BR INTERVIEW. Alex Matei, IT Director at Carrefour Romania: “Digital culture among employees is crucial to digitizing a company”

Aurel Dragan 10/05/2019 | 08:31

Alex Matei, IT director at Carrefour Romania, tells Business Review the reasons for introducing ChatBot to Facebook Messenger for both its current and potential employees, and the connection between their ability to adapt to changes and the process of digitizing a company.

By Aurel Dragan

Carrefour recently introduced ChatBot to Facebook Messenger, for employees and prospective candidates. How does the app work, both technically and as a user interface?

In May last year we launched the first Chatbot of a Romanian retailer, a decision which came as a result of the many messages we received about Carrefour career opportunities. With Chatbot Carrefour, everyone who wants to join our teams can now easily apply for one of the available posts directly on Facebook Messenger. Later, our recruiters contact the candidate, in order to find out more about his or her experience. The user taps on “Get Started”, in conversation with Carrefour Romania, and receives a Chabot message guiding him or her to choose one of the options displayed: Careers, Reports, or Stores. We recently implemented the Pricing option for customers who want to use the Carrefour Pay app for shopping in our stores. With one click, the user is guided by the Chatbot in the conversation, according to his or her needs: to send us feedback, reach stores through Google Maps or apply for one of the available positions in the Carrefour team. Chatbot was developed with Centrade Cheil and operates 24/7, in a bid to streamline interaction with future colleagues and Carrefour customers.

How do you see the future of the retail market as online gets more and more sales, including daily consumer goods? How will traditional retail digitalization change?

Traditional but digitized retail and e-commerce will coexist in a new ecosystem that will center on the customer and his or her needs. Customers can choose between traditional, but digitized, retail in store, e-commerce, or express delivery, based on time, experience, product availability, and commercial offer.

How does Carrefour approach digitization? What changes has digitalization brought to its services?

We try to bring our products and services as close as possible to our customers and strive to create as simple as possible a way through the technology. Using the self-scan functionality of Carrefour Pay, customers scan their own products in the store, add them to a virtual basket, and scan a single barcode, at the self-service checkouts. Waiting time is cut, and the shopping experience is quick and enjoyable.

Also, in order to improve the shopping experience, we’re working on a fingerprint payment solution that we want to bring to our customers. This type of payment is safe and natural; the customer will no longer have to use card, mobile phone or other equipment to pay for products. At the e-commerce level, through the carrefour.ro platform, customers in Bucharest, Ploiesti and neighboring areas can order food at home, and those in the rest of the country can buy non-food products. In addition, our range of food and consumer goods products is also available in the Bringo platform, with a delivery time of 90 minutes in 18 cities across the country.

How has the Bringo platform been received by customers? How many orders are made daily or periodically through the online platform?

Bringo has had really good customer reviews from the beginning, being able to offer a genuine “Personal Shopper” experience, but also to meet brand promises (quality, diversity, interaction, fast delivery, the same prices as in offline stores). For us, every order ending with positive feedback is proof that the customer has found in Bringo a solution to a real-life problem, whether we are talking about traffic or lack of time on certain days.

Even though we started with a completely new service on the Romanian market, the customers have noticed since the first order that the “Personal Shopper” is not just a slogan – so we could clearly differentiate ourselves from a traditional e-commerce service. For us, an important pillar of the brand is autonomy, the key to a quality service. Bringo collaborators and suppliers are supported to grow, become entrepreneurs on this segment, and customers, in their personal interaction with Bringo, have a conversation with an entrepreneur who cares about every point in the business.

Bringo has managed to go, in just two years, from an innovative start-up on the Romanian market, to the only delivery service available in 18 cities in the country. We ended 2018 with over 400 percent more orders and more than 2.5 million products delivered, and for the current year we want to expand the service to as many cities as possible and deliver more and more orders.

What is the investment needed for digitization and how much has been invested so far (not only for digitization but also for investments in general)?

The first step we have made in digital transformation has been investing in raising our colleagues’ digital awareness. We firmly believe that a company cannot truly digitize if its employees do not have a digital culture, agile and adapted to change. That is why we invested in internal platforms for innovation and collaboration. Digitizing is a bottom-up, continuous process for us, in which all colleagues are invited to participate.

The next step was to transform the IT architecture so that it was ready for real-time integration, scalability and parallel processing. Through the strategic partnership with Google, we are exploring the Cloud area, which allows us to quickly move forward into new projects. Last but not least, we have optimized core applications – some have been replaced, others upgraded, balancing custom-made open-source applications with those on the shelf. We have also been very focused on the internal mobile area, for our colleagues, in order to simplify and optimize internal processes. I strongly believe that digitization needs a strong cultural base, openness to the new, a collaborative approach, flexibility, multiple attempts, acceptance of failure, but also flexible systems, real-time integration and rapid adoption of new technologies. There is a very nice journey ahead of us, where the mix of digital culture, Cloud and 5G will completely change the way we think about business, but also everyday life. The level of investments varies depending on the chosen road, maturity reached, and lessons learned.

The self-pay service has been introduced for some time now. How has it been received by customers and how much is it used?

The self-scan service from the Carrefour Pay app has been well-received by customers, beyond expectations, since its launch in November last year. So far it has been used over 20,000 times, although it has not been communicated aggressively, because we considered organic adoption to be the best barometer. Through these innovations, Carrefour wishes to provide consumers with a complete, modern digital shopping ecosystem, with perfect integration between many offline formats, online and digital-based services. So the combination of offline and online becomes a natural one, in which human interaction between customers and in-store specialists continues to be relevant.

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