Digital for all now

Nicolai Gérard, Digital Acceleration Officer at groupe SEB: “The key is not being afraid to try and fail!”

Econocom 2 Oct 2015

Nicolai Gerard joined Groupe SEB at the beginning of 2015. Before that he was in New York working for PepsiCo, where he defined and oversaw the development of e-commerce. He also previously spent ten years with consulting firm Bain & Company, first in Paris then in Los Angeles and New York.



At SEB, Gerard has taken up a post that could have been designed especially for him: the Digital Acceleration Officer is – as the title suggests – in charge of acceleration, a key concept for the group as it describes the aim both to move faster and build on existing strengths.


So what are their secrets for bringing digital to the world leader in small appliances? How to convert the employees of Krups, Moulinex, Rowenta, Tefal, Calor and the group’s other brands to digital? Nicolai Gerard told us about his vision and advice.


The Digital Acceleration Officer of Groupe SEB is in charge of implementing a plan approved by the Executive Board. Far from being confidential, the project involves around one hundred of SEB’s digital players, including a dozen project managers, as well as a team of around 500 managers. Communication is thus a key success factor in the group’s digital acceleration.


The projects in progress include an e-commerce 2018 plan – the group already has a number of  websites, each with a portal for selling accessories and consumables – best practices for selling connected products, optimising contact points with digital shoppers, implementing the digital workplace 2.0, etc. These projects reflect the diversity of SEB’s ecosystem: digital marketing, e-commerce, connected offerings and experience and the IT tools behind digital technology and people.




What sort of changes has the digital transformation brought about in terms of Groupe SEB’s internal organisation?

Nicolai Gerard: Digitalisation has a huge impact on the teams. Training is an excellent example: most of our managers have undergone digital training. The organisation is also affected, with a number of new positions being created over the past three years, and we’re likely to make further changes over the next few months.


“Our approach isn’t about shutting off digital from the rest of the organisation. We haven’t set up a separate, “privileged” digital team. It’s all about infusion, with all employees contributing to digital acceleration at Groupe SEB.”


It’s important as digital is a crucial subject: it’s a key driver for growth and change. If you deprive your team members of digital, you’ll demotivate them.


What digital projects have you already implemented?



“Where digital is concerned, it’s essential to “convert tries” quickly: you need to prove concrete results, otherwise you lose credibility.”


In e-commerce, we’ve developed dashboards to keep track of metrics specific to e-commerce in the various markets, with a particular focus on logistics targets, which is particularly important for our distributor partners (both click-and-mortar pure play).


We’ve also organised a number of e-commerce training sessions for our sales and marketing teams, to give in-depth insights into the new collaboration modes with e-retailers. The line between sales and marketing in e-commerce is rather blurred, so this training helps our teams work with e-retailers both as new sales channels and media platforms.


In terms of digital content – the photos, videos and descriptions on our brand and ecommerce websites – we’ve set up audit tools whereby we can check the accuracy of the information almost constantly.


Lastly, in terms of human resources, we’re currently rolling out a new e-learning tool, the Seb Digital Academy which is designed to raise digital awareness among employees and use digital techniques to provide faster training in traditional disciplines all over the world.


“test & Learn”: cliché oR GENUINE CHALLENGE?


Apart from the SEB Digital Academy, how do you digitally evangelise your employees? 

It’s not hard convincing our employees that digital is important. A lot of people are naturally curious about new technologies and the new players. Recent research shows once again that the majority of the Group’s employees are convinced not only of the importance of digital but of the fact that our Executive Committee is utterly committed to it.


“The challenge is adapting to our culture, our processes, to the implications of digital and in particular, the need for speed and agility. The term “Test & Learn” has become a bit hackneyed in discussions about digital. And yet it’s a real challenge: not many companies have in their DNA this idea of testing pilots, over several months or even weeks, then scrapping the idea if it doesn’t succeed. The key is not being afraid to try and fail!”


Are there any companies which have inspired you?


“Digital goes so fast that you have to keep pace with what’s going on in the outside world.”


In the purely digital world, GAFA are still the leaders: Apple remains the gold standard of UX design in a number of fields, whilst Amazon is more innovative than ever, for example with the “It’s still Day-1slogan. The disrupters, like Uber, meanwhile prove every day how fast things can change. And there are more traditional companies who have rapidly converted to digital. Look at Pernod-Ricard, for example, who successfully digitalised their IT, or Starbucks which offers its customers a great omni-channel experience with its app.


DigitalisING = Communicate, communicate, communicate!


What advice would you give to a company that’s starting its digital transformation?


> Infuse digital across the whole organisation, but you have to set priorities: it’s too broad a topic to restrict to a few functions, or just one separate unit. But while you mustn’t deprive the teams of the wonderful driver of digital growth, you do need to manage certain key projects with a top-down approach.


> Strike a balance between ambition, a digital vision and concrete actions. You have to inspire, look ahead a few years and think up disruption and transformation scenarios – particularly where the consumer experience is concerned. But you also need rigorous execution, with KPIs and specific targets so you can regularly measure their progress.


> Communicate, communicate, communicate! Digital disruption can often be a source of anxiety for employees and sometimes it’s difficult to get everyone to understand all the digitalisation initiatives that are underway. It’s essential to have regular, open communication about the projects in progress.



Read our other interviews with digital and innovation experts:

– Experimenting to take advantages of digital opportunities interview with Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie, Head of Innovation for BPCE Group

– Patrick Hoffstetter, CDO at Renault: you have to get all your staff involved in the digital transformation

– Sandrine Godefroy, CDO at Econocom: the digital transformation is an infinite playing field



Crédit photo : Pixabay / Licence CC0

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