Across the Middle East, shopping malls fulfil an important cultural and social need.
ShopperTrak’s latest in-depth report explores this unique market and the challenges on the horizon. It examines how Middle Eastern mall owners and retailers stand to benefit from using traffic data to better understand shopper journeys, and tailor service and experiences to very complex shopper needs.
Impressive growth opportunities
When temperatures soar to 40°C (104°F) as is common in the Gulf countries, people tend to flock to the air-conditioned shopping malls and state-of-the-art ‘lifestyle centres’. Families come to stroll, shop, dine out, watch movies, play arcade games – even ski. Thanks to growing consumer demand, incredible architectural engineering, and a willingness to invest on a grand scale, this is where shopping malls are palatial, and a winter wonderland can rise out of the desert – as is famously the case at the Mall of the Emirates.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is focusing on the creation of new concept malls with $4 billion invested in Dubai, $3.7 billion in Saudi Arabia, and $166 million in Oman in 2017 alone, according to Malls Middle East. With rising competition, developers and mall owners are compelled to keep pushing the boundaries in designing malls that drive visitor attraction.
The Middle East Council of Shopping Centres works with Gulf retail industry representatives to promote the vast range of shopping options here. Its comprehensive directory Souks to Malls – Retail Entertainment in the Gulf features thousands of “amazing retail entertainment destinations in the Gulf”, illustrating the impressive breadth of the market.
Not surprisingly, the race is on to differentiate. Deputy CEO of ABC Group, Frank-Matthias Kuntermann, recently told the Gulf Marketing Review: “In the Middle East and the GCC region especially, where mall density is high, malls need to differentiate themselves. Qatar, for instance, is going ahead with 11 new malls while the local Qatari population is just around 300,000. This makes it imperative for malls to focus on three core factors – location, the brand and the positioning – to attract and retain footfall.”
Masters of mall entertainment
Malls in the Middle East are certainly leading the way with entertainment retailing, and are constantly raising the standard of the mall experience which directly impacts traffic numbers, says Vincent Debre, Customer Success Manager, ShopperTrak Middle East. “The exciting thing about this region is that there are so many opportunities for growth. But there are also major risks to shopper footfall, as visitor numbers from other parts of the world, such as Russia or the US, can slump overnight due to economic incidents and currency fluctuations. It’s unique because the market is so varied and volatile.”
Tapping into this lucrative part of the world involves an in-depth understanding of consumer behaviour, in-store and beyond, and an ability to adapt when changes to shopper profiles, and consumer habits occur. So how can traffic data help?
Vincent Debre, Customer Success Manager, ShopperTrak Middle East
“Retail in the Middle East is poised for greatness. However, mall owners and retailers do need to focus more tightly on best practice, driving profitability in stores, and being reactive. By getting the basics right, measuring traffic, and learning what drives traffic and conversions, malls and retailers have every opportunity to flourish.”