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Reviving The Intimacy Of The Shopping Experience

Reviving The Intimacy Of The Shopping Experience

Dubai Summer Surprises offers an opportunity to woo new customers, writes James Tracy-Inglis, managing director at Saatchi and Saatchi X

Shopping should make us feel good, whether we are stocking up on groceries or hitting fashion stores for retail therapy during Dubai Summer Surprises.

However, with the ever-expanding modern trade, the diversification of shopping channels and value-driven shoppers, the intimacy in the relationship between retailers and their shoppers is weakening. Yet, this emotional bond is so important to create an enjoyable shopping experience and nurture customer loyalty beyond the sales period of Dubai Summer Surprises.

Traditionally, the customer-centric approach to selling is in the DNA of Middle Eastern people, and connecting with customers emotionally has been vital for successful trade. Today, with the advance of hypermarkets and mall culture, such a personalized approach has been retained by only a few types of retail channels in the region – luxury retail, high-frequency convenience stores and the souks.

For example, entering a jewelry store you are very likely to be offered a seat, a glass of water and spend a good half an hour engaged in a conversation “dreaming” about your purchase and all the choices available.

Naturally, stores of larger formats have to put a lot of effort into superior convenience, product variety and best value, which unavoidably comes at the cost of customer intimacy. The result is minimal human interaction that often sends shoppers into nostalgic recollections about the old-time traditional butchers and bakeries; when shop owners knew and greeted their customers by name, knew their favourite cuts, could deliver goods or accommodate delayed payments.

I am not suggesting that this trend should or can be reversed, but there is certainly room to improve the shopper journey by enhancing the intimacy of the experience. Retailers need to consider that shoppers come to their stores with three basic types of stress ultimately affecting purchase – time, budget and frustration. Making shopping easier and more convenient is, no doubt, important. But what shoppers are missing the most today is a one-on-one customer relationship that creates additional motivation to shop, optimizes the shopping trip and just makes them feel good.

There are a number of ways modern retailers can enhance the shopper experience. Staff training equips sales teams with better customer profiling techniques and styles of interaction with shoppers. Category management and category reinvention solutions optimize shopper journey and reduce stress. Loyalty programs reward with extra value or/and create a feeling of being special. But successful execution is not always easy and requires thoughtful investments in people and store design.

One tool that brands and retailers seem to shy away from is technology, and this comes with no surprise. Regrettably, on numerous occasions we’ve experienced technology that disrupts and slows down the in-store shopping experience. Yet, globally there are quite a few examples to prove that if used within an insightful strategic framework,technology can bring the intimacy back into the relationship between the customer and the retailer and offer a personalised experience whilst catering to the masses.

A recent example of technology enhancing in-store experience and strengthening one-on-one customer relationship is Hellmann’s idea to print recipes on customers’ receipts. Special software was installed in 100 locations of the supermarket chain St Marche that recognized when a Hellmann’s product was scanned at the checkout. The software then looked at other items customers purchase and immediately printed out a customised recipe on the sales receipt featuring those items.

This and many other examples prove how technology is opening up channels for personalised communications in-store. By placing the shoppers at the center of an idea and using technology to complement their emotional state whilst shopping brands generate the ‘return on involvement’ and grow business in the new age of the shopper at a relatively low cost.

Of course, nothing can replace the emotional benefits of face-to-face personal interaction. However, along with traditional approaches brands and retailers should take a leap of faith and utilize technology and digital tools to their best advantage to engage customers. It would certainly help to create favorable conditions for purchase and standards by which customers judge shopping experiences, retailers and brands. Especially during Dubai Summer Surprises, which is an opportune moment to build a relationship with shoppers who might previously have only visited the store for a particular bargain!

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