A mega mall in Dubai has proponents of ‘bricks and clicks’ buzzing, but can what drives customer behaviour be boiled down to such a precise formula? We suggest it’s actually much more broad.

The omni-channel mega mall

Dubai is already home to some of the most effective and high-impact luxury retail in the world thanks to the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, BurJaman, et cetera. That won’t prevent developers from building more, however.

Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, 2,400,000 square feet and 700+ stores.

Emaar has just announced plans for Dubai Square mall. Here are a few top line facts to give you an impression of the scope and size of the project:

  • Two million sq.ft.
  • 750 shops and restaurants
  • 20-screen cinema
  • outdoor concert area
  • 65,000 sq.ft. hypermarket
  • Over twice the size of Dubai Mall
  • Home to the ME’s largest Chinatown

There’s no denying that the physicality of the space alone is impressive. But Dubai Square mall is also going to have a particularly strong technological focus that puts millennials and Gen Z front and centre by pursuing an omni-channel approach across the entirety of the mall.


“Dubai Square pushes the boundaries of modern retail and leisure by drawing on next-generation technology,” a spokesperson from Emaar Properties told CNN. “It is designed for the new era of customers, who are digital, connected and tech-savvy.”

The implications for this are what we are seeing across the world: A seamless shopping experience where customers can purchase from their phones and desktop, as well as the store counter.

Shopping will be augmented through barcode scanning, experiential apps and RFI technology, the ingredients necessary to produce check-out-free retail.

According to Nicolas Rubeiz, retail expert and partner at The Unit, Dubai, generally, is aimed at the younger population:

“The demographic structure is also very attractive to retailers targeting the Middle East as there’s a very high birth rate and a young population,” he adds.

“Approximately half of the population of the Middle Eastern countries are under the age of 25. Many of these younger consumers are affluent professionals and this presents a huge up-and-coming market for the next two decades.”

Bricks and clicks

Evidently, augmenting the physical shopping experience with digital technology is in vogue. But is ‘bricks and clicks’ itself the formula driving more frequent purchases or is there a more fundamental principle at work? It could be argued that the real driver is simply providing consumer choice in all possible, logistically and technologically feasible ways.


Let us first look at the mall’s target audience. In a survey of 18-24-year-olds in the Middle East, 40% demonstrated a preference for purchasing online. A survey from Omnico finds 70% of shoppers aged under 35 would like to see store hours extended. A survey by Google shows that 72% of shoppers visit a shop to check out a product, with plans to purchase online. Amazon, the West’s largest single online retailer is now being used by 72% of shoppers to make purchasing decisions ahead of Google.

What’s evident is that young audiences want choice. As many choices as possible. As it happens, providing those additional choices often means delivering online experiences that either extend the physical offering, for example, enabling people to check calorie content of food online, or provide more flexibility with purchasing, such as offering delivery slots or greater levels of product customisation.

But choice might also mean providing more physical in-store experiences. For example, Citizen M hotels’ staff members, or Citizen Ambassadors, add value by enriching the customer experience through knowledge about the hotel, the local area, the hotel bar’s wine list and more.

Nike’s new flagship store in Soho, New York, takes a LEGO-store-style approach where customers can choose to enter the store to play basketball on the near-full-size court rather than make a purchase. The court is surrounded by cameras, helping to capture the action from different angles. By treadmills, a camera records customers’ gait during a run, allowing a Nike staff member to analyse the results and recommend the best footwear, using an immersive on-screen display.

Treadmills inside Nike Soho.

Games Workshop has always been about experience, and profits in the last 12-month period have almost doubled. In every Games Workshop, the experience is similar, revolving around painting miniature figurines, and playing table top board and role-playing games.

At Apple stores around the world, the new Today at Apple programme is providing creative people with an inspiring set of projects and challenges every day, delivered for free by industry professionals. For Apple, the store environment is now largely the mechanism of delivery for the Today at Apple programme.

These are all great examples of retailers providing more choice. Choice of how customers spend their time in a brand’s brick-and-mortar store, what they decide to spend money on, and at which touchpoint they decide to make a purchase.

As new technologies and possibilities emerge, those must be incorporated into the retail experience.

Ultimately, any notion of ‘bricks and clicks’ should be subsumed within a more general principle of delivering customers the relevant choice and experience.


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