The Empty Quarter is the largest uninhabited desert area in the world, 2/5th of which is in Oman, 1,000km of gravel flats and dunes traversed by a tarmac road that carries HGV traffic from the North to the South of the country.
Dotted along the road are gas stations and restaurants, providing fuel stops for the vehicles and their drivers.
All of the outposts are managed by Pakistanis who seem to make up a significant proportion of the 2m immigrants and expatriates who have joined the 2.5m Omanis who call this country their home.
The photograph above was taken one evening in a wayside restaurant as we waited, tired, hungry and frustrated for some emergency provisions after suffering a flat tyre on one of our 4WD’s (which couldn’t be repaired because the spare was faulty – watch my video diaries of Oman on my Facebook profile for a more detailed version on that saga).
The two gents serving in the makeshift restaurant only had one word of English – pointing at my iPhone 7 plus they simply said:
and insisted that I take the shot you see and show it to them.
No request to forward to an email address or social media account – they just wanted to see themselves on my device.
Later in my Arabian expedition I returned to the sophistication of Muscat and spent a relaxed afternoon in the huge Avenues Shopping Mall, surrounded by Omani families enjoying their weekend as they browsed the shops, food and entertainment on offer.
Back home, the April edition of Wired Magazine (UK) carries a review of their own London-based retail conference.
Westfield Labs COO Antony Ritch offers an interesting insight into the future of shopping:
Shoppers don’t differentiate between online and offline. Omnichannel is the only way that retailers can survive. As virtual reality, augmented reality and full-body scans of shoppers proliferate – and with Amazon launching bricks and mortar stores, the way forward is to act as matchmaker between customer and product in every environment.
Shoppers always have their phones and 80% of all physical sales are influenced by the internet. Stores are a social environment where friends and family come out to enjoy a day of shopping, dining and entertaining. We see the digital world in the same manner.
The only dental practices I noticed in Oman were in the major cities and predictably occupied either office or street-facing retail premises – just like home – ranging from tired and traditional to fancy and modern.
I wonder when and if dentistry will catch up with the evolution of the retail experience?
Admittedly, I have some clients for whom the penny is dropping and they are taking patient selfies at the end of treatment (yes – with consents and only with the patients who are clearly “in” to that sort of thing).
Even within my client base it takes time to persuade owners and team members that social media is digital word of mouth and far more effective than paying for random digital leads or print media advertising.
It will be interesting to see just how long it takes dentistry to catch up with the realisation that phrases like:
“our patients don’t use social media”
“our patients don’t like being asked to check in and review”
“our patients don’t use iPhones”
“our patients don’t want to take selfies”
are simply excuses made by people who don’t want to move out of their comfort zone.
Omnichannel dental marketing – now there’s a phrase.