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A Global Journey in Dubai: My Visit to Retail Show Middle East

Retail-Show-Middle-East-2014I had the most amazing (and 90 degree+) experience last week. An industry colleague asked me to take his place and provide a social media workshop and keynote for the annual Retail Show Middle East. With Dubai as the backdrop, I flew in for a whirlwind of instruction, storytelling, and a bevy of my own individual learning.

Kicking off the week was my social media workshop. A room of motivated marketers, bankers, and entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kuwait joined me. My workshop was split up in four parts.

  1. New apps, feeds and profiles – how to keep up?
  2. Social, data and metrics – big ideas from big data
  3. Building communities – the power of developing fans and advocates
  4. Social payments – the risks and opportunities

What followed was, for me, a magical experience of instruction and discussion. After each section, breakout groups discussed the problems and challenges they had in their own organization. We began to follow a natural flow of questions, stories and the nuances between what made each company AND organization different. As someone who’s been in this business since the mid 90s, I walked away with lessons of my own:

  • No two Middle East cultures are the same.
  • Social platforms and digital tools don’t start and stop in the U.S.
  • Facebook may be hot in one place, but cold in another.
  • A new generation of marketer is taking the helm within Middle East organizations. This represents a deep culture shift, but also an exciting time for experimentation and change.

I rounded out Day 1 with a trip the Dubai Mall and the top of Burj Khalifa (the tallest man made building the world). One word: WOW. Everything is just bigger AND taller in Dubai☺. The mall closed at 11. Yes, I closed down the mall.

Day 2 was the first official day of the conference. I listened to Robert Scoble give a compelling Keynote on the world of frictionless contact, purchase, and activity. Robert presented a bunch of new and under-the-radar technologies that will be sure to disrupt habits and industries we use daily. I thought using Uber, Airbnb, and Venmo were interesting – wait until you see what’s coming down the pike!

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 2.18.17 PMI closed out Day 2 of the Retail Show with my keynote, focusing on the new influencers. I ran through a brief history of how the world of the web has gone from the traditional blogger to full-on web celebrities who create everything from vine videos to Instagram images to quick snaps for vast networks of attention. A favorite moment in my keynote? Sharing the story of how I was able to connect with a message board influencer back in 2004. This connection saved me when I was stranded (literally) in Lyon, France.

This trip solidified to me, more than ever, that our world is connected more than we think. The business challenges you may experience in the heart of the Midwest are the same business challenge in the Middle East. You may think that you invented the next up-and-coming platform, but I would guarantee that your counterpart on the other side of the world is thinking about a similar tool that resonates with another culture.

It is easier than ever to connect digitally. Languages may be a barrier, sure, but think about it: technology, platforms, and problem-solving via the web is the type of unifying factor that keeps everything consistent, regardless of language. I love it. I also love that here at Metaverse, we have Mods all over the world – including the Middle East.

Thank you to the organizers behind Retail Middle East and to my new friends from all over the Middle East. Your kindness, openness, and curious minds made my trip shine. (Ok, going to the top of the Burj Khalifa and shopping until 11 pm at the Dubai Mall was pretty fantastic, too.)

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

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