We're interviewing some of the most influential people in the digital retail space to bring you some of the hottest insights and learn what's next for the future of customer experience in retail.
This week we spoke with Ralph Urmel. Ralph is the Senior Digital Experience Manager at Alpro; part of the Danone group. Ralph's expertise is grounded in digital communications, digital project management, and digital experience, and spans across globally recognised companies such as Microsoft, the National Lottery, Cavier TV.
You can view the full collection of our Top Voices in Retail interview series here.
Hey Ralph, can you tell me about your area of expertise and your responsibility within Alpro?
I've been working in Digital Experience for most of my career, and I've been with Alpro for the past 3 and half years. I work for the plant-based brands under Danone, the biggest one being Alpro. I have been part of the Danone group for 6 years in total.
Initially, I began my career in content and content management - that's where I had my introduction to the monoliths as we call them. I'm actually a history major, and so my relevant education in digital has really been on-the-job learning.
At Alpro, I am part of the global activations team: a small and agile team that takes care of translating the brands vision into online and offline strategies. We work closely with the markets and develop a strong back-and-forth between our global teams, outlining the longterm plans for the brand. I am responsible for owned media strategy and innovation, insights and data governance as well as content and campaign management, UX and UI.
Tell us more about Alpro
Alpro is a plant-based food brand underneath the Danone group. Alpro has been leading the food revolution for 40 years, making plant-based a positive choice for the planet and its people.
Over the past 3 years we have been growing explosively and we are now in more than 40 global markets. We sell directly to retail stores and not directly to the consumer.
Who is your typical customer and what do they expect from the digital experience?
We are a pioneering brand and we're mainly focusing on 'Flexitarians'; consumers who are more conscious about their meat and diary consumption and how those habits impact their health and the environment. In essence it's a global audience.
The mind-shift towards a plant-based diet is mainly happening amongst the younger generation right now, but we see that expanding.
Our digital experience is all about bringing the brand to life online by driving engagements for consumers of our product. One thing we're focusing on to elevate this is to promote our recipes and demonstrate how Alpro products can be incorporated into the consumers everyday life as an alternative to diary milk and cream. We also have a huge community online who create a ton of tasty user generated content to help spread the plant-based love.
We position ourselves as a lifestyle brand and engage heavily with our consumers via social media and we currently have around 3,000 consumer generated creations shared each month.
When we expand to new markets we begin with online content and then as an extension of that our local teams focus on what they can deliver offline, with breakfast bars etc. The extended offline marketing is localised to suit that specific market.
I see you are a proud MACH ambassador. Can you tell us more about this and how this has been a success for Alpro?
For us, I think the biggest development was moving to MACH and being able to select a technology stack that accommodated our business needs and structure of global collaboration.
MACH is an acronym for a technology that is Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless.
With more control over the technology we use, it's enabled us to be much more agile, to bring a lot of ownership back in house, and scale and launch to new markets quickly. We can now select best-in-class solutions and we don't rely on as many consultancy hours.
We moved to MACH in 2019. At that time I was thinking about how could we work most efficiently and effectively in a global context.
Further reading: Learn how you can react faster to changing CX demands when you move to MACH
If you were to give one piece of advice for others working with digital experience in such a global company what would it be?
Try and keep your projects small. You tend to be overly ambitious when you're working with such an exciting company. There's so much to do and achieve and you want to take it all on aim please every stakeholder, but when projects are too big you tend to lose sight of things.
My advice would be to test initial smaller projects in one or two markets and then scale it. With MACH technology you are able to do this, so that's definitely a big plus for those who want to experiment with various digital experiences.
Building a strong digital presence and leveraging your data to make customer experience more personal is a great way to grow customer value and lengthen customer lifetime.
Your data holds infinite business value, so you must ensure it's of good quality and exposed to your channels, where your teams can make real-time use of it and build upon customer relationships both in-store and online.
Occtoo is an Experience Data Platform that supports retailers and brands to build relevant digital experiences and applications at rapid speed. Occtoo’s SaaS platform makes it easy to access and unify enterprise data from backend systems such as CRM, ERP, PIM, etc. and combine it with behavioral and contextual data to create relevant digital experiences that can be deployed in any channel or frontend in real-time at a global scale. Occtoo was founded in 2019 and has companies such as Cartier, Fjällräven, and Nordic Nest on their customer list.