CEO Predictions 2013: Vipen Sethi, CEO, Landmark Group

Exclusive: Retailers in the Middle East need to innovate and adapt to the changing times, writes Vipen Sethi.

2012 was a year of changing market dynamics, rapid economic development, balancing crude oil prices, rising purchasing power, and strong consumer confidence that signifies a positive shift for the local economy.

These dynamics have had a positive impact on the retail and hospitality sector, as clearly validated by the rising interest among shoppers from both the resident and tourist population across our portfolio of brands.

Over the past few years, there have also been favorable government policy frameworks and active participation by the private sector, which have contributed to shaping the ideal retail environment in the Middle East.

The GCC region, more specifically, continues to remain a key region for growth apart from serving as a safe haven for investments in the sector.

The positive news relating to sound economic prosperity in major markets, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fuelled by sustainable global demand for oil and gas has ensured that the region continued its investments in infrastructure, keeping the economies buoyant during the year.

This is a trend that we believe will define the future too. Other encouraging indicators for retail in the region include increasing disposable income, expanding population base, growing aspirations and a consistent influx of tourists. Backed by these factors, the region’s retail industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 10 per cent during 2011-2014.

Retail is a dynamic industry and technological advances are constantly changing the face of our business. The volume of online shopping conducted globally is set to double, over the next two years. In recent years, this form of retail marketing has been gaining acceptance even among shoppers in the Middle East and we intend to remain an integral part of this new arena of growth.

Today, consumers also look for new, vibrant and creative shopping experiences while retailers have realised the need to relentlessly work towards giving them the best product, service and value.

Engaging, retaining and building loyalty amongst consumers is another great challenge. Customer loyalty programmes have truly evolved and become personalised, which we believe is crucial to build continued success.

Communicating with customers has also become more personal with social media driving a greater emotional connect with shoppers, across the globe.

While the West has been a forerunner of this change, markets in the Middle East are also fast changing. The need of the hour is to constantly innovate and adapt. To achieve this, research to understand the discerning pulse of the customer is key.