Spotlight On: Alex Murray, Manager Web & Multichannel Development, Waitrose

by Jessica Ramesh

Ahead of his presentation at The Figaro Digital Marketing Conference at the Emirates Stadium in London on 27 November, we caught up with Alex Murray at Waitrose to hear why brands must retain the human touch

Hi Alex. ‘Stop Acting Like a Robot! How People are Better than Machines’ is the title of your conference presentation. What will you be discussing at the event?

Recent changes in technology are far reaching and very exciting, but businesses must not lose sight of the unique opportunities that human beings provide in this changing landscape. Your employees have a multitude of advantages over machines and these need to be developed alongside your technology roadmap. Essentially, we need to make sure that technology supports and augments employee activity.

Why do you think digital marketers are currently focusing on humanising their communications, and what are the benefits of such an approach?

The lure of harnessing data to achieve a ‘holy grail’ of personalisation can be overwhelming. But personalisation doesn’t necessarily deliver a meaningful connection between brands and their customers. Humans are designed to have interpersonal relationships. In a socially connected world that values conversation over one-way marketing messages, bringing the personality of your brand to life through your people is increasingly important.

What role does content marketing play in establishing a brand like Waitrose’s identity?

We invest a substantial amount of time, effort and money in creating relevant, high quality, fresh content. Video and TV in particular are key to communicating our brand: the shared love of food is something we want to bring to life for customers and employees. We’ve shot nearly a thousand high quality videos for Waitrose TV and the second series of Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose is currently airing on Channel 4. In addition, connecting our customers with partners in their local branches and remotely means they have access to advice and services via real people. And people can listen, adapt and respond in real time, an area that technology is still struggling to do meaningfully, let alone finesse.

What tips would you offer to marketers seeking to make their brands more ‘human’?

Nobody likes a faceless brand – employees have a vital role to play, whether it is in the physical retail environment or within your digital spaces. Make them visible (in your marketing materials) and make them accessible (physically or virtually). You will need to invest in them: well trained, well supported, personable employees can achieve a powerful connection with your customers that machines are still a very long way from delivering.