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Horizons’ interview – Meet Philippe Burgelin
July 2, 2024

All you wanted to know about Carrefour Links’ digital ambitions: exclusive interview with Philippe Burgelin, head of Digital Factory Carrefour Links.

Hi Philippe! 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?

Philippe Burgelin: I have had the objective for a long time to train as a culinary chef. I love cooking and how meals bring people together. I’m not sure I will ever really have the time to pursue this goal but you never know!

What is the sunshine, whether it is professional or personal, that makes you wake up in the morning with a big smile? 

Philippe Burgelin: I love how every day is different! Some day, I need to get down into the consumption habit of chocolate in Brazil and the next one I need to understand how our data transformation layer is built in Italy. But thinking about it, I think the real answer is the Carrefour Links team, in all its diversity.

And what are the grayish clouds that make you want to stay in bed? 

Philippe Burgelin: I’m not really the staying in bed kind of person when facing issues! 

But my biggest challenge is to always stay focused on real value. It’s so easy as the manager of the development team to say that something is our first priority because you didn’t take a step back on what you are asking or because you think it’s a ‘quick-win’ without consulting the team. 

My biggest professional nightmare would be a team spending 3 or 4 months on something I prioritize too quickly but that doesn’t bring any value.

A career is a bit like a constellation of professional experiences. Reflecting about your professional journey before Carrefour, which one would you choose?

Philippe Burgelin: Probably my consulting one. Viewing so many environments, trying to really solve some of the most complex problems a company can face, all while enjoying a highly developed mentoring system is still useful everyday.

Now that we know a bit more about you, let’s talk about your current role! You are in charge of the development of Carrefour Links’ products. Could you remind all our readers what Carrefour Links is?

Philippe Burgelin: Carrefour Links is the entity responsible for developing collaboration with Carrefour’s suppliers. Through this collaboration, we aim to enrich our customers’ experience while accelerating the commercial development of both our partner brands and Carrefour.

In order to reach this goal, data is key. First of all, it allows us to speak a common language, understand each other’s challenges, and make data-based decisions. Furthermore, it enhances the connection between brands and customers.

Do you have a concrete example of what this collaboration with industrial partners can look like?

Philippe Burgelin: For example, this summer, Carrefour is one of the premium partners of the Paris Olympic Games. Based on this occasion, we have worked since January with international and local brands to anticipate this event, understand the potential and activate specific levers. And in September, we will do a specific data based assessment on this period to understand what worked and capitalize on it. 

Another example that comes to mind is from Brazil. As the country is very large, consumer habits tend to vary widely from one region to another. With a partner brand, we analyzed sales data to identify which products were under -or over- performing by region ensuring that the assortment was better adapted to each region. Win-win-win for Carrefour, the partner brand and our clients 

I think if anyone is interested in more examples, we try to frequently upload cases and insights on our LinkedIn page and website.

Would you say it’s a change in business model for Carrefour?

Philippe Burgelin: Yes and no. Carrefour’s core business will always be to run stores and serve our customers through all our channels. Nevertheless, we’re adding a new dimension to it as collaboration with our suppliers forces us to rethink our historical one-way and negotiation based relationship with them.

Earlier you mentioned that data is at the center of this new relationship, can you tell us a bit more about it?

Philippe Burgelin: Concretely, we gather data such as store receipts, online sales, inventory and a lot more across Carrefour’s stores and warehouses around the world. Then we process this data to share it with our industrial partners, through our offer of data products covering the full scope of the retail value chain. 

Do you have examples of insight shared in Carrefour Links’ products?

Philippe Burgelin: Yes a lot! *laugh* Let’s take a few: in ‘Growth’ (author note: Carrefour Links’ performance insight product), you can understand your performance through unit sales and turnover, distribution insight, customer churn… And for example if you see you are losing e-commerce market share, you can then deep-dive in the ‘e-commerce’ product to see if it’s a question of search performance, publication, add to cart and so much more. 

As of today, I think you can find more than a thousand KPIs through all our products. But our job is to ensure our partners find the right one to help us unlock category growth at Carrefour.

You mentioned receipts, online sales, and store and warehouse inventories. How deep and granular is this data?

Philippe Burgelin: As granular as it can be, for an example we go down as low as the transaction line. Nevertheless we don’t necessarily share that deep a vision directly. Especially when it comes down to the two most sensitive subjects: customer habits and competitors. 

How do you transform all this data into useful insights that don’t look like spreadsheets and don’t take ages to load?

Philippe Burgelin: That is where Carrefour Links’ magic happens! We have two main secrets: first, a ‘4-in-the-box’ model ensuring development tailored to the product usage and second, an incredible tech and data team that I can’t thanks enough for their amazing work

Could you elaborate on the operational model, particularly the ‘4-in-the-box’ approach?

Philippe Burgelin: The ‘4-in-the-box’ model is an operational framework we’ve adopted. It involves close collaboration between four key areas: Product, Business, Technology/Data and Design. This model ensures that all aspects of our projects are aligned and that we can deliver the most value to both Carrefour and our partners. This method has been instrumental in driving our success and fostering innovation within Carrefour Links.

To conclude this interview, can you please share a bit more about the future of Links?

Philippe Burgelin: It’s difficult to cherry pick some subjects as we accelerate with our partners on many topics but, if I had to choose two topics to highlight, and I know it could look a little ‘hype driven’, it would probably be CSR and AI.

CSR because we want to be a central actor of the Act for Food ambition of Carrefour through concrete actions with our industrial partners by ensuring the adoption of a 1,5°C trajectory by 2026 for our top 100 suppliers, through the identification and development of vegetable innovation launch with suppliers and many more. But we also want to ensure it in our day to day actions, in that I’m very proud to say that we have decreased the Co2 emission of our platform by an 8x factor in less than a year.

AI because we believe that, with all the data we gather, we could tomorrow generate off the shelf business reviews with our supplier, offer ‘unbiased’ win-win lists of collaborative use cases, and a thousand more things!

A big thank you Philippe for your time, we loved knowing more about you and your vision about the digital transformation!

If you want to learn more about Carrefour’s digital transformation,Carrefour Links relationship, check out our last interview with Guillaume de Colonges, Carrefour Group Executive Director for Merchandise, Supply and Formats.

About the Author

Carrefour Links - head of Digital Factory

With an engineering background, Philippe Burgelin started as a data scientist during the rise of data science. Transitioning to advising decision-makers, he joined McKinsey consulting firm, initially working on data projects before expanding into broader digital strategy. He joined Carrefour in 2022 as director of operations in Carrefour Links’ Digital team. He now serves as the head of the Digital Factory Carrefour Links.

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