Each January, when the rest of the world is taking a respite from the holiday shopping frenzy, Dubai is just beginning its biggest shopping season with the start of DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival). The omnipresent red sale signs found on storefronts lure residents and tourists alike to shop for everything imaginable from haute couture, automobiles, apparel, jewelry, furniture and electronic to basic necessities. And while the DSF over the past two decades has attracted over 56 million visitors and over AED 145 billion in total spend, it can also be a challenging time for brands.


Robust sales aside, brands are confronted with “discount temptation” during DSF. This is a condition where finding the best deal overrides all other factors that would normally be considered in a purchase decision. In this state, consumers are more likely to succumb to the temptation to stray by the myriad of cost-effective opportunities and deviate from developing and existing brand loyalties. Even in a market where nearly 40% of the surveyed consumers profess to have an intimate relationship with brands, a purely price-driven landscape hinders brands from forming an enduring engagement with consumers.

Experientially, brands also face spatial, logistical and operational complications during DSF. Most brands’ showrooms were never designed to accommodate the extra sales inventory or the ‘search and destroy’ consumer shopping behavior. The resulting in-store experience can be chaotic in nature, leaving behind a less-than-desirable brand impression with consumers.

Our extensive study examining the emotional bonds between brands and 6,000 consumers across the US, Mexico and the UAE have found that on average 36% of the most ‘brand intimate’ consumers were willing to pay 20% more for their brands . So beyond achieving sales targets during DSF, for brands to truly succeed, they need to begin an essential relationship with consumers and move them through the progressive stages of closeness.

  1. Elevate brand-loyal consumers to brand-intimate consumers
    Even for loyal consumers who may have purchased your brand on multiple occasions, DSF is full of temptations to try a new brand. Unfortunately, most brands are so focused on attracting new consumers that they often neglect and alienate those who are already consumers. By offering exclusive access to a collection of sale items available only to loyal consumers, brands can begin a deeper relationship that can lead to greater stages of brand intimacy.
  2. Capture brand first-timers
    In the earliest stages of brand intimacy, brands and consumers share knowledge, are informed about what the brand is all about and vice versa. One way to begin this process is to be cognizant that some consumers are interacting with your brand for the very first time. Despite new consumers literally walking into your stores, few brands bother to find creative ways to capture their information or make a great first impression. Even something as simple as a branded ‘thank you’ note that gets placed into the shopping bags could help make a more positive impression of the brand.
  3. Make the “experience”
    Even though the DSF period represents a deviation from normal operations, brands should make every effort to align the shopping experience with brand values and resist the urge to convert the shop into a flea market atmosphere. This includes additional training and staffing adequately, knowing that the personal engagements between the employees and consumers can make or break future purchases.
  4. Focus on delivering on the Fulfillment Archetype
    Of the six archetypes that are consistently present among intimate brands, fulfillment is the archetype most associated with the retail industry. This brand relationship is often characterized by exceeding expectations, delivering superior service, quality and efficacy. Therefore, crafting promotional, communication and experiential tactics that match this archetype can increase the brands’ ability to develop a stronger emotional connection.

The DSF, now in its 21st edition, is a Dubai institution and a fantastic platform to make deeper connections with your customers. Hopefully brands can take the necessary steps to not only survive the monthlong “discount temptation” but achieve brand intimacy during this period and enjoy improved business performance.

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