5 Questions With... Ahmed Ashraf

Lara Camagni

The Launchmetrics 5 Questions With... interview series provides a way to connect industry leaders from the fashion, luxury, and beauty industries, and gives a platform for them to share their best advice and expertise. For the first episode of this series, we spoke with Ahmed Ashraf, Head of D2C E-commerce at L’Oreal, as seen in the video and interview transcription below.

Interview with Ahmed Ashraf, Head of D2C E-commerce at L’Oreal

1. What do you love about your job?

What I love about my role is actually that no two days are the same. I work in e-commerce and I could start my day looking at everything to do with the website, from merchandising to website execution. However, our most important mission is to understand how to provide the best services to our customers and how we can better drive engagement across our onsite channels.

I believe the exciting thing about digital profiles such as mine is the growing potential of our roles within companies since websites and DTC (Direct to Consumer) are becoming comparable to the flagship stores and represent the first touchpoint in the brand experience for all our customers.

2. How has the industry changed since you began your career?

Well, I think a lot has changed because it's been over 10 years. So it's been a full decade. However, I would say mainly two things: first, if you're a digital profile, I think you're being asked to wear even more hats. We are touching a wide range of topics, from analytics to digital experience, from content to platforms. The skills set of digital profiles is growing exponentially and I think the sector has never been more compelling. 

And number two, I would say, we used to work in silos. But those lines are increasingly being blurred, and nowadays it's all about collaboration. Thinking about my own function at L’Oreal; I work closely with the PR team, with our social team, with our marketing team, with our store team, retail team - we truly have an omnichannel approach. Today, there's no more space for silos. It's all about building these seamless experiences for our customers. And this approach and mission is reflected in how we are structured as teams at L’Oreal.

3. Launching products and collections has been challenging for everyone during the pandemic lockdown. What have you learned from this new virtually powered world that we are adapting to? 

Last year we learned so many lessons across different teams. On one hand, our PR and influencer teams have learned that you can virtually create buzz and excitement for both key opinion leaders (KOLs) and press and editors in a way that's still personable and exciting. 

I've been really proud of what the teams have been able to deliver for these influencers and for KOLs. Even in lockdown, we have created beautiful virtual events which surprised and delighted the audience. The learning point here is that we can host this type of activity anytime and anywhere in the world, still bringing in incredible results. 

Secondly, this past year, without being able to touch or feel or experience the products available in-store, the expectations on digital have only been elevated. Nowadays, when we launch a product on the website, particularly in cosmetics, it is imperative to strategically think about how to bring that specific product to life in a way that matches the experience customers would have in store. We are currently pushing our services such as virtual try-on, where customers can experience the product from the comfort of their home; and virtual consultations, where customers can talk to a beauty expert who really knows how to use that product. 

And this research for a better digital experience is translated even down to how we execute our website: we're really thinking about how do we create better imagery or better descriptions or experiences on our product pages so that when you're looking at that formula on screen, it really feels like it's right there in front of you, you can almost feel that texture or truly see that shade. So we're working harder than ever to make sure that the customer feels closer to that product, despite being behind a virtual screen.

4. If you had a magic wand and could create one tool to help your company operate better, what would it be?

I would love to have a diary management tool that just found free time in your diary and found time in external diaries. So that we could spend less time organizing meetings and more time having better conversations.

5. What is one tip you would give to your younger self?

One tip for my younger self would be to never get too comfortable. I think it's so easy to find something that you're good at, and get comfortable in that spot. And it's also very easy to stay in your comfort zone. However, I believe a lot of people over the last 12 months have really learned to lean into discomfort and realize that actually, we still have a lot of learning to do.

We can be experts at what we know, but actually, there's a lot more that we don't know, and it's okay to admit and acknowledge that. That is why I wish that my younger self would have really lent into that discomfort and really pushed himself to get out of his comfort zone and into spaces where he wasn't necessarily the expert, but he was willing to learn. 

And I have to actually say that I'm really proud of how, at L'Oreal, we truly push employees to think about their career path, not just in a linear way where you start off in a specialty and you stay there, but to actually really explore where your career could go. I've seen some really amazing examples where people have moved between disciplines. And I really would encourage people to explore that path for themselves, but also, hopefully, employers to build that journey for their employees. 

People are not just the jobs that they did last year: they have incredible potential. We started to see this evolution due to the pandemic: people who worked in-store and offline previously to the lockdown, are now being redeployed to digital and online and they're thriving, they're amazing at it. So, yes, I think my advice is to never sit still.

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