Saudi Report 2021: The hybrid retailer and the hybrid shopper, by Chalhoub Group’s Henri Abi Nader

Chalhoub Group’s CX manager, Henri Abi Nader explains how the brand is maintaining its legacy while constantly innovating.

In our daily lives, we try to find a balance between the old and the new; aspects of our routines that are constant and those that are changing. During the pandemic, we have been given time to consider more closely what it is we want from our lives because part of it has been taken away.

The global pandemic has undoubtedly changed our society, our behaviours and our experiences and has significantly affected the way consumers browse and shop. The ‘new normal’ will be marked by deep and fundamental changes for businesses, markets and societies.

The retail industry is shifting attention to focus on immersive shopping and customer experience. The market landscape is changing across the region and especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where consumers are demanding hybrid experiences more and more.

We, as a leading partner for luxury across the Middle East, have a mission to respond to this changing market and consumer dynamic. We use data analysis to try to understand what consumers want and have the ability to offer them the right product or right services through the means of memorable experiences both online and offline. We know that most of our customers trust us to create something special, to instinctively know that desirable item, that exclusive piece, that unusual brand. It is because, for over 60 years, we have had long-term experience in the region – a legacy built on a perpetual cycle of research into our customers’ needs.

Now we know our customers are changing, we must ask ourselves how we keep delivering the same luxuries that they have come to expect from us. At Chalhoub Group, we are experiencing a cultural shift in the workplace that has helped secure us a Great Place to Work award. Our highly skilled workforce of nearly 3,000 employees in KSA is sourced locally for a reason: we aim to better understand the behaviours of our customers by working alongside local people, and by putting our trust in them to fulfil their potential with the Group. Achieving the pitch-perfect working culture, by implementing progressive initiatives where our people are connected and inspired, in a diverse and inclusive environment, was our aim. The GPTW award recognises that accomplishment and further signifies our commitment towards Saudisation and supporting Saudi Arabia on its path towards achieving Vision 2030. To that end, the Group is creating an environment that young talented Saudis want to be part of because they know it is a place to grow, develop and, eventually, lead.

Long before Covid-19 struck, we recognised that our customer base was evolving; it would possess a confident individuality and self-assurance that is open to discovery and adventure. It is true that retailers must now provide an experience to customers in-store, to offer an element of the unknown that provokes an emotional response. Digitally aware customers with inquisitive minds share these experiences on social media; but it must be new, it must be different, and it must have substance. Long-term connections are built on mutual trust and understanding so it is down to us to learn how to develop these relationships to create an experience worth sharing.

The Group’s digital transformation did not have a defined start and end point where projects were finalised and signed off. Ours is a continuous cycle of evolution, driven by our customers and taken up and moved on by our teams, where we have emerged as a hybrid retailer: agile, future-proof and innovative. Investment in technology, data and supply chain will generate opportunities for us to deliver a customer experience that is consistent with our history but with its eyes firmly on the future.

Over time, we aim to build a community around our physical channel. Our stores will move organically into experience-driven community hubs, hosting events, masterclasses and educational workshops.

It will enable our customers to fully immerse themselves in the experience, provide interaction that has been absent in many of our lives, and help us grow as people.

According to Statista, 62 per cent of the population shopped online in 2020. E-commerce is here to stay and as a retailer we welcome it, yet to utilise its full potential we must be consistent in our message that we are here to engage and support our customers, whichever channel they choose to use, and on their own terms.

Whether you are an adventurer or risk-averse, have a preference of the old or of the new, at Chalhoub Group our doors are open, on- or offline. We are ready for the next generation of the hybrid shopper because we are the hybrid retailer, and we will continue to bring luxury experiences to the fingertips of customers everywhere.

Read Campaign’s complete Saudi Report 2021 here.