Whether it's hitting a store or an online portal, shoppers are getting busy for end-of-year picks. Retailers can glean much from what consumers are doing. Image Credit: Supplied

The Black Friday winter sale is on and will be raining discounts and deals in the Middle East. Touted to be one of the biggest and most-awaited end-of-year shopping fests, both online and in-store, lifestyle brands across product categories are trying to achieve big numbers in a limited time period (for a week during end-November).

Using extensive media campaigns, huge outdoor promotions and social media publicity, retail brands are engaging consumers across all age groups. While online retailers lure consumers with a flash sale on select brands, deal-of-the-day on a specific category, and only-for-today one-off savings on select items, there will be deals offered in physical stores as well.

Brands have started offering early deals across online and offline platforms. However, discounts alone are not enough; brands need to go connect with customers on a more personal level. They need to observe, learn and implement.

Shop anywhere

The pandemic has driven more consumers towards digital shopping. This does not mean they have given up on the in-store experience in favor of digital shopping. Even as consumers hop from one screen to another, browsing and shopping online, they visit stores to find the best-suited products.

All indications point to a future where physical retail will have a significant presence in the UAE’s retail market, hand-in-hand with digital retail. Consumers in the Middle East perceive shopping as an enjoyable getaway. This has prompted the emergence of experiential retail. More brands now invest in ‘experience stores’—where the store acts as a stage and customers are the audiences who get an opportunity to experience the products.

Stores are no longer static ‘product warehouses’ for buying and selling goods. Several concept stores across Dubai position the store as a touchpoint for shoppers to have memorable, emotionally stirring experiences. Many digital-only brands are now investing in physical, experiential stores. The footfalls at these stores may be lower, but the impact they have in creating brand affinity, trust, and loyalty is enormous.

Combos work

A combination of physical and digital are the way forward for the next-gen customer. An omni-channel experience, which blends the features of the virtual world with that of the real, is what brands should be focusing on. Whether through a mobile app, website, or in-store, customers look for immersive experiences that cut across technology.

This trend has nudged brands to offer options such as try-and-buy, virtual reality, concept shopping, and curbside pickup. Digital mirrors, which suggest styling options, and customizations of product sizing are also in vogue.

Black Friday is the best time for brands to up their engagement game. This is not the time to be sending out irrelevant blanket messages, mass emails, and bulk SMS’s to customers.

The sale period offers the opportunity to analyze data, and retailers must use these insights to engage customers during the sale and after. Brands can use data from previous sale periods, learn customers’ search and purchase history over the last 30-90 days to understand their micro-moments and the events that trigger purchases.

Insights-led engagement

There are several sophisticated technology tools for retailers to gather customer data across channels and obtain meaningful and actionable intelligence. For instance, heat mapping tools help retailers know if customers are clicking on promotional content and how much time they spend choosing items.

Investing in the right technology tools will help brands collate the right data, analyze, and utilize it for engagement campaigns. Insights derived from analyzing data will help retailers get a deeper understanding of their customer base and understand the factors that drive returns or cause churn.

Brands can then perfect their messaging and communication to consumers and offer relevant offers and meaningful incentives, wish lists, rewards and loyalty programmes.