All you wanted to know about Carrefour’s digital transformation: exclusive interview with Ancelin Lacroix, operations director (product & tech) at Carrefour Links.
Hi Ancelin! We are really excited to have you on Horizons by Carrefour today! Before we deepdive into Carrefour’s digital transformation, I’d like to start with a couple of “Horizons special ice breakers” in order to get to know you a bit more.
When you look at the horizon, what activity -in your spare time- would you like to start?
Ancelin: When I have free time, I love building things to automate my home. I even developed a home made solution controlling various connected objects in my house, directly from a Raspberry Pi nano computer. Unfortunately, between the unplugged cables and the code bugs (a lot more than acceptable) reliability of the solution was quite low and I was asked to stop playing MacGyver at home (laughs).
Since then, the family has grown with a newborn child and whenever I have free time I now try to spend it with my family.
What is the sunshine, whether it is professional or personal, that makes you wake up in the morning with a big smile?
Ancelin: I love solving complex problems and being able to explain them in very simple words (which is only possible once you fully master it). I also enjoy coaching my teams and watching them grow, gaining confidence and autonomy. It is as stimulating for me as it is essential to the success of a company.
And what are the grayish clouds that make you want to stay in bed?
Ancelin: Administrative processes. I know that they can be essential, but they require a phenomenal amount of energy and can slow down initiatives. Keeping the pace and the rhythm allows to stimulate the desire to do better and to go further and faster. This is what I like about agile. It induces a state of mind that combines organization, pace and speed.
A career is a bit like a constellation of professional experiences. Reflecting about your professional journey before Carrefour, which one would you choose?
Ancelin: Through my consulting experiences, I have acquired a robust working framework, both rigorous and open to dialogue. This allows me to structure an answer to any problem, by managing both the technical/expert and human dimensions.
I learnt a lot on the field, in particular thanks to a mentoring system that is highly developed within consulting firms. It’s a strength which brought me a lot.
Now that we know a bit more about you, let’s talk about your current role! You joined as Carrefour Links operations director in October 2021. Could you please remind us what Carrefour Links is?
Ancelin: Carrefour Links is the retail media and data collaboration platform of the group.
At Carrefour we have a very rich and unique data asset. For example we are consolidating more than 8 billion transactions in our group data lake. At the most granular level and with the highest quality standards. It is the largest database for a European retailer !
Our job within Links is to maximize the value we can derive from this unique asset through cutting edge solutions and value added services for our industrial partners and advertisers. Our product portfolio is built around 3 main areas:
- insights: high added value insights sharing solutions enabling manufacturers to build a 360° understanding of their activity with Carrefour and their client behavior.
- collaboration: solutions and services enabling Carrefour and manufacturers to accelerate their growth through a close and data-driven collaboration across the value chain (merchandise, supply chain, stores).
- retail media: solutions and services enabling the activation of the largest omnichannel shopper base in Europe across touchpoints (onsite, offsite, in-store).
You can find all of our latest solutions on links.carrefour.com.
To me, Carrefour Links is a great illustration of what it means to be a DigitalRetail company. We are leveraging our unique data asset to create value across the board. First and foremost for our shoppers, but also for our industrial partners and for our own business.
Of course with great data comes great responsibility. We are very cautious of our customer’s privacy and data security; they are key components of everything we do, right from the early stages of product design.
A year later, what are you most proud of?
Definitely the massive cultural and organizational change we have initiated. Enabling our ambition: to build high value added commercial data products.
To do so we are shifting to a truly product-driven model, relying on empowered teams of passionate and talented people.
As an example of this transformation, we have launched an ambitious internalization effort of tech talents which are at the heart of our model. In just 6 months we have already been able to hire close to 10 highly skilled engineers and product managers… and counting!
Becoming truly product-driven within such a large retail organization is of course a long and complex journey. Despite that, we have already achieved a step change in just 9 months. Enabling us to improve our performance and accelerate the pace at which we are able to deliver value to our users.
The speed of this change has been made possible by a broader impressive shift that Carrefour as a whole is making, becoming a DigitalRetail company.
With Carrefour Links, how did our relationship evolve with our industrial partners?
Ancelin: Links solutions and services aim at enabling a new level of collaboration between our teams at Carrefour and manufacturers. Based on shared and highly granular data, we can build joint data-driven initiatives. As well as track and measure their impact and adjust the strategy accordingly.
We are addressing various use cases across the value chain such as assortment optimization, new product launch or also availability of products in shelves. Links is a win-win situation, making our ties stronger than ever.
How would you explain this success, for a retailer?
Ancelin: First, our solid tech foundations. Since Links’ creation, we have been a unique asset for the group, through a deep data transformation. Think about it: 8 billion transactions and 50 million loyalty card holders’ data stored in a single place. Fully anonymized, enriched and homogenized, it is unique!
Second reason has been our ability to build the right partnerships. We are working with the market leading players such as Criteo, Google, Liveramp and Meta. For instance, our entire Carrefour Links platform is deployed on GCP (Google Cloud Platform).
And last but not least, the development of an incredible talent pool and a global mindset shift going on within Carrefour is key to this success. We have launched an ambitious transformation to become a DigitalRetail company, infusing a digital mindset and culture and investing in developing our tech assets.
What is your secret recipe to attract digital talents to Carrefour Links?
Ancelin: First and foremost, I would say that the challenges we are addressing at Carrefour Links are at the edge of the tech industry. If you love tech, Links is an unbeatable playing field given the volume of data we can work with and the modern stack we are implementing.
Carrefour is also becoming a great place to learn and develop for tech talents. We have launched last year the DigitalRetail Academy, which provides the opportunity to follow advanced training and certification programs. At Links this is a core to our model, over their first year with us all engineers dedicate a few days per month to learning, both in tech and business fields. And there is more to come very soon to continue building the best talent pool!
Finally, Links is about being part of a team of passionate people, in a nice working environment. But of course besides this, we also try to reach out to new tech talents by showing to the world why Links is the place to be.
What are the ambitions for Carrefour Links products now?
Ancelin: We are eager to further deploy our products and services in all Carrefour geographies. This is a great way to transform our culture and ways of working toward more collaboration and digital. For example, we launched Carrefour Links in Brazil a few months ago. The feedback has been excellent!
We’re also striving to always enrich the scope of data available through our solutions: inventory levels in stores and warehouses, page navigation data, and much more!
On our products, our goal is to provide a truly 360° collaboration suite. Of course, offering more features and data also requires ensuring that the performance of our tech solutions remains at the top and in line with our users’ needs.
And finally, here’s our last question: what makes Carrefour’s digital culture special?
Ancelin: In my past experiences, I have never seen so many tech talents having fun working on concrete projects with impressive datasets, bringing such useful insights through innovative services. It’s also a great benefit for our customers who are now receiving the best offers, matching their requirements and desires.
Another thing that is very unique at Carrefour Links is that we are exploring a new world, where everything is possible and where our teams act as DigitalRetail settlers. It’s super exciting!
A big thank you Ancelin for your time, we loved knowing more about you and your vision about the digital transformation!
Want to learn more about Carrefour’s digital transformation? Check out our last interview with Jérôme Nanty, Human Resources Executive Director of the group.