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How Millennials are Changing the Importation Game in the UAE

It’s no exaggeration to say that in today’s hyper connected world, buying a container of coffee is on its way to becoming as easy as buying a pair of trainers. The same goes for thousands of other consumable products that are mid transit at this very moment. This ease of supply and doing business has been seized upon by entrepreneurs the world over, but in the UAE and widder GCC region, it’s millennials that are changing the game.

The best selection of coffees I’ve seen to date has surely been in the artisanal coffee shops in this country. This may sound surprising to some people, but it shouldn’t be. After all, UAE businesses have become experts at sourcing the best of everything. Much of this is being driven by tech and branding savvy millennials, who know the importance of a product’s origin and exclusivity when selling to the end customer.

So having dealt with many of these buyers through the coffee trade, I’m sharing my insights on how millennials are changing the importation game in the UAE.

Traceability and origin stories

Consumers in the UAE and around the world have never been more engaged with the products and brands they choose to buy. Two of the most important factors for today’s conscious consumers are the traceability of a product and its origin story. And this applies to all types of products, from a simple cup of coffee to a luxury car. The new generation of importers and retailers in the UAE have adjusted how they do business to accommodate this.

Firstly, exporters now need to provide a lot of information on the origin of their products. By this I don’t mean drab sales brochures, but rather leveraging platforms such as Youtube and Instagram to tell origin stories through engaging content, which helps to transform previously uniform commodities into unique and individual products.

What’s more, retailers in the UAE are increasingly using this content themselves, in their own marketing to the end customer. As a result, B2B suppliers are having to adopt B2C branding techniques in order to provide added value and to grab the attention of buyers in the region.

Securing exclusivity of supply

Retailers in the UAE are engaged in a battle of never ending luxury. Securing exclusivity of supply is therefore increasingly being seen as a way for retailers to hold their ground and protect their advantage. Suppliers are also leveraging this trend to their advantage by exchanging exclusivity in return for higher prices and larger orders.

However, when it comes to securing exclusivity and the perks that come with it, suppliers can’t rest on their laurels. They need to be fully exploiting their products’ traceability and origin stories, as well as the other value adds such as original marketing content.

Ease of communication

Going back to my earlier point, the reason why buying a container of coffee is on its way to becoming as easy as buying a pair of trainers is due to how streamlined the communication process has become between importers and exporters. And it’s millennial buyers that are driving this change, as they place huge value on ease of communication.

There are countless artisanal suppliers with incredible products, be they Colombian coffee farmers or Indian silk traders, who are excluding themselves from this market on account of their outdated communication methods. An email account that’s only checked a few times a day can really slow down business. Instead, these customers expect to be able to fulfill an order in minutes using WhatsApp. Suppliers that can accommodate this really stand out from the crowd.

Loosening of traditional relationships

In the supplier game, who you know and the strength of your relationships can often make all the difference. This has particularly been the case throughout the UAE and the wider GCC region, where a more conservative culture places a lot of value on traditional relationships. But as millennial buyers in this region are becoming increasingly concerned with sourcing unique products from agile suppliers, the power of longstanding relationships and introductions are waning.

Suppliers therefore need to consider how they allocate their resources between business development and marketing. For example, investing in an SEO strategy to get a supplier’s website onto the first page of Google when prospective buyers are searching for their product, could provide a better ROI than traditional business development networking.

And finally

Suppliers that can quickly adapt to this new generation of customers can unlock plenty of opportunities. Ultimately, the challenge is to leverage the origin and heritage of their products, then combine this with modern branding, marketing and communications. Those that succeed with this while remaining focused on providing the very best products are the ones that will be the winners in the region in the years to come.

By Jennifer Poole Director of International Business Development at Those Coffee People, a specialist green coffee bean exporter to the GCC and other global markets.

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