How brands need to prepare for Dubai Shopping Festival 2018

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By Sanjit Gill, General Manager, ICLP 

The end of the year is always a busy time for retail with a pick-up in sales due to Christmas celebrations,’s White Friday and sales to celebrate National Day in December. While these are important events, they are in many ways only the dress rehearsal for the main event; Dubai Shopping Festival.

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Last January, malls across the UAE threw their doors open to shoppers looking for a great deal, as consumers from around the world headed to Dubai eager to spend and to celebrate all things shopping. Dubai Shopping Festival in 2017 saw promotions coupled with fashion shows and live music from worldwide superstars, making a day at the mall much more than your usual trip to the shops for the essentials.

Customer journey

While the launch of the festival on December 26th might seem like a long time away, time is ticking rapidly, and preparations for a successful campaign during the Festival takes time. Once you get to the big launch day itself, it’s usually too late to make the most of your hard earned customer relationships.

After all, sales should help to build customer relationships, not just shift stock. Some of the most successful sales are executed because the retailer has been able to build excitement ahead of the event. And don’t forget, if you’re offering amazing deals, people need to know about them. You risk frustrating your most loyal customers if they don’t know a sale is on and end up missing out on the best prices.

Moreover, when it comes to sales like those during the Dubai Shopping Festival, shoppers can be planning their purchases well in advance, particularly if they’ve travelled in from outside the city. They need information, or at least to be made aware of the promotions and events that will be taking place, with plenty of notice.

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Brands therefore need to make sure that they have their customer data in the best state that it can be in well ahead of the Festival kicking off. It’s also not just about having contact email addresses. Brands need to know who their most valuable customers are so that they can deliver more bespoke messages. Your most important customers, for example, might be offered early entry to sales, or the ability to have a personal shopper that allows them to avoid the crowds.

Enhancing experience

Getting shoppers to share their personal data, however, can be difficult. ICLP carried out research into shoppers across the UAE and found that just 41% said that they trust retailers to treat their personal data with respect, and to use it in a way that improves their shopping experience. So in order to get your customer data ready ahead of big events and sales, retailers need to prove that they are a safe pair of hands, while also showing the value that comes from handing over your personal data.

When it comes to building trust and respect, retailers need to ensure that data is properly protected with robust cyber security protocols in place. They also need to ensure that communications are done in a way that the shopper wants. This is an area where many brands are currently falling short. Our research found that just 1 in 3 UAE shoppers agreed that brands communicated with them in ways that were tailored to what they wanted.

Meanwhile, brands also need to ensure that customer data is being used effectively by delivering personalised rewards and tailoring the shopping experience as much as possible to each customer. Currently, just 31% of shoppers say that they receive personalised offers from retailers, while only 1 in 4 said that their deliver and payment preferences were remembered each time they interacted with the brand.

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Whilst many retailers will be hoping to cash in on the increased footfall and purchases during the sale period itself, in addition to the existing sales promos they can leverage via media and social platforms, my advice is not to take it all for granted. Prepare well in advance and really use this opportunity to offer your most devoted customers a truly rewarding experience. The chance to do so can regularly get overlooked with all focus on the mass appeal of the sale itself.

It’s never too early to start building better relationships with your customers. Laying the foundations now will mean that you’re ready to reap the rewards when next year’s Dubai Shopping Festival begins. During such a busy time, retailers need to make sure they’re able to reach out to their best customers and stand out amongst the busy crowded malls.