This is the official blog of the Landmark Group with insights
and stories from the people behind our many brands.

Make your business count with social media: part 3

Integrating-Social-Media-Monitoring.pngThe social media age provides plenty of new, fast ways for companies to communicate with people - and for people to communicate with businesses. Technology and tendencies are evolving swiftly, but if we know one thing, it's that people the world over are quick to share questions, compliments and complaints directly to companies or publicly.

If your brand does not engage on social platforms, customers can and will dig up your blog or website, or go on public forums to share what's on their minds. Whatever path customers choose and whatever they have to say, they expect responses, too.

So how do we tackle this new reality and use these powerful forms of communication to our advantage? Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and even Zendesk make our lives easier by tracking conversations between companies and customers. Zendesk goes one step further: it also converts every tweet, Facebook post and message sent via companies' websites and online-chat functions into tickets, so companies can manage them with ease.

That power makes it simple to respond quickly to comments and spot trends that might develop, and it's hard to overstate how important that is. Businesses want to know what people like and they need to know what people don't.

In short, it may seem like there are countless messages from all sorts of sources, but it's simple to manage social-media communication - which is at its essence, the critical ability to understand and interact with customers. That's an essential step forward - and rest assured your competitors are working aggressively in this realm - and it can also reduce costs for PR, customer service and even advertising.

There are things to learn, fast-flowing streams of communication to manage and no doubt some surprises to come in terms of technology and what customers will say and do, but the need to communicate and the prospects to prosper from it are too important to ignore.

Emax reloaded - web design made simple

Today, the Web Team is proud to announce the launch of Emaxme.com, the new-look website that showcases the current range of Emax products and services. This is the first of an exciting line-up of digital initiatives planned for the coming year, aimed at simplifying electronics for customers.

Emax_website.pngThe redesign demonstrates the team's commitment to delivering great looking websites, developed with the customer in mind. We've replaced technical jargon with simple language, as part of our commitment to make the complex world of consumer electronics easier to understand. And the new look features carefully selected high-resolution images of the products currently available in the stores.

As well as being visually appealing and easy to use, the new site also contains some helpful features to enhance the shopping experience for Emax customers: buying guides to help visitors compare and select the most suitable products, a store locator to pinpoint nearby branches, and information on the latest offers and promotions. These are simple steps towards building sustainable long-term customer relationships.

The social media revolution, which continues to influence how people interact, has elevated the importance of good customer relations to an unprecedented high. In recognition of this, popular social media platforms - such as Facebook - have been integrated into the site to enable greater connectivity with fans and followers. Customers can now share specific Emaxme.com content with their own networks, extending the site's reach into the region's online communities.

But the company's online activities don't stop there. Customers in the UAE will soon be able to purchase Emax products online via Landmark Group's upcoming e-commerce website. This game-changing "e-tail" store, the Web Team's flagship project, is coming soon to a screen near you.  

It's been an exciting few years for Emax: the company has achieved significant growth, received numerous awards for industry, opened several new stores in the region with plans to further expand operations into other countries. With the company increasingly focused on harnessing the digital aspects of its market presence, the future looks ever brighter.

Landmark Group Employee Stories part 2: Starting small, making it big

The Landmark Group started off as the big idea of a single person. Today, we're among the largest employers in the Middle East and Landmark is regarded as one of the best places to work in the region. But don't just take our word for it - watch the video and see what some of our 35,000 employees have to say about the Group. Because without them, we'd still be just another big idea.

Putting the 'care' back into healthcare

Icare_01.jpgGetting sick is bad enough, but getting sick and having to find a trustworthy doctor, at an accessible, caring medical facility, is worse.

Today's lifestyle comes loaded with a number of medical challenges arising from poor eating habits, long working hours and high stress levels. Meeting these challenges is not just about dispensing medication, but understanding and empathizing with patients, just like a traditional family doctor would.


Realizing this, we at Landmark Group launched iCARE Clinics to promote individualized quality healthcare in the UAE. iCARE Clinics is a one-stop family care centre catering to all primary healthcare needs in a friendly, warm environment. Our team of doctors, nurses and technicians provide easy-access medical expertise 365 days a year in areas including paediatrics, obstetrics/gynaecology, internal medicine, dentistry, radiology, pathology and family medicine, as well as general practitioner (GP) services.

Icare_02.jpgIt's always been our philosophy to provide exceptional value to our customers, and this venture proudly upholds that standard. We opened our first clinic recently in Dubai at the Oasis Centre mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, followed by a second clinic in Discovery Gardens. Over the next 2-3 years, we plan to establish twenty iCARE Clinics across the UAE.

Nothing is more important than your family's well-being, and we're here to support it. Here's to your good health!

Landmark Group Employee Stories, part 1: "The road to riches"

Raza Beig was a regular college graduate with no special degrees or fancy qualifications.

A chance newspaper advertisement during a difficult personal time, a meeting with Landmark Group CEO Micky Jagtiani and some inspiration from Mother Teresa - along with dogged determination and hard work - saw him rise to become CEO of Splash and ICONIC, two of the Middle East's most illustrious fashion brands.

An incredible walk from store room to board room was the path for Manu Jeswani, now CEO of successful footwear brands Shoe Mart, Shoexpress and Shoe Mart International. His ability to listen to opportunity when it knocked, along with priceless insights from Mr Jagtiani, put him on the fast track to success, a journey he still finds unbelievable, even today.

These are just two of the many passionate people at the heart of Landmark Group. Watch their inspiring stories in the video below:

Landmark Group raises over AED 710,000 to beat juvenile diabetes

LFC_logo_IDF.jpgIn keeping with our commitment to spreading diabetes awareness, in May of this year we launched a month-long fundraising initiative in support of the International Diabetes Federation's "Life for a Child" (LFAC) programme, in the UAE. We're pleased to announce that, with all your support and the hard work of Landmark Group's retail staff, we managed to raise over AED 710,000 - far surpassing our goal of AED 500,000.

Landmark Group's outlets across the UAE invited customers to donate as little as AED 5. This small amount can help support the entire spectrum of diabetes management for an underprivileged child for a day, including medication, tests and diabetes education.

Road 29.jpgAlthough each brand and store had a considerable impact on the success of the campaign, the Centrepoint store in Bawadi, and the Babyshop store in Korfakkan, stood out as the top performing outlets. Centrepoint Bawadi raised the most funds, while Babyshop Korfakkan had the highest customer-to-donation conversion rate.

Congratulations and sincere thanks are in order as we continue in solidarity to do our part for an issue that's close to our hearts.

Welcome to your online Lifestyle

Following the Web Team's recent successful launch of the new Babyshop site, we are delighted to announce yet another addition to our online portfolio -- the much anticipated new website for Lifestyle, one of Landmark's most dynamic concepts.

Specialising in fresh and contemporary home décor, designer furnishings and personal accessories, Lifestyle is a brand that fashion-forward consumers, and women in particular, trust and love.

Our focus for the new site was on creating a user-friendly experience, that is easy to navigate, has clean design and clear labeling. One key challenge was to create an online personality that represents what Lifestyle is all about, as it's important to retain the look and feel of the off-line stores to some extent, so that existing Lifestyle customers can associate with the new web presence.

As with our other successful site launches, this adventure began with an immersion session that allowed the team to get a feel for the brand. We visited the flagship store to study the diverse product range, look at the store layout, observe the types of customers shopping in the store and gain an understanding of the key similarities and differences with their competitors. Our observations were then put into our creative blender, ideas were tossed around, and out came a workable structure or framework for the site and some great looking designs. Add some creativity, a lot of hard work and careful planning, and the net result is a great looking website. Don't take my work for it, see for yourself:

Lifestyle_website_Landmark Group.jpg

As a relatively new member of the Web Team  - I'm now entering my third month - it's a great feeling to get my first project delivered to the launch deadline. Having produced 100's of websites in my career, this one is special as it's the first I've worked on outside of the UK. Like all projects, we've faced challenges, but having a great team together, working in unison, is a recipe for success. Working in partnership with our design and development partners, and a very enthusiastic marketing team within Lifestyle, under the leadership of CEO Sachin Mundhwa, we've put together a site we're all proud of and the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable.

With the Lifestyle site now live, this is where the adventure really begins; we're already working on improvements to the site to keep things new and exciting for our customers to visit and re-visit.

Bringing up Babyshop

As a relatively new member of the Landmark Web Team, I am proud to share our latest effort, the website for Babyshop, which specialises in fashion clothing, baby basics, toys and nursery furniture for newborn babies, toddlers and children up to 16.

It was our aim to ensure the new site had user-friendly navigation, clean design and clear labelling to showcase the diverse range of products. We also had to make sure that certain elements - the store locator, information about brands, offers and more - were consistent with other Landmark sites so users understand they're within Landmark Group.

As is the case with revising all our sites, this journey started with an immersion session in which our design partners were introduced to the brand. The two-person team visited Dubai and spent time with Rahul Saxena (Head of Marketing) and Sai Talwalkar (Marketing Coordinator), who told them all they needed to know about Babyshop.

Following this session, we developed the site framework, also known as its architecture, which involved organising and labelling product sections so we could better understand and define the site's content. Once approved, the structural elements were interpreted into a design; we based the colours, which you will notice throughout the site, around the current logo - a subtle but necessary requirement. 

Babyshop_Web.jpg

Our main challenge was making products look great within the layout. We had to consider horizontally and vertically oriented images so we needed another photo shoot and used all our photo-editing skills to make sure the images looked right. I can speak for us all when I say this was an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved.

I cannot express enough how important it is to create great assets. It's a critical part of the process because we're determined to make the concepts' sites as visually stimulating as possible. To do this, we require assets that translate well online; if necessary, we'll create assets that meet our requirements. Although this can be challenging, we're determined to make the user experience memorable.

Working on all websites is a challenge, but I can honestly say that everything we develop in the Web Team is evolving. There are lots of ground-breaking enhancements already in the pipeline so watch these spaces... www.babyshopstores.com, www.juniors-stores.com and www.mothercarestores.com.

A Life of Happy Motoring for Home Centre's CEO

It was a twist of fate and a lack of parking that led Home Centre CEO Jon Jagtiani to his vehicular pride and joy: an ultra-rare -- only 553 were ever made -- 2008 Bentley Brooklands Coupé.

The handcrafted British motoring masterpiece is at once massive and imposing, graceful and elegant. The automobile enthusiast shares his thoughts on his exquisite machine and his vehicular adventures.

John_revised_final.png

How did you come to own such a rare car?

I was trying to go to the Land Rover dealer and I couldn't find a parking place, so I went farther and saw this car in a showroom window.

What stood out?

It's gorgeous and it's substantial. It's quintessentially British and it's very, very comfortable. It drives like an old American car; it has a very quiet, isolated, floating feel, but when you switch it into sport mode, it has a proper growl. It's amazing how well a two-and-a-half ton car handles.

What was the first car you drove?

I inherited half a Morris Marina, which is to say I had half use of it. It was pretty dire, but when you're young, any car is fantastic.

Did you have a first dream car?

A turquoise Mini, the original Mini, which they stopped making a number of years ago. The funny thing is that all these years later I could get a turquoise Mini, but I'm not a teenager so it's too small and low to the ground for me.

What was the first car you bought?

A Triumph Spitfire, a little British convertible. It was a lot of fun, but I think I replaced everything in that car. A friend had one and we learned how to do all the repairs, but so much of the time with the car was spent on repairing it. We used to joke that we couldn't get through a tank of petrol without having to fix something and it wasn't far from the truth.

Sport or comfort?

Now, comfort. I was invited to a track day at Yas Island to drive the Ferrari California and took four or five laps of the track, which was a lot of fun, but the car isn't very comfortable.

Has your success as a businessman affected your taste in cars?

It's affected what I'm able to afford, but more than anything, my taste has changed with age. It's taken some time to get where I am and if I had been one of these internet millionaires in my 20s or something like that, I probably would have bought a Ferrari.

Do you have a dream road-trip?

I'd love to drive across the USA in a convertible: along through the south; drop in on New Orleans; through Texas and Arizona, the desert and the beautiful sites there, Route 66, and California.

What's your favourite piece of road and why?

Any road that's wide and doesn't have many cars on it! This is a big car and it is extremely comfortable so it's very nice to drive it on an open road with no cars around.

Any advice for the budding motoring enthusiast?

Get whatever you love. Just go out and get it. Don't wait around.

Three Years of Web Love (and Counting)

Today I finished my third year at Landmark. While time's flown by absurdly fast, it's been an intense journey and one that's clearly getting better over time.

When I joined the Group on April 5th, 2009, there was no "Web Team". In a behemoth conglomerate with over 31,000 employees at the time, there was no dedicated unit that focuses on building superior digital experiences with obsessive views on values like simplicity, cleanliness, user-friendliness, speed, polish, sophistication, standards compliance and so on.

Three years later, I'm beamingly proud to say that's all changed -- big time.

From a lonely figure of one, we're now a band of 17 passionate web professionals and practitioners of everything I mentioned above. From ideation to launch, we don't just care about processes like Information Architecture, Design, Development, Content Management, Copywriting, Quality Control, Product Marketing, Project Management, Product Management, Product Strategy, E-commerce...we love this stuff. It's our bread and butter. We've launched 7 major websites in 36 months and, if data is king, our analytics are showing a significant amount of improvement in the consumption of our sites.

Web Team panoramic shot.jpg

What's happened now is that we've gotten better at doing what we do. We've detected patterns from project to project and created templates to expedite things wherever possible. We've started laying processes down along the way and iterating them with lessons learned from where we burnt our fingers in the past. We've seen where we're struggling, thrown experts at problems, and witnessed how they've turned potential disasters into winning scenarios. Yes we've made mistakes, like most teams do at some stage, but we've acknowledged them, openly discussed issues and risks amongst ourselves, our stakeholders, and know what to look out for the next time around.

We now have a network of great partners who we work with. They span three continents and a whole bunch of time zones. We use a bevy of simple and powerful web-based services that allow us to collaborate and communicate both internally, internationally, economically and reliably as if we were sitting in a park, around a picnic table and having a go at it. We have a dizzying number of Basecamp projects (we love Basecamp, and 37signals, no seriously), which we prune every now and then to ensure they're active and haven't fizzled out. On a lighter note, our team's even starting to look like a Benetton ad, with team members hailing from India, England, America, the Philippines and one bright spark from Romania, with swagger and a sense of humor to match.

In terms of office space, we've literally grown like a weed through other departments, clamoring for a free desk here and there until our numbers have helped justify our own turf. I clearly remember day one, or make that year one, when I was working solo on my first 5 projects. My cabin was lovingly nicknamed "solitary confinement" until the rest of the team started coming together from year two onwards. We were based in our Corporate Office for our first 31 months, where we borrowed space from the Projects & Architecture teams. We grew one by one until we ran out of room, so we moved to Oasis Centre for the last 5 months and occupied unutilized area from our friends at Fun City. But from next month onwards, we move to our first dedicated Web Team office in Dubai Investment Park. Our new headquarters are simple, clean, open, beautiful and reflect those web ideals we care so much about. There's tons of natural light and high ceilings, both of which make such a difference. We promise to share photos soon.

So like I said, we're getting better.

Now strangely so, after everything we've done so far, we still have no shortage of work cut out for us. Here's where we can't forget the epic size of the Middle East's largest retailer. All of our many businesses desire, and deserve, outstanding web experiences. Expectations are high and patience is low. So we need to grow both quickly and carefully. We need to keep working at building better and more innovative products, while supporting our stakeholders and exceeding customer expectations.

None of this is easy, but with the kind of team and environment that we're building, it's become a whole lot of fun. I feel privileged to work with my incredible team every day, confident that we will deliver on all our promises and eventually make a deep dent in our corner of the web universe.