Hi Gabriela! 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?
Gabriela: Well, first, let me tell you a bit about my background. I studied math, and was supposed to be a math teacher. However, I decided to switch to tech because it is such a dynamic field full of professional perspectives and back then was a male-dominated area, which I found intriguing as I was and am a strong supporter of gender equality.
That is why I’m planning to give a little of my freetime to an association that helps and coaches secondary and high school students, to help them discover the beauty of technology and how, successfully applied, can change lives and businesses. I believe that we need to support and explain to young people what tech does for business as well as the variety of jobs that exist – and who knows, vocations might emerge!
What is the sunshine, whether it is professional or personal, that makes you wake up in the morning with a big smile?
Gabriela: Is knowing that I have my family and they are happy and healthy. And above all my daughter, she is my sunshine. And the reason I wake up every morning with a big smile on my face and sparkles in my eyes. Lucky to have her and to be able to spend valuable time together!
And what are the dark clouds that make you want to stay in bed?
Gabriela: I am a very positive person and I truly believe in the quote “your mind can make a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven”. Happiness is a choice so I generally stay away from the dark clouds.
However, I do have one specific “grey cloud” that made me want to stay in bed a few years ago. And that was working with / for someone who’s been constantly criticizing the team instead of taking the best out of them, growing them, showing them the way. As Simon Sinek said, “Great leaders don’t blame the tools they are given. They sharpen them”. And to close this on a positive note: I was and I am lucky to have great leaders around me.
A career is a bit like a planetary system, with each planet representing a new professional experience. Reflecting about your professional journey before Carrefour, which planet would you choose and why?
Gabriela: This is a tough question! I would say Saturn. The planet’s particularity is having a ring system with over 80 moons orbiting around it. The moons are (ideally) supporting life on a planet and if I can make a comparison, I have had a lot of people around me to help me grow and become who I am today!
Now that we know a bit more about you, let’s talk about your current role! You joined as CIO of Carrefour Romania in October 2020 and just added to your responsibilities data and innovation… All this in less than a year!
Gabriela: The last year has been quite a ride – and I loved it! Carrefour Romania’s CEO (Jean Richard Latour and now Julien Munch) and Miguel Gonzalez (Global CTDO) decided to trust me with this role in order to evolve Carrefour’s technology in Romania and in terms of people, knowledge and strategy. In a few months I was able to have the right people, at the right roles with a strategy aligned with the business – and there is still a lot to do!
And how did this year go for you? What was positive and what was particularly challenging?
Gabriela: We’ve had a lot going on!
First, I managed to build an amazing team that I am very proud of and which I am sure will take Carrefour Romania technology, innovation and data to the next level. The team consists of a nice mix of IT colleagues with many years of experience in Carrefour, combined with newcomers from different industries.
We also did invest a lot on the new services and technologies and will name here just a few: our scan & pay mobile app evolution which provides our customers a seamless and ‘less touch’ experience in the store, Bringo new services (e.g., 30 minutes delivery), loyalty Act for Good launch, electronic shelf labels and self checkouts rollouts to our stores, different store format openings, big data platform (Eagle), blockchain for eggs and last but not least our journey to cloud.
It was particularly challenging to join a dynamic industry like retail and Carrefour Romania, one of the most innovative retailers on the market, in the middle of the pandemic. Getting to know the existing team remotely and make it evolve by hiring additional talents was quite a ride. The Romanian market is very demanding on tech profiles as there are a lot of companies building a center of delivery here. There is a ‘war for talent’ on the market.
Another challenge that I would like to mention is to keep up delivering business needs and moving fast while not compromising on the mid long term technology strategy. There is still a lot to do but we are on the right track and our business colleagues can rely on our internal technical expertise to drive business value and take the best out of our technology providers.
The past year was quite unique because of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did you see the Romanian market evolving?
Gabriela: It was definitely a unique year and I witnessed a lot of change in the Romanian market. I would like to highlight three main evolutions:
First, the growth of e-commerce. With the different lockdowns and changes of habits, we saw e-commerce growing exponentially.
Secondly, since the pandemic, customers pay more attention to in-store experience such as self checkout or touchless experiences. They are embracing more and more technology and they are looking for facilitated journeys.
And finally, customers are looking for price transparency and are expecting consistency between online and in-store prices.
And what was the role of technology and digital for Carrefour Romania’s customers during the sanitary crisis?
Gabriela: At Carrefour, we were glad to have Bringo, a personal shopper service with national coverage. With Bringo, we deliver customers in just a few hours what they ordered online. Selling food through e-commerce was key for us and we did it successfully.
We did evolve our scan & pay mobile app, we increased our self checkout store coverage where it made sense. We also opened in March this year the first hypermarket with full self checkout and enabled different payment types.
We were and will stay committed to continuously improve our customers’ experience by offering different types of experiences that are deeply linked to digital innovation whether it is e-commerce through mobile, shopping in-store with the scan & go or through a self checkout. In each journey, tech is at the heart.
Could you tell us a bit more about your team and the digital talents in Romania?
Gabriela: I’ve made the team evolve and I’ve changed the structure totally. I brought leaders and experts with strong tech backgrounds from different industries: telecom, banking, pharma, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail of course – people with the right technical knowledge and mindset, evolving and complementing the IT talents I found in Carrefour Romania.
The strength comes from this diversity of backgrounds and industries, it is very rich & powerful! 65% of my team is new, hired within my first 5 months. I had the chance to work with some of them before, and I am very happy they decided to join the #RetailTech (r)Evolution at Carrefour.
Carrefour is undergoing a major transformation – including an extensive digital change. What is your definition of “digital transformation”?
Gabriela: I want to keep it simple, so I would say that it is “the application of new technologies to accelerate results, create commercial value and provide top customer satisfaction”. Digital transformation can refer to anything from IT modernization (cloud computing for example) to digital optimization or to the invention of new digital business models. It is the process of fully benefiting from the enormous digital potential in a business.
Is retail being revolutionized by digital? How?
Gabriela: Retail is one of the most dynamic industries and technology helps us to stay competitive on convenience, price, size and speed. Technology can improve the shopping experience, increase sales, reduce shoplifting, eliminate lines, make the supply chain more efficient, increase customer satisfaction, promote loyalty and many other things.
Technology is changing what it means to go to a store and is making store experiences more worthwhile than ever, from the application of machine learning in demand forecasting to the use of data science in personalized customer interaction.
How did you see Carrefour Romania and Carrefour group’s evolution during the last year, from a digital standpoint?
Gabriela: Technology and innovation were and will remain essential for the future of our business. We were the first to open up a hypermarket with a full self checkout, we invested a lot in Bringo, electronic shelf labels (ESL) and we are also investing in robots that will be able to improve the store productivity.
Concerning the Group’s evolution, I would select 3 projects that really show the Group’s digital evolution (even though there are many!):
- Smart PoS (Smart point of sale): This solution aims to simplify the cashiering ecosystem with a 100% Carrefour in-house checkout solution. It is the core of retailers. It is a fantastic project and I hope to have it soon in Romania!
- Eagle: This is our Big Data platform that we implemented with Google and that I’m quite proud of! It is a big project for the future, to get insights and data.
- Self checkout NCR technology was a project negotiated at group level and that we are very happy to have!
According to you, what are the top-3 initiatives and levers to ensure the success of Carrefour’s digital transformation?
Gabriela: I think it’s first of all the cloud migration, but made properly with cloud ready applications. Secondly, keep evolving the store technology to enable efficiency, productivity and seamless customer store experiences (ex: Smart PoS, smart store, ESL…) and finally, DATA! Data is key. If we crack it and become a data-driven organization, sky’s the limit !
And finally, here’s our last question: what makes Carrefour’s digital culture special?
Gabriela: It’s all about people and diversity (talents with different backgrounds and industries) and the way we work and communicate together in an efficient, productive and innovative way. Innovation isn’t always about coming up with new ideas: it’s also re-inventing new models. And here at Carrefour we are supporting people to do so every day.
Teams are data oriented and are doing a lot of test & learn to try innovative and disruptive technologies. We also had several waves of digital acculturation to enable employees that are less digitized to be part of and to understand Carrefour’s digital revolution.
For example, back in 2019, +1000 senior managers across our geographies were trained to become digital transformation ambassadors in their country or within their team and spread the digital culture. This global initiative was in partnership with Google and was called Go Transform.
A big thank you Gabriela for your time, we loved knowing more about you and your vision about the digital transformation!