The Azadea Group exists to provide customers and people with an entertaining and exciting way of life. In this interview, RLI speaks with the company CEO Said Daher to discuss how he and the team steered the business through the Covid-19 pandemic and what the ambitions are moving forward.
A premier lifestyle retail company that owns and operates international franchise concepts in fashion and accessories, food and beverage, home furnishings, sporting goods, multimedia and beauty and cosmetics, the Azadea Group has a presence across the Middle East and Africa and is situated across 13 countries where they operate over 600 physical stores and more than 40 digital e-commerce/omni-channel experiences with a specific concentration on the GCC region.
“While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, we are extremely excited about the stronger-than-expected recovery in our region so it is business as usual for us, with a slightly more increased focus on digital which was already a strategic pillar for our business,” says Azadea Group CEO Said Daher.
When discussing how the company steered itself through a time of such adversity, Daher was quick to point out that great credit must go to their people and partners who supported them during the difficult times, saying that everyone generously pitched in to ensure that they overcame one of the most difficult macroeconomic situations in history.
Meanwhile closer to the present, already this year the business has seen the opening of 60 new stores across Africa and the Middle East, and they are particularly excited about new properties such as Al Zahia City Centre in Sharjah, UAE and Garden City in Algiers, Algeria in addition to new stores in some of the existing prominent properties in the region such as The Dubai Mall and City Stars in Egypt.
“It is going to be a busy 12 to 18 months as most openings that were planned in 2020 were pushed to 2021 and 2022. We are looking to add 200 new stores and 20 new digital experiences to our portfolio by the end of 2022,” says Daher. “While we continue to assess new markets, the
GCC remains our core geography and in the coming 18 months we aim to
strengthen our position in these core markets.” Having developed a vast presence across their core markets, they continue to develop new stores and customer initiatives by working with amazing partners who continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences by extensively engaging the frontlines.
“We exist to provide our customers with an entertaining and exciting journey. We aim to deliver on that through a differentiated omni-channel offering that adds value to the experience of our customers,” Daher explains. Social media is of vital importance to Azadea Group, not only
because it is at the heart of being able to engage with their customers closely through marketing campaigns, but also because social media in the GCC has a much higher penetration than in European markets according to Daher. “If you combine this with the importance of this channel within the discovery part of the journey for fashion consumers, it is no surprise we often refer to social media as the virtual shop window for our brands, he comments.”
Rather than follow the market, Azadea Group prefers to follow their customers and as they have moved and shown interests in channels like TikTok and Snapchat they have seen their media channels diversify within the social space. Their partners are also key innovators in this medium and in the use of influencers; as such they see influencers as a core part of their marketing but the execution of this varies by brand and by objective.
Recent global events have seen the company accelerate the execution of their online strategy and they will continue to work closely with their partners to ensure a seamless omni-channel experience where their customers can enjoy a fully integrated shopping experience.
“All of our brands are online with a mix of desktop, mobile and app experiences that integrate with their stores, enabling a seamless experience for click-and-collect or receipts for store orders delivered into online accounts which is great for sustainability but also great for customers who lose their receipts, this is just one example of the phygital experiences that we are working on,” explains Daher.
In recent years the Group’s customer communication has also evolved, enabling them to offer a far more seamless and immersive communication experience with their customers. They no longer target online and physical customers as disparate groups, they have now consolidated their data into a single view of the customer, which means they can talk to their customers via digital platforms including WhatsApp and APP Push’s with bespoke and personalised messaging based on their profile.
As we near the end of our time with Daher, we asked him why he felt customers remain loyal to the Azadea Group and what sets the company apart from its peers in the industry?
“Customer loyalty is earned by being true to the customer and we reward loyalty by offering the most innovative fashion products week after week. As for our key differentiator, this is our people as they are able to evolve the customer’s journey throughout our touchpoints,” he explains.
“We strive to provide our people and customers with an exciting and entertaining way of life and moving forward we will continue to have a relentless focus on customer experience.”