The Rise of The Millennials Customers in GCC

The retail environment is changing and so is its customers in GCC.

October 31, 2017

Millennials Customers in GCC

The retail environment is changing and so is its customers in GCC.

People born between 1980 to 2000 define the Millennials Generation. According to Oxford Economics, the population of the age group 15 to 34 was 20 million in 2016, making up 41% of the total population in the GCC region.

Millennials in GCC as educated and well-informed customer is considered a driving force by retailers with the power to influence retail trends and spending. When Millennials Customers shop, they want to experience the retail environment, beyond its functional element of providing goods. As the number of this customer base grows so does the need for retailers and developers to meet these requirements to establish popularity.

Building experiential retail environments heavily ties with retail placemaking, which involves the art of creating places with a people-based approach through planning, design, marketing and management. It is more than producing the right mix of shops but requires studying the individual characteristics of each place.

This culture is increasingly being explored in the Middle East through unique retail concepts – an obvious example is the Apple store, which continually works to innovate and appeal to this customer base, strategically advertising its products as aspirational and revolutionary. It is by this strategy it is considered as one of the most sought after brands, with long queues before store openings and product launches.  Its store in Dubai Mall, spanning two levels and overlooking the Dubai Fountain, promotes a modern design, a sitting area and greenery creating a comfortable space to ‘hang out’ and explore products.

The influence of technology

Another example of a trendy retail concept is Stomping Grounds in Jumeirah, positioned as a specialty coffee hub designed with an urban industrial décor, and a relaxing outdoor seating area. The retailer regularly posts its foods on its Instagram account advertising culinary experiences.    

Millennials have grown up with technology and are accustomed to using it for every aspect of their life, from browsing products online, to using digital apps for food delivery (Deliveroo, UberEATS), when hailing a taxi (Uber) or sharing their personal thoughts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat). It comes as no surprise that they expect it to be integrated within the physical retail environment as well. The ‘Internet of Things’ phenomenon is fast approaching, where every electronic device or ‘thing’ is expected to be connected to the internet which will enable retailers to provide a more responsive customer experience.


Retailers need to ensure they explore different aspects that attract Millennials customers, including attractive store designs, authentic personalized experiences, and options for self-service. While developers need to introduce environments that are focused on technologically, flexible, experiential and convenient. JLL is being approached by developers looking to implement strategies as the need for more competitive retail rises. An example being Al Faisaliah Mall in Riyadh, where JLL is appointed to undertake a repositioning strategy to revitalize its tenant mix – JLL has re-leased 80% of its GLA.

Globalization, travel culture and merging of lifestyles has in a way unified preferences and created a larger Millennial base. This movement has forced developers, retailers and consultants to reevaluate their retail model to be more interactive to this customer. The retailers and developers need to join an effort undertaken to create environments that excite. Take a look on how the workspaces are changing here.

The new retail mantra is not just about selling products but also about the memories and stories, they create.