focus on the sale of different products in a store simply aren't enough to attract and retain customers in today's increasingly digitized world, experts at the 11th edition of The World Retail Congress pointed out.
What is necessary is providing customers with an experience that they will never forget and one which they will share with others, the experts said.
The three-day event is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and brings together global retail leaders and industry experts to identify key areas of growth and the technological tools of the future.
Speaking at a panel discussion titled 'A new era of experiential retailing: Beyond the selling of stuff', Jo Malone, founder of Jo Malone and Jo Loves, shared her insights on how creating special experiences for customers are critical for businesses.
"I believe that retail should be all about entertainment, theatre and circus; this is the heartbeat of every single brand," she said. "I decided that my brand would be about everything that I loved and I would pass it on. What we need to do is create that moment where customers say they will never forget an experience for as long as they live."
"You don't have to be the biggest brand; you don't have to have the biggest budget; but you do have to think creatively. The three ingredients that you need to carry through are passion, resilience and creativity. You need to have the passion to tell your story; you need to have the resilience of an entrepreneur to turn something around if it is not working for you; and lastly, you need to have the creativity of an artist to make a lasting impression," she said.
Similarly, Neela Montgomery, chairwoman of Crate & Barrel, spoke about how retailers needed to experiment when coming up with the right formula for using stores to tell a story about their brand. "Millennial customers in particular increasingly want more personalized experiences. This means that we will have to deviate from many of the processes that we have built and adhered to for many years. Today, more than ever, customer experiences are important."
Arrigo Berni, CEO of Moleskine, and another speaker on the panel identified three fundamental pillars when it comes to experiential retail. The first involves delivering an intangible added value to customers. The second, he listed, involves providing customers with an experience that leaves them with information and knowledge that they didn't have before. Lastly, he noted that the experience offered has to add value to the company; otherwise it is just PR.
Katya Atanasova, VP of retail at Royal Dutch Shell, also spoke about the importance of employee training during the session.
"We serve 30 million customers on a daily basis. Our focus is on providing all the people that come to our retail outlets a pleasant experience through our 'service champions'. These are the people you will see on the frontline of our stores, and we invest a lot in training these champions because we want them to come to a point where they can anticipate what a customer needs," she said.
"We are not only interested in the digital experience of our customers online, but also how the latest technologies will impact us," she added. "For example, we are very interested in how connected cars work and we have invested a lot in working with car manufacturers to provide our customers with more options than they have right now. We have partnered with Land Rover and Jaguar so that the owners of these cars can pay for their fuel through their car touchscreens at Shell petrol stations.
Trends show that by 2025, virtually all new cars will be equipped with connected technology, so there are a lot of new opportunities in the market."