Complex Made Simple

Mall culture puts UAE consumers above Americans for brand intimacy

Shoppers in Emirates exposed to brands from around globe to more concentrated degree than consumers in other markets – MBLM

UAE consumers show greater willingness to form strong emotional connections with brands than their American counterparts, and experts have pointed to the influence of shopping mall culture in the Emirates as one of the main factors.

Consumer intimacy with brands was shown to be highest in the UAE ahead of Mexico and the U.S. by the MBLM Brand Intimacy 2015 Report, which examined responses from 6,000 consumers in the three countries.

Analysts at MBLM Dubai are now building a picture of why consumers should have a stronger emotional connection with a brand than those in the two other markets, and point to shared relationship building as a key.

“It seems clear that the growing mall culture we have in the UAE has a big influence on how people feel towards brands,” said William Shintani, Partner at MBLM, the brand intimacy agency.

“Malls here offer a complete retail, leisure and entertainment experience, and ever-increasing numbers of people spend a great deal of time visiting them. Once inside they are exposed to brands from around the globe to a more concentrated degree than consumers in other markets. We also found that the majority UAE consumers were found to be in the Sharing Phase, where engagement between the consumer and the brand creates attraction through reciprocity and assurance,” he added.

MBLM analysts point out that, in a tax-free environment such as the UAE, most segments of the population have greater disposable income, bringing more brands within their reach.

“Because UAE consumers have access to such a wide range of attainable brands, the tendency is for them to spend more time researching and selecting the brands before making the purchase,” said Shintani.

“This extra engagement with brands sets up the foundation for a more intimate relationship. Of course, this is a relatively new consumer experience in the UAE compared with the U.S. where people are more sceptical and jaded following decades of hyper-consumerism,” he added.

Rising UAE mall visitor figures in recent years reflect the growing exposure of consumers to brands, and the increasing opportunities for bands to engage with shoppers.

In 2011, Dubai Mall alone attracted 54 million visitors, becoming the world’s most visited mall. This number rose to 65 million the following year when the mall had more visitors than New York City (52 million) and Los Angeles (41 million). The figure has since grown to 75 million in 2013 and 80 million last year, with 62 million visitors recorded in the first half of 2015 alone.

The UAE country report issued by MBLM Dubai last week was designed to give a better understanding of how effective brands create powerful connections with consumers.

It spotlighted emotion as the driver of decision-making, showing how we feel about a brand as the best predictor of behaviour.