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Retailers in the Middle East want to attract Gen Z this holiday season. Will they succeed?

Experts say they look for immersive and captivating shopping experiences

Retailers in the Middle East want to attract Gen Z this holiday season. Will they succeed?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Retailers are busy decking the halls this holiday season in anticipation of the festive rush. Amidst the hustle and bustle, Gen Z,  the rising consumer group, has become the retail industry’s focus. 

What sets them apart, and how can retailers tailor approaches to cater to this generation? 

“Gen Z seeks experiences beyond mere transactions. They look for immersive and captivating shopping experiences,” says Eleni Kitra, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Middlesex University Dubai. 

Experts agree that by blending online and offline experiences, retailers must create a holistic shopping journey that fosters stronger connections and brand loyalty.

“As the holiday season approaches, retailers must comprehend what resonates with Gen Z. The values that define our humanity, such as community and connections to the world around us, are what young people crave,” said Carl Masterman, President – Sports, GMG.


How can brands keep Gen Z coming back for more? Michelle Walsh, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Majid Al Futtaim — Asset Management Business Unit, highlights the importance of creating memorable experiences beyond traditional shopping experiences. At Mall of the Emirates, she says, the Store of the Future, utilizes digital retail to elevate the shopping journey. According to Walsh, this immersive digital store employs shopper analytics and digital displays for a more enriching in-store experience.

Coupled with other services like reserved parking, enable shoppers to book a parking spot in advance for hassle-free parking. Additionally, the hands-free shopping service enables customers to have their purchases delivered to a chosen location within the mall, their car, or home, adding convenience to the shopping experience.

Walsh also says the rewards program, including cash back in points for shopping, dining, and experiences, is a big draw.

Meanwhile, Shafi Alam, Head of Direct-to-Consumer Business and Corporate Marketing Division at Samsung Gulf Electronics, says the brand has embraced a robust omnichannel model, highlighting the prevalence of blending physical stores with online spaces.


There is no secret to engaging Gen Z buyers, but retailers must consider grasping their distinct preferences and habits. 

“Gen Z shoppers demand a fusion of cutting-edge technology and customized experiences. Retailers must evolve their customer journey strategy, emphasizing a fluid connection between digital and physical shopping channels,” Walsh adds.

There needs to be a coherence between online and offline experiences. “GMG recognizes the critical shift towards a hybrid or ‘phygital’ environment, signaling a new era shaped by Gen Z consumers who wield an impressive spending power nearing $100 billion. It is imperative for retailers to seamlessly integrate online and offline experiences, given that their customers no longer distinguish between them,” says Masterman. 

Reflecting on Gen Z’s preference for efficiency and adaptability, Kitra says retailers must ensure a cohesive and seamless presence across platforms, incorporating options such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), straightforward cross-channel returns, and up-to-date inventory information. 


“The concept of experiential retail – creating distinctive, Instagrammable in-store experiences – is increasingly appealing,” adds Kitra. 

Gen Z consumers are becoming more discerning shoppers and will “distance themselves from brands that don’t reflect their ethical values; an overdependence on technology at the expense of personal interaction and service can alienate Gen Z customers is another danger.” 

Lastly, retailers must not undervalue physical stores. “Don’t treat brick-and-mortar stores merely as distribution points. They should offer unique, engaging experiences that online platforms can’t replicate, as neglecting this can miss connecting with Gen Z,” she adds.

Staying abreast of Gen Z’s mindset is another requirement. 

“Consumers have a sophisticated shopping mindset, engaging in ‘showrooming’ by physically exploring products in-store before making an online purchase or ‘webrooming’ by researching online and finalizing their purchase in-store. These informed customers demand an elevated service experience, which prompts us to continue to redefine our customer experience strategies in line with the evolving ‘phygital’ world,” says Alam.

Retailers who try to connect with Gen Z on a community level are more likely to capture their loyalty.

“Loyalty, for us, extends beyond mere products and services; it is about forging a strong emotional connection with customers — one where they feel seen and heard. This hyper-personalization approach sets GMG apart and contributes significantly to customer loyalty and retention,” says Masterman. 

Overall, retailers understand Gen Z’s individual preferences and offer customization options, whether in product recommendations, messaging, or the overall shopping journey.

“We understand the importance of digital platforms including Instagram and TikTok – and strive to incorporate them in all our key campaigns and activities. We develop valuable content pieces that appeal to the target audience by utilizing talented content creators from those platforms,” says Walsh. 

To truly inspire and cater to this generation, Kitra emphasizes the importance of crafting a shopping journey that is technologically sophisticated, meaningful, convenient, and value-aligned. 

“Retailers aiming to inspire and cater to Gen Z consumers truly must craft a shopping journey that is technologically sophisticated, meaningful, convenient, and value-aligned.” This holistic approach aligns with Gen Z’s preferences.

“Commitment lies in comprehending and adapting to the diverse dynamics shaping the future of retail,” adds Masterman.

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More