Searing heat and sacred celebrations: a marketer’s guide to summer in Dubai

Dubai Summer Surprises is one of the world’s largest celebrations of spending

 

By Puja Pannum, MD MENA Blis

From religious festivals to temperatures of 49°C and one of the world’s highest concentrations of malls, summertime in Dubai has plenty of quirks for international marketers to get their heads around. But for anyone who’s wondering whether their strategies are sufficiently summery, look no further – we’ve put together this top-line guide on where to spend that ad budget during the holiday months.

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Dubai opened its doors to 14.9 million overnight visitors last year and it wants to hit 20 million by 2020. Outbound trips, meanwhile, reached 4.8 million in 2015, and in 2020 are projected to reach 5.9 million. So while locals fly out of their destination city in summer, many more international visitors pour in, and both are booking flights, hotels and hire cars in search of a summer to remember.

Travel brands naturally stand to benefit, but everyone can join the conversation. Travel is a theme that brands can tap into with their creatives and use to decide where they place their ads. Dubai airport is the world’s busiest by international passenger traffic, and  22.4 million passengers passed through its doors from July to September 2016, making it a great place to reach locals and holidaymakers.

But not everywhere in Dubai fills up in summer. Many locals opt to stay in the comfort of their air-conditioned homes, so outdoor ads on boulevards or near beaches and parks will scarcely be seen.

Malls are for shopping – and so much more

Shopping malls, those havens of air-conditioning, become hubs of Emirati social life during the summer’s sweltering heat. Small wonder that there are 64 malls in the city with a further 8 under construction! Visitors can shop, socialise and seek entertainment all in one place, which helpfully makes it easy for marketers to reach them.

While traditional channels like billboards, TV and print remain the preference for UAE brands, malls are the perfect place for strategies like using mobile location data to target people within a certain building; beacon technology works well indoors too, allowing brands to understand where audiences are in real time and send them personalised offers accordingly. The Dubai Mall’s average annual footfall is 80 million, which represents huge potential for savvy marketers looking to harness the power of tech; analysing device IDs from its Wi-Fi network, for example, would garner new insights on audiences at enormous scale.

These insights can then be used to promote valuable online actions. A whopping 75% of Middle Eastern consumers believe their interactions with their favourite brands on social media makes them more likely to purchase from them, so video ads on social are a highly cost-effective ad format in terms of reach, engagement and cost. But people don’t have time to watch videos while shopping time and the user experience would be poor on the go; they are best delivered when people are browsing online using the Wi-Fi at home.

Online retailers shouldn’t feel left out, though. The UAE’s e-commerce industry is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2018, and it’s second only to China in terms of mobile e-commerce adoption. Clothing and footwear retailers in particular, as well as sellers of consumer electronics, books and music, should consider amping up their e-commerce strategies, as these are the items most commonly shopped for online in the Middle East.

Summer is full of dates for the calendar

With Ramadan and Eid now behind us, the non-religious festival Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) ramps up opportunities for retailers in July and August, with six weeks of sales and events across Dubai’s malls. It all culminates in a price-slashing clearance, impacting footfall of malls. Then, following DSS, it’s time for another religious celebration, Hajj, to begin at the end of August. Shopping takes a backseat and travel comes back to the forefront of everyone’s minds, as they begin planning their pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

It’s indisputable that Dubai is one of the world’s best shopping and travel destinations. Easily beating London and Paris, it’s second only New York in terms of space dedicated to the art of buying, and its airport is unrivalled worldwide in terms of international passenger numbers. Foreign brands looking to make the most of the city’s opportunities must take its many quirks and nuances into account, but for those who do, there is a world of potential waiting in Dubai.

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