How The Middle East Retail Experience Is Changing With UGC
June 22, 2016
In the Middle East, even more so than any other region in the world, going to the mall is a social experience. Whilst there has been a slowdown in the industry in the region in recent years, due to the continual rise of online shopping, it has not been as drastic here as the likes of Europe and the USA.
One of the biggest things getting in the way of eCommerce taking over is the ‘mall culture’ here. Families do not go to malls simply to shop; they go to eat, watch movies and even go ice skating or skiing! Going to the mall is a social activity, and pioneering retailers in the region are capitalizing on the excitement that visitors feel and leveraging it through user-generated content (UGC) to spread the word in ways that brands cannot do by themselves.
(The Dubai Mall, displaying users posts with #MyDM)
First off, why is UGC important?
User-generated content is one of the hottest topics in content marketing at the moment. Utilizing UGC in the right way gives your marketing function access to the most powerful tool it never knew it had, your customers.
(The Dubai Mall, showcasing UGC on the big screen by the fountains)
#1 Crowdsourcing Marketing
Your customers will have more success marketing your product than you ever could. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 years experience, or if you have a social media marketing team of 20 people, there is no way to compete with the marketing reach that your customers have.
Retail brands have been active on social media for over ten years, but it is only in recent years that they have realised that getting their customers to talk about them is more powerful than them simply talking at them. Innovative retailers are now facilitating customers to willingly create content for their brands by incentivising them to use certain hashtags and displaying their social posts on screens in their stores or websites.
(Go Sport ME, displaying customers favourite outfits in store)
Shoppers are now even discovering new stores and live events / activations through social media. They are interested to hear what their friends and peers have to say about this first, not what some marketing team who are paid to say that it is great have to say about these things. If the hashtag for an activation in Mall Of The Emirates is trending on Twitter, you can expect that people are going to want to know what all of the fuss is about and get themselves down to the store.
(Harvey Nichols MOE, celebrating 10 years with their customers experiences)
Your shoppers are now your marketers, whether you like it or not. They are talking about your products online already, are you regulating it? Are you pushing them in the right direction to talk about your brand in a way that works for you?
#2 Interactive Advertising
We’ve all heard the stats about how many ads the average consumer sees on a daily basis, but in reality, these numbers seem to go over our head in the very same way that the ads they are talking about do, as advertisers continue to bombard us with quantity over quality.
In the Middle East, advertising practices are a little slower to adapt to the changing ways in which the people whom they are targeted to consume them than other regions. I recently spoke with a marketing executive in Dubai who was still spending the majority of their budget on print advertising! However, times will change and some retail brands are innovating by getting their customers involved with their advertising through the use of hashtags in what is called 'Social Out Of Home' (SOOH).
Think of it this way, let’s imagine that you have a digital advertising screen in your mall / store and 1,000 people walk past that screen in one hour while there was a video advert playing for any given brand. That would mean that 1,000 people were exposed to this, and your ROI would be that there were 1,000 impressions.
Now, what if you were to incorporate dynamic user-generated content through a hashtag onto these screens, mixed with that same video advert, and you encouraged people to post to social through that hashtag so they could get their picture on that big screen? Let’s say that the same 1,000 people walk past, and 100 of them post a photo to their social media accounts using the brand's hashtag. That would mean you have 100 social leads, and instead of having 1,000 impressions, the advert has now generated has now generated 50,000 impressions (100 social posts x avg. 500 followers).
(Westfield Malls NYC, SOOH in practice with Rolex, J.Crew, L'Oreal etc.)
If that advert was for your own brand as a retailer, great, you generated an extra 49,000 impressions and you have 100 leads to tackle. If that advert was for a sponsor, how much are planning on increasing the sale price when you can prove ROI in terms of social reach?!
There is a consistent theme with the two points above. Customers are already talking about your brand online, and they are going to continue to do so. Of course, you’re never going to be able to get them to promise to adhere to your brand guidelines, but what you can do is encourage them to talk positively about your brand and use your preferred messaging through hashtags.
Are you on top of UGC for your retail / mall brand? If not, or you would just like to have a chat to see how you could do more, I am part of the TINT team in the Middle East, based in Dubai, and you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a meeting.