Ilaria Buonpane, Head of CX, Chalhoub Group

Human Experience beats Customer Experience.

With emerging competition, new forms of innovation and a challenging virus, it’s no wonder that companies are struggling to maintain retention rates in 2020. Read about what Chalhoub is doing to preserver today.

About Chalhoub Group

The Chalhoub Group is the leading partner for luxury across the Middle East since 1955. As an expert in retail, distribution and marketing services based in Dubai, the Group has become a major player in the beauty, fashion and gift sectors regionally.

By blending its Middle East expertise and intimate knowledge of luxury, the Chalhoub Group is building brands in the region, by offering service excellence to all its partners and a unique experience to its customers. The Group is moving fast from a traditional distributor and retailer for luxury in the Middle East to a hybrid retailer bringing luxury experiences to the fingertips of customers everywhere.

With a growing workforce of more than 12,000 people, in 14 countries, as well as operating over 700 retail stores, the Group’s success is attributed to its most valued asset: highly skilled and dedicated teams.

Professionalism and passion are what fuel the Chalhoub Group’s competitive edge in today’s market.

By being committed to implementing further sustainable practices into their business, the Chalhoub Group is a member of the United Nations Global Compact Community, signatory of the Women’s Empowerment Principles and was awarded its seventh CSR Label from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Customer experience is arguably the most important part of a customer journey in today’s socially distant world. Conveniencing and rewarding customers for shopping in a safe way via innovations such as Zbooni’s chat commerce, IKEA’s AR application, or Chalhoub’s MUSE loyalty program, all serve as ways to virtually drive brand equity.

According to The Gartner L2 Intelligence Report: Loyalty 2019, 72% of the 82 brands surveyed were offering experience-based rewards versus 61% in the year before, compared with the year before. This is because brands realize that in order to stand out, a customer must have a memorable experience. Fast forward to Summer of 2020 where brands are now relying on engaging with their customers now more than ever, however virtually. One tangible tool is to offer unique beneficial rewards and experiences. “Human Experience is greater than CX,” affirms Head of Customer Experience and Strategic Marketing at Chalhoub Group in Dubai, Ilaria Buonpane. Read about the Group’s philosophy in an exclusive interview below.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

1.  Tell us about Chalhoub’s philosophy in continuously striving to put both its staff and customers first. 

Human Experience is greater than CX. We are humans, defined by energy, connection, feelings, values and meaning. To create meaningful relationships and memorable experiences we need to design for humans, not customers. The difference might seem little but designing with a behavioral approach will allow us to build deeper and better human connection and relationships.

2.  Brands’ retail strategies should be driven by customer-centric ways of thinking. Do you agree?  

Our mission is to move from a traditional retailer to hybrid retailer bringing luxury experiences to the fingertips of customers everywhere. Customer-centricity touches everything from visual merchandising to marketing, sales, Data, retail, e-commerce and Human Resources.

From setting the vision to looking at behaviors of data and trying to understand what customers want, we aim to offer them the right product and services by implementing great experiences online & offline.

3.  How have challenging environmental factors (e.g. COVID-19) changed the way that Chalhoub caters to its customers? Please inspire us with successful examples. 

The challenging environmental factors accelerated our plans to find new ways to adapt to the shifting sands brought by Covid-19. We stayed connected with our customers through e-commerce channels, WhatsApp groups, private concierge platform and our loyalty programme MUSE. We were listening to our customer service teams while looking at our data to quickly innovate on our operations to make sure we are keeping the customer experience intact during this time.

Despite the challenges we had to go through, we kept on building human connection first, supporting local heroes and giving back to our community. We kept our customers informed on sales and operational messages while staying active on social to take the right measures for health and safety.

4.  How important is it to invest in consumer insights and market research tools to predict consumer behavior, especially during COVID-19? 

It has always been extremely important to invest in Consumer and market insights tools, even more now, given how quickly things are changing from one week to the next due to Covid-19. However, it’s also equally important to invest in resources that help companies better understand their customers, as both elements work in parallel. Companies should look to build an ecosystem that connects insights across every step of the consumer journey.

"Human Experience is greater than CX."

5.  Via SHIFT, tell us about how Chalhoub mines data and uses technology to transform the customer journey. 

In the last couple of months, the Group invested in technology (platforms and people) to seamlessly integrate information between stores and ecommerce. This backbone is the foundation to continuously capture customer feedback across all touchpoints and identify areas of improvements as well as new initiatives to enhance the customer experience.

For instance, we started to capture NPS & CAST across different channels and launch feedback surveys on the websites. The data capture has been very valuable to adapt our training to frontliners, change the UX, etc.

6.  What advice do you have for SME’s in the region to action immediately in order to understand their customers better?  

Now more than ever listen to your customers, co-design with them and test before launching anything.

7.  What is next in Chalhoub’s future?  

Our goal remains to delight our customers, wherever they are to  be agile, courageous, to innovate, to take responsibilities and to think outside the box.

We will focus on further developing our key competitive strengths in ecommerce, data, tech, consumer experience and our people. We are preparing for a future as an agile, innovative and hybrid retailer.