Narjes Haider, Alosra supermarket's Digital Marketing Executive

Bringing the Alosra customer experience online – an interview with Narjes Haider, Alosra’s Digital Marketing Executive

Alosra’s Digital Marketing Executive, Narjes Haider, is the voice behind the supermarket’s digital presence. Since joining the team in March 2017, Narjes has been working hard to make sure that the personalised shopping experience that Alosra is known for is reflected online for customers. We recently sat down with her to learn more about her passion for all things digital, and how the team is bringing the Alosra customer experience online.

What initially drew you to work in the digital and social marketing field?

I honestly believe that the evolution of marketing lies with digital, it is completely changing the customer experience and the way we interact with brands. I find that it’s a completely different way of communication that’s actually changing our own behaviour patterns, and for me that’s really interesting. We’re at a stage now where our expectations from brands, and from our interactions with them, have become much higher because of the accessibility and interactive nature of digital. What a customer might have let slip in terms of poor customer service six or seven years ago, they will make sure to point out now. We’re at a time when the brand needs to be at the top of its game at all times.

What kind of opportunities does digital marketing present?        

The number one opportunity presented by digital is that it gives you a tool to listen to our customers in a way that is much more direct and interactive. And if customers feel comfortable enough to tell us how they feel, and they trust that we will be responding to them, well that’s an incredible resource to learn more. By gathering all this information, we can make sure to target our customers’ concerns and wants better. We can improve our brick and mortar store experience, improve our product selection. I feel like a lot of social media is about connection and most of the times, all a customer truly wants is to feel like they are being heard. If you aren’t listening, it’s really your loss as a businesses in the end.

What are some things you’ve learned about Alosra’s customers online?

After managing our digital presence online, I feel like I understand our customers more than ever. Online, you have the opportunity to interact with customers at all points of their customer journey, from thinking of what supermarket to go to, to the point of purchase – and whether they were left satisfied or not. By dealing with customers across the whole spectrum of emotions, we were able to learn so much more about their needs and wants. I’ve found our customers to be very informed, and they want the best not only for themselves, but also for the community at large. Alosra customers care about quality and a personalised shopping experience, above all else. For example, posts with photos of our employees do so well, because there’s a sense of recognition and of community building around that. It makes customers feel like they’re a part of something bigger, and they love that. They love to feel like they are part of the community, and we love having that opportunity to connect with them personally too.

How do you feel like we can create a seamless continuation of the customer experience between physical stores and online?

It’s all about integration. One of the most important things when it comes to digital is truly understanding the process in your brick and mortar. You must identify the points where the customer dwells most in the store, at what point do they wish they had more information and what products do they want to learn more about, and then it’s about continuing this digitally. It’s also about delivering information in the most effective way, and yes, that doesn’t necessarily always mean digital. Sometimes the traditional route is your most effective solution. But without understanding and mapping out your customer journey, at what point they require more information and then how to best deliver that information, and without solid market research, well you just won’t have the outcome you would hope for.

So you believe in today’s world, a space still exists for traditional marketing?

Of course! I think if either digital marketing or print marketing operate in a vacuum, well they’d both be useless. If your digital presence doesn’t connect to your brick and mortar…what’s the point? If you have only traditional and print marketing, well you won’t go very far. I would say the most important thing is to consistently make sure you’re communicating the same message across all platforms, whether digital or traditional. So when you walk into the physical store and see the messaging there, the design, the way things are communicated, you should still get that same ‘Alosra feel’ if you’re on our Instagram or Facebook page. So I would say that both types of marketing not only complement each other, but in today’s world they must exist together. The tactical points might be different, but all your marketing initiatives and efforts should be following the same strategy.

What kind of skills are needed to effectively work in digital marketing?

If you’re in the field, you must be committed to lifelong learning. If you aren’t on top of the changes and updates that keep happening, you will fall behind. This includes things such as digital trends, but also more technical things like Facebook’s algorithm, and new features on Instagram, etc. I also think it’s really important to know what is happening in the world at large, not just what is viral or trending. You need to know all of those too, but you also need to know what’s in the news and what people are talking about. Because when you know what your customers are talking about, that’s when you can go and exist in the same space as them.

Customer service skills are essential. Sometimes you see horrible examples of that online, and I think it’s important to keep in mind that customers are integral to every single thing you do. Don’t close off yourself to feedback, don’t vilify them. Trust your customers and what they want and need, this is all for them at the end of the day. Empathy is a crucial skill to have.­­ Another thing is flexibility of tone, and being open to listening to feedback. Social media is never a one person effort, and you need to listen to what people think and how they are interacting with your content. Of course, you must also know your brand and your market. You take on the feedback, but you always apply it through the lens of your brand, you need to make sure that you give your customers what they want, while never losing the ‘Alosra’ feel.

Finally, you need to be able to build mutually beneficial relationships and know the right people in the business. I’m lucky enough that in my position, I have come to know our operations team very well. The people on the ground are indispensable to you. I can have the perfect answer to a customer complaint, but it’s the team that rectifies a situation at the end of the day. And that’s another cool thing about digital, you don’t have a choice, you’re going to have to get to know everyone, from your customers, to your entire team!

Do you think that some people have a misperception about what goes into digital or social media work?

I think some people might think it’s just about finding a nice photo and sticking a cute caption on it. The truth is though that there are so many levels and things that go into it. The major part of the job is creative, but there is also a lot of strategic and administrative tasks involved. Creating policies, following your brand guidelines, making sure complaints are recorded, and that you are in sync with all your marketing…it’s truly a balancing act. There’s also the technical parts, such as posting, scheduling, community management, and the theoretical aspects, including understanding the algorithms, the market research and the constant learning. Content generation can be a difficult task – you need to make sure that you keep it relevant, informative, on brand and engaging, all while listening to what people are liking, as well as what the business needs are. The digital field is very, very exciting, and it can also be very challenging!

When it comes to the work you do, how do you define success?

You will find that some businesses are very focused on their number of followers, but at the end of the day, that’s just what they call a vanity metric, because it doesn’t necessarily mean more conversion. What’s more important in my opinion is what percentage of your followers are actually active and engaging with your content and your brand. How many of your customers can you guide through the sales funnel – how many people are you leading into your store, whether brick and mortar or online. Engagement is key. At one point, a business must make the decision if they want only exposure and stagnant publicity, or whether they are trying to affect sales, make their customers happy and differentiate themselves from the competition. For us at Alosra, our strategic objectives are the latter, and reaching that is how I would define success.

How do you think companies can further elevate their digital efforts and presence?

First of all, if a business wants to do it right, they have to let go of the mentality of digital being ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity for success into today’s world. The great thing about digital is that if you invest in it and you know your audience, you can get very far. For that to happen, companies need to encourage digital education, all throughout the organisation - from senior management and down to everyone that works for the company. A business also needs to be willing to listen and understand that there are so many opportunities with digital, but also challenges. In order to truly reap the rewards, a company must believe in the necessity of investing in digital. We need the right people in the right place to really drive digital innovation and success.