Consumers in the UAE have more ways to purchase and more choices at the shelves than ever before. There are the diverse bricks-and-mortar retail sector, the grocery shops, supermarkets and hypermarkets and the recent introduction of metro stores designed for consumers who are living in city centres or urban communities. There’s also a surge in online retailers, consumer can purchase online, on the mobile and even through convenient third parties that connect the retailers and the shoppers. It is all about retaining customers and their loyalty, so how do multinationals or marketing experts face this challenge?
It’s not only the retail landscape, which is changing, consumer shopping habits are also changing rapidly. The path to purchase has shifted from a linear path and a trip to the store to a non-linear path that is based on online experiences. The internet has changed this path-to-purchase. Today’s shopper is well prepared. They come to the store having researched the brands they mean to purchase, most often through their smartphones. Shoppers even check online while they’re in-store, if they come across brands they’re not familiar with. It is estimated that 84 per cent of shoppers research a purchase online before they make a purchase, whether online or offline.
Big brands like Henkel, P&G and Unikai are investing heavily to understand consumer behaviour in the region.
“To keep up with the constantly changing consumer demands, Unikai has recently invested Dh1 million in a new R&D facility. Researchers will use the latest food industry trends such as the buzz around the health benefits of dark chocolate or the preference for healthier yoghurt variants to improve the company’s products. Further adding value across the portfolio, research on flavour injections and innovations in the recipe makeup will enhance Unikai’s current recipes while retaining the original taste and quality of old favourites,” said Neeraj Vohra, chief executive officer of Unikai.
Similarly a peak at consumer insight by Henkel indicates that through research and development the firm has been able to use insight as a basis for developing and reinventing products to better suit our customers around the world. Responsiveness to changing customer and consumer demands as well as innovation, quality, service and sustainability are key drivers for realising brand’s vision to be a global leader in brands and technologies.
“Along with our central research laboratories, we maintain R&D sites in all regions around the world as hubs for innovative problem solving and development. Five per cent of our global staff is engaged in R&D, and we spent over Dh1.8 billion on R&D in 2016 alone worldwide. By working in close contact with markets and consumers, the R&D staff in the regional sites are constantly privy to specific problems for the next generation of innovations,” said Mohamed Siam, general manager, Laundry & Home Care GCC, Henkel.
Further Siam says: ” We have adapted our marketing strategy based on the recent change in media consumption. We realise it is always important to invest in R&D, promotions and a good marketing mix in order to retain and attract new customers. We have adopted an equal mix of marketing online, print and outdoors, while keeping our audience’s consumptions patterns in mind. We cannot ignore the online platforms, especially since audience’s make their buying decision by being influenced with ads and videos online.”
“The UAE is a large multicultural country and the product needs to be appealing to all,” explains Kishore Dharmarajan, CEO, SeoSouq.
“Effective marketing is based on addressing consumer needs and not based on demographics. Digital advertising has the advantage of addressing consumer needs at a granular level and tends to be effective because of this advantage. Like all market sectors, FMCG too has been affected by digital disruption. Notable examples include Dollar Shave Club which disrupted the razor market and was acquired by Unilever $1 billion this year.”
Higher spend on research and development, new marketing initiatives also have opened doors to jobs hiring in this sector as the latest Monster Employment Index (MEI) has also indicated that the consumer goods industry in the UAE continues to record the highest growth in online hiring with an increase of nine per cent from Q1 2017 and 26 per cent from Q2 2016. The hiring growth in consumer goods including FMCG, food and packaged food, home appliances, garments, textiles, leather, gems and jewellery.
“The consumer goods industry has been increasing online hiring across the UAE since the beginning of the year. This may be due to the typically high turnover rate seen in this industry, however, it demonstrates that the industry is continuing to strengthen in the UAE as demand for employees is strong despite an overall slowdown across other sectors. To reinforce this point, professionals in purchase/logistics/supply chain occupations have witnessed the least decline since Q2 of 2016 as they play a key role in bringing consumer goods to the market,” said Sanjay Modi, managing director, Monster.com, APAC & Middle East.
The top global player P&G, says everything starts and ends with the consumer. At P&G we have to be where the consumer is, offering superior product propositions so that she or he continues to reward us with their choice. At P&G we continue to trust in the fundamental belief that we must have a razor sharp focus on developing products that are designed to delight consumers, says a spokesperson from the company.
“To wrap it all up, consumers want to have the opportunity to purchase from their favourite retailers the best performing products at a price which they consider to be of great value, and from brands which they believe in and which support causes they care about. At P&G, our job and our number one priority is to make sure everything comes together to delight the consumer.”
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