Dubai’s retail outlets are pulling out all of the stops to boost their brand awareness as they look to increase customer loyalty and drive footfall to their stores amid increased competition.
Brands such as Bloomingdale’s, Virgin Megastore and Mini are hosting fashion shows, live band performances and festival style events as they look to offer customers more than just a shopping experience.
“[Shopping] has got to be more than the product. It’s got to be where you get it from; you’ve got to have a reason to come to the store and that reason is that you like the buzz and you like the feeling,” said Paul Cardwell, executive director for the Brand Union, Middle East.
“It never used to be an issue here because you had such a captive audience of people but now there are so many malls, so much competition, you have to work harder.”
Dubai, home to luxury shopping malls such as Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, is the second second-most attractive emerging market for retailers after China, in part because high disposable income, according to management consulting firm AT Kearney.
Retail accounts for 30 percent of gross domestic product in the emirate, home to about 40 shopping malls, Standard Chartered Bank estimates.
While retailers in western markets have sliced their marketing budgets amid a sluggish economy, Dubai stores are banking on lavish advertising campaigns to get customers through their doors.
US department store Bloomingdale’s, operated by Dubai’s Al Tayer Group in the UAE, launched its fall/winter 2011 collection with a month-long ‘New York, New York’ marketing campaign.
Events included live fashion shows, an in-store appearance by Hollywood star Eva Longoria, beauty promotions and a four-metre tall King Kong installation by the Los Angeles filmmaker and pop artist, Mr Brainwash.
The store also collaborated with a number of brands to create limited edition products.
“It’s created the awareness of the Bloomingdale’s brand in the market here. Eighteen months ago we were new to market and people didn’t know what Bloomingdale’s was or what we had to offer, today I think we’ve worked hard to promote what we are about,” said Matthew Mackenzie, general manager at Bloomingdale’s Dubai.
“Not only is it good for footfall and is it a point of difference for Dubai Mall, it is cements our relationship with the mall and shows our commitment to the market.”
When Virgin Megastore opened its Dubai Mall store in September, it ran a 23-day campaign that included live in-store performances from local bands and DJ’s.
Mini will host a two-day festival, Drive Out Loud, at the end of October in which Mini owners can participate in the largest regional convoy, watch stunt shows and participate in competitions.
Dubai’s advertising market, once dominated by real estate firms, is showing signs of an improvement as the economic outlook picks up. UAE firms spent around $349m on advertising in the first three months of the year, accounting for 12 percent of the Middle East’s overall advertising spend during the first quarter, according to data from the Pan Arab Research Centre.
Virgin Megastore Middle East’s regional marketing manager said it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to mix their marketing strategies to include customer engagement.
“When the crisis hit Dubai the big brands and the big players in the markets started deviating from the traditional mix and started to think of more strategic and clever ways to spend their money on marketing and activities,” said Tarek Moussawer.
“It definitely increases traffic but it also increases people’s loyalty to the brand and it puts our brand closer to the customer and closer to the artists and the talent in this country.”