The top challenges real estate marketers face in the Arabian Gulf

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Melissa Wingfield, Regional General Manager, Retail Marketing, Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate, speaks on the major challenges for the Gulf’s real estate marketers.

How do you see the real estate market poised in the GCC and the UAE today and assess the future trends?

The UAE is an incredibly dynamic market that is constantly evolving. This kind of environment is a fantastic driver of originality and innovation, where we are constantly striving to surprise and delight our customers and consistently exceed their expectations.

Our focus is on delivering world-class experiences for our customers through every touchpoint. We work extremely closely with our retailers to ensure we connect their services and offerings to our customers and delivering value for them.

We are looking forward to sharing how we are putting that into practice at our forthcoming new development, which will form part of the Jebel Ali Development (JAD) mixed-use master planned community.


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What are the major challenges for the Gulf’s real estate marketers?

We are working in a challenging climate, which is highly competitive.

This is a challenge we use to be smarter and more innovative through pushing the use of technology to connect with our shoppers, retailers, and partners so they have a smooth and successful experience, as well as fantastic events with amazing brand partners, means we are leveraging engaging content for our shoppers.

We are focused on delivering the best customer retail experience in world-class environments.

Meanwhile, this is the time to continue investing, developing and evolving to ensure we are not only delivering to consumers demands in this market but exceeding their expectations.

What has been the marketing mantra for Festival City Malls? How have these initiatives worked for the brand?

We are dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind experiences that surprise and delight our visitors. IMAGINE is the perfect example of this.

IMAGINE is a first-of-its-kind multimedia spectacular, featuring the latest entertainment technology in water, pyrotechnics, lasers, lights and dramatic effects.

This unique sensory experience, harnesses the power of light, water and fire, combined with giant aqua screens, 30 fountains and surround sound to connect with audiences and produce a show like never seen before.

This was part of our recent extensive refurbishment project to reinvigorate Dubai Festival City as one of the UAE’s most exciting retail and leisure destinations. We have already experienced a 40 per cent uplift in visitors since the launch of IMAGINE in December 2016 and with our unique retail offerings and captivating shows, we expect this positive trend to continue.

What are your immediate and medium-term marketing priorities and what challenges do you expect?

It has been two years since I joined Al-Futtaim. Our strategic priorities include delivering value, connecting our customer through digital channels and focusing on the experience.

We have recently launched our new regional brand platform, “Celebration Everywhere”, which has helped reinvigorate Dubai Festival City as one of the UAE’s most exciting lifestyle destinations.

The 360 Celebration Everywhere campaign has been rolled out across all platforms, including ATL, BTL, in-mall communications, digital, social media, operations, and events activations, with the aim of giving our customer “reasons to celebrate”.

It has been designed to align with our world-class retail offering, positioning it as a leisure, dining, entertainment and retail destination.

This, together with our engaging on-site activations and events, is helping to engage and delight our customers of Dubai Festival City Mall with our amazing offering.


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Generally speaking, how has technology altered your business?

We are already utilising the latest technologies to offer a convenient and stress-free experience for visitors throughout their journey – from planning their trip via the website to parking, wayfinding and connection to free Wi-Fi access.

We will be taking this even further with our new development, ensuring we meet the needs of our visitors.

Analytics, data, and social listening, also play a big role in our customer engagement platform as we indirect and direct feedback from our customers across all facets of our business and we can respond accordingly.

We have also taken successful activities such as the Dubai Summer Surprises and given our activity a virtual reality twist and it has really paid off.

We celebrated our most successful Dubai Summer Surprises ever last year, after doubling the amount of shoppers that took part in our spend and win activity compared to last year and seeing nearly 39 per cent increase in footfall year-on-year.

More than 90,000 people entered its Shop. Pop.Win virtual reality activity where we gave away 30,000 instant prizes from our retailers worth AED1 million in value. More than 150,000 shoppers also visited our Confetti Dome, the largest ever in the region.

What plans do you have for the future?

We continue to push boundaries and look for new and innovative ways in which to engage our visitors at Dubai Festival City Mall.

As well as focusing on ensuring our customers are connected in Dubai and our other assets across the GCC and MENA region.

We are extremely excited about the up- coming new development with the opening of Dubai’s second IKEA and 100 retailers in a community urban mall in the near future. Watch this space for more news from us on this.

The interview appeared in the Dec 2017-Feb 2018 issue of Gulf Marketing Review.