Executive Perspectives

Carrefour Turns to Digital to Feed the World and Fuel a Modern Customer Experience

Carrefour was established more than 60 years ago by Marcel Fournier, a visionary entrepreneur who opened the first hypermarket in France. The company has retained its pioneering spirit and has continuously reinvented itself since then.

As a global retailer with locations on every continent, Carrefour feeds most of the world, serving millions of households every day. To successfully run a business of this magnitude, the company has turned to digital, investing in its more than 300,000 employees and their ability to use technology to the fullest extent to ensure agility and efficient operations.

“We want our employees to have, in the palm of their hand, the ability to find information, replenish inventory, and answer customer questions, ” says Stijn Stabel, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Carrefour in Belgium.

The decision was made to outfit every store employee with a single digital device that lets them do everything and anything they need. This massive effort played a pivotal role in Carrefour’s digital transformation journey, anchoring its vision to become a global digital retail company.

Previously, employees relied on a myriad of in-store devices — from cell phones to replenishment devices, scan guns, and more. Stijn recognized that consolidating down to a single device would require careful planning. First, he had to consider the complexities.

“You don’t want to overload the system by establishing thousands of profiles across all the different stores. There is also the layer of complexity associated with consolidating the functionalities of all the apps into one master app. That’s an ongoing effort and I believe it’ll never finish — and it should never finish,” Stijn said.

He and his team designed a program that builds efficiency across the end-to-end device management process, from rolling them out, to managing them, and handing them off from one person to another in a controlled, secure manner.

Reflecting on the transition to a single-device strategy, Stijn says it all comes down to his belief in the concept that cost drives improvement and change. “We had a very positive business case. In the end we replaced five or six types of devices with one,” he said. “This lets us keep the margins as low as possible for our end customers, which, in turn, allows us to feed more families  — because by cutting costs we will be able to make food more affordable.”

And while cost savings was a key driver, it was clear from the start that pushing the limits of digital would also allow Carrefour to put people first. Stijn sums it up like this: “Happy employees make happy customers and that’s how we envision the use of digital devices in our stores.”

Watch the video for more from Stijn on Carrefour’s digital transformation strategy.