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Hottest information about 5th Annual CEM and Customer Loyalty MENA Summit

22 OCTOBER 2018


Chief Officer Consumer and Innovation Strategies
Chalhoub Group

3 Questions For Marie-Helene Straus

How to achieve delivering a personalized experience?

Companies’ success lies in creating personalised experiences — both online and offline — aimed at understanding the customers and connecting deeply with them at a human level so that they feel valued and appreciated. When it comes to retail industry, shoppers expect brands to remember who they are, whether they’re on a digital channel or in-store.
The following tips can help companies on a path towards improved personalisation, especially in retail, and this is what we are trying to do at Chalhoub.

  • Put the Customers at the heart and connect with them at the emotional level.
    At Chalhoub, we renamed the customers “guests”, and we changed the way we interact with them. Our front-liners are key to the consumer experience, as they are the human element in the interaction between the brand and the consumer.
  • Know your customer, in other words “Persona-lise”.
    One size approach does not fit all, and segmentation is a good start, but it’s not enough. I like the phrase that Gartner recently coined: “persona-lisation”. It refers to a new approach for delivering personalisation, that focuses on groups of consumers with similar characteristics by looking at their attitudes and behaviour.
  • Unlock the power of data.
    Data is the lifeblood of the company. And customers are open to share a lot of data with the brands, but in return they are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalised experiences.
  • Experiment!
    My advice is to experiment all the time, with courage, by creating new experiences.
    Test different messages to different groups of customers, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Ensure that content and messages reach the right customer at the right time in the right format and on the right channel.
  • Make the experience a central part of your organisation.
    Finally, it’s vital that organisations structure themselves around the customer.

How to keep up with the Millennial generation – what tools do you use to interact with them?

Millennials are the most diverse ‘generation’ to have ever existed. The Millennials can be defined by many words: eager, demanding, well-travelled, well-informed, ambitious, conscious, enthusiastic, curious. It is essential to understand the behaviours, psychographics and buying motivations to impact their purchase plans. Below some tactics:

  • Deliver experience.
    Millennials crave experiences rather than owning things, just selling items to them is not enough today. As retailers, we need to inspire them, satisfy their thirst of discovery and curiosity.
  • Adopt an omnichannel approach.
    In the UAE, Millennials claim to spend 6.5 hours online each day, compared to 4.5 hours in KSA, with 76% of UAE Millennials using e-commerce or shopping online.
    The rise of mobile has meant that Millennials can stay connected wherever they are. There’s no such thing as online, offline and mobile strategies. They’ve all been merged into one. Furthermore, we must anticipate a channel-less world where we sell where the consumer is, not where we want them to come.
  • Connect with them with authenticity.
    Millennials want content that is captivating and informative without being disingenuous. 92% prefer recommendations from people over branded content, thus, user-generated content and social media influencers are the most effective. Seeing others wearing something is much more powerful than a hard sell. To speak to Millennials with authenticity, our recruitment at Chalhoub is focused towards Millennials.
  • Adopt invisible marketing techniques, and care about visual over text.
    With attention spans dwindling day by day and information overload becoming a reality for internet users, brands need to find engaging and effective ways to inform and influence their potential customers (influencer marketing).
  • Don’t forget about sustainable responsibility.
    Customers expect brands to have ethical and sustainable responsibility behaviour, especially millennials when it comes to Luxury. At Chalhoub, our plan is to ensure we are a sustainable company that delivers sustainability commitments, and we have been member of United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) since 2014 and obey by the 10 guiding principles.

How do you see technological development and digitalization shaping the customer experience?

At Chalhoub, we started our 900-day transformation journey, moving from a traditional retailer to a hybrid retailer, and leveraging technology to create a seamless customer experience.
To achieve this goal, we also launched the “Greenhouse”: it is a unique retail tech-accelerator program focused on accelerating technology-driven solutions catered towards fast growing retail startups positioning the Group as a magnet for innovative startups, as well as attracting high potential talent.
I believe that technology can and should be used to enable experiences whenever possible, but we must never lose sight of the fact that consumers crave physical experience especially when it comes to fashion, luxury and beauty. Digitalisation doesn’t mean that retail is dead – it means that boring retail is dead. In fact, brick and mortar retail must transform to stay relevant.

Marie-Helene began her career in 1991 after completing a bachelor’s degree in finance at l’Ecole Supérieure de Gestion in Paris and a Masters in Marketing and Communications in Zurich.
An international expert in brand development on a commercial, marketing and communication level, Marie-Helene gained her experience in major international cosmetic groups, corporate real estate as well as in the distribution and retail of luxury products. The various missions entrusted to her were always directly related to brand development and innovation.
Her journey begins at Sanofi Beauté, where she held various commercial and marketing roles. In 1996, she was in charge of the International Trade Marketing and then became an Area Manager in Asia and South America for Paco Rabanne within Puig. She joined Regus in 2001, specialised in the real estate business as an International Marketing and Communications Director.
In 2009, she decided to share her expertise as a development consultant before joining the Chalhoub Group in November 2011, heading the Strategy & Innovation division. Member of the Executive Committee and the Strategy Committee, Marie-Helene currently holds the position of a Chief Executive of the Consumer and Innovation Strategies division at the Chalhoub Group, supervising the departments of Business Intelligence, Omni-channel Marketing, Guest Experience, Corporate Communications, and Sustainable Engagement.



Country Head UAE
UAE Exchange

3 Questions For Abdel Kareem Alkayed

How to achieve delivering a personalized experience?

In a service industry, personalized experience plays an important role. The digital platforms are taking the lead to serve the customers at their own desk with the help of automation. But to make a use of these facilities at its best, it is important to understand customer’s preferences and interests.

The personalized experience should be applicable at both human and digital interactions. To ensure we are delivering the best experience, we have to segment the customers based on their interests, profile, the product they are going to use, the channel they are going to promote, nationality, age group, etc.  Many organizations develop product/services as a common interest and market in general without customizing the audience. Which results in not reaching the targeted audience for a better result.

For delivering a personalized service, we must segment the customers in the right mix and make sure that this segmentation is used in all your service delivery processes. Market the right contents to the right audience, offer the right product to the right segment and customize your service offers and features based on the segment of customers using these services. Eg: A digital channel should be promoted to a customer who prefers online channels. If you add a great facility for these customers at your branches, while they want to use services at their own desk, then they won’t value the facility you offered.

How to keep up with the Millennial generation – what tools do you use to interact with them?

The millennial generation are new targeted customers of the future for any organization. It’s very difficult to exceed their expectations as they are more active on social channels and switch between better options.

Digital channels have to be used to interact with this segment of customers. Social media like FB, Whatsapp, Mobile Apps will be the effective tools to interact for a better result.  The TAT for response to these customers is one of the important aspects, they will be expecting an immediate solution/response to their enquiries. The organizations have to invest into technology for a better omni channels management to ensure all these digital channels enquiries are managed in a centralized location to ensure timely and quality response.

How do you see technological development and digitalization shaping the customer experience?

The investment into technological development is not an option, it’s a requirement in the current market. A majority of the services are getting stronger in online platforms and the customer acceptance is increasing. Demand for digital channels is forcing the companies for a cultural change.

The customer experience will be enhanced further by investing in digitalization. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is going to take over the current human interaction system in a very near future. The organizations not taking sufficient steps and putting investment at this stage will not be able to compete with the future market demands. The journey of customer in digital platforms are much simplier and less time consuming. In the fast-moving society, the time & convenience are the key factors which are going to make an impact on the customer experience.


Director Digital Channels
Etisalat Digital

3 Questions For Jorge Carrasco

How to achieve delivering a personalized experience?

The orchestration of all available digital channels is key to offer a good omni channel experience. While some people are used to interact with the brand exclusively through the company website, other people prefer human interaction and physical experience in the retail stores. It is very important to be consistent across all different touch points of that experience. By achieving this, people will feel understood and comfortable interacting with a brand without noticing that there is a whole engine running behind trying to figure out and anticipate the next step of that particular customer.

How to keep up with the Millennial generation – what tools do you use to interact with them?

Keeping up with the technology challenges, new interaction patterns, social media platforms, etc. is extremely challenging. Millennials lived the beginning of the social media era and the digital world, but now you have the whole new Generation Z, who changes even faster in the way they interact with brands and companies. In order to engage with all of them, you need to be prepared to fail fast, but to complement your capabilities even faster.

How do you see technological development and digitalization shaping the customer experience?

Artificial intelligence will play a key role in identifying customer needs and delivering good recommendations tailored for each and every person engaging with a brand. Mixed reality applications will enable a whole new way to interact with products and services. Technology placed in the physical environment like smart mirrors, interactive screens, holograms, or digital avatars will dramatically change the way we consume services, and will contribute to strengthen our link to the brands we like.

Jorge is a millennial passionate about digital marketing and the way technologies shape our interaction with products and services. From different links of the telco value chain, Jorge has always worked in the building and delivery of products, services and experiences with a strong digital footprint, such as multimedia content platforms, interactive digital signage, cross platform mobile and web apps, and WiFi access products.



Director, Digital Marketing, Luxury Brands – Middle East

3 Questions For Mohamed Hussein

How to achieve delivering a personalized experience?

“Personalized experience” is one of today’s buzz words that most service-oriented institutions use with great frequency. Delivering a truly compelling personal experience goes beyond customer or guest recognition. It is an evolving science, for which those of us in the luxury space need to continuously develop if we are to succeed in maintaining brand dominance and customer loyalty/stickiness.

Personalized experience must be integral throughout the customer journey; from the very first interaction, throughout the consumption phase and beyond. In order to achieve that, companies should adopt an integrated strategy that is broad enough to anticipate/predict/analyze customers preferences and behavior, but also be deeply attuned to communications on a universe of channels, platforms at which location, at what time, with tailored messaging adapted to the technology of today. To succeed, I believe in deploying a highly dynamic strategy, based on data insights with the ability to switch gears when the analytics tell me I should. This is key to cater for the ever-changing customer expectations.

How to keep up with the Millennial generation – what tools do you use to interact with them?

I believe that millennials are the most researched generation so far. The enormous number of studies that were done around the characteristics of Millennials paint a well-defined picture of their traits. For organizations this is a great opportunity to keep up with this precious generation. For example, Millennials are more likely to text message their requests than to email them or call a service agent. They adopt an efficient communication style with fast pace through shortened copy. They also expect a 24×7 connectivity to their service providers. Providing Millennials with the optimum platform like a Chatbot, that allows them to communicate with you instantly over messenger, would definitely help you to keep up with their needs. For example, we at Accorhotels have Phil, our chatbot, who already understands destinations, dates, number of guests, and much more. Phil is also gradually learning voice messages and will continue to even understand more each day and be more relevant to the millennial needs.

How do you see technological development and digitalization shaping the customer experience?

I trust the role of AI in shaping the customer experience will continue to advance across all sectors, Hospitality/Retail/Transportation etc. Take the self-driving cars as an example, where car makers are racing time to introduce their safest and most reliable self-driven model. While so many technologies contribute to the autonomous cares; radars, sensors, GPS, etc, AI remains the brain to those cars that many reports see as the future of transportation. There is a diverse array of applications for AI in hospitality too, that will definitely change the customer experience as we know it right now. Whether it’s dynamic pricing, customization in the transactional phase of selling services, or the service delivery itself, the ability of machines to gather different types of data from dissimilar sources, learning the trends and providing contextual recommendations, will help craft experiences that are truly personalized based on customer needs.
Day after day, humans become more dependent on technology to navigate through their life. Actually, now we are even more dependent on the ability of the machines to learn about our needs, analyze this data and know how to serve us better – known as Artificial intelligence.
It’s an exciting time to be in a role focused on enhancing customer experience that utilize the latest technologies while having to stay so human as the industry will always remain guest-centric.

Mohamed possesses a career that has spanned over 20 years in digital marketing, brand management and marketing communications. Currently, Mohamed looks after digital marketing for Accorhotels Luxury portfolio in the Middle East, and is responsible for overseeing the multitude of digital marketing disciplines from distribution to CRM, Display, Search, and more.
Prior to the integration of Fairmont, Raffles Swissotel, Mohamed handled a portfolio of 20 properties for Middle East, Africa and India. The integration with AccorHotels took place in 2016. He also joined Starwood Hotels in 2003 and held an area leadership role between 2005 and 2010, where he was responsible for building a digital marketing team and developing E- Marketing strategies and tools for implementation across all hotels in Egypt.
In his earlier career, Mohamed worked in publishing, advertising and multi-media agencies.
Mohamed holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising from the Faculty of Applied Arts – Cairo, and an MBA from Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft – Chur, Switzerland.



Group Head of Customer Relations Management
Zubair Automotive Group

3 Questions For Hawraa Al Lawati

How to achieve delivering a personalized experience?

Personalized experiences are a hot topic these days. Certain types of businesses have become very skilled at delivering personalized service. Customers are typically willing to spend more when they receive such a custom-tailored service.
Delivering truly personalized customer service is quite a feat. It entails making the customers feel like they are dealing with a company which treats them humanely, which caters to them by adding value to their life of which they might not be consciously aware. Personal customer service means making the effort of tailoring service to customer’s specific expectations and underlying aspirations. A tall order indeed.

How to keep up with the Millennial generation – what tools do you use to interact with them?

Something as simple as asking a customer what the weather is like, where they are, or if they have fun plans for the weekend can help humanize the experience.
Few tips:

  1. Use their names
  2. Smile and make eye contact for more personalized customer service
  3. Implement a loyalty program
  4. Offer multiple customer service channels
  5. Be human
  6. Collect and share customer data
  7. Create smooth transitions
  8. Make recommendations

How do you see technological development and digitalization shaping the customer experience?

Customer service standards have risen to great heights through technology. Business can instantly respond to customer’s requests including tracking products, returns and refunds. Most companies now have an app for your phone or tablet that can completely manage their product, but also put you in direct communication with someone at the business, for assistance.

Hawraa Al Lawati, is a young and focused professional leader, who relates well to people through a pragmatic and energetic approach to problem-solving and decision-making. Her industry experience includes telecommunications, automotive and training and development. Much of her functional and job experience focusses on a passion for excellent customer service and delivery which is reflected in her values and work ethics.


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