What are the primary trends of the current “digital revolution” and what do you perceive the consequences to be on society?
While the digital revolution has unquestionably enabled us to make great progress in the fields of healthcare, education, knowledge sharing, business and, more generally, customer relationships, we need to be able make sense of this new world, because certain innovations, such as artificial intelligence and robotization, can seem intimidating. This does not mean we should try to resist the revolution either. It would be difficult, if not impossible, and certainly not desirable given that the digital revolution is a source of progress for all. My belief is we should actively embrace this change, anticipate how it will affect our personal and professional lives, and together find ways to ensure that things don’t get out of hand. To this end, it is critical that we respect individuals’ privacy and build an internet of trust. And since national and transnational regulations cannot alone respond to these challenges, it is up to us—the users and providers of these often disruptive technologies and services—to write the rules of a fair exchange.
Will the cloud, the Internet of Things, Big Data and 3-D printing change existing business models? Are French companies ready?
Before the digital revolution, competitors took their time to find their place in the market, which gave the leaders time to adapt. But that was before the digital revolution! Today, business models can be rapidly set off course. Too rapidly for certain companies, which bear the brunt of Uberization! European companies are evidently not immune to this phenomenon. Here in France, there is the French paradox about digital technologies which may prove to be an opportunity for companies. France ranks second worldwide in personal digital devices (smartphones, broadband, etc.), fourth worldwide in the field of e-government, first in online public services, but is far behind in corporate digitization. According to a McKinsey study*, France could increase its GDP by €100 billion per year by 2020 if French companies were to accelerate their digital transformation. Business leaders are already aware of this and I am confident in the capacity of companies here to make up for lost time, particularly as they come under pressure from online consumers.
And how exactly can the retail market take advantage of all these technological innovations? What will retailers need to do to get the most out of them?
Today, 90% of all sales take place in store, but 50% of those sales are influenced by the internet. To this end, retailers all around the world should place priority on investing in developing omnichannel retailing so as to offer a unified online and offline shopping experience. Nowadays we are seeing online stores developing alongside their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, new services such as click & collect or store-to-home, the digitizing of stores, modernized logistics chains, redesigned store layouts to improve the instore journey and customer experience, and last but not least, training for salespeople as their roles evolve. This last point should not be neglected because potential customers are now very well informed and know as much, if not more, than the salesperson. The salesperson therefore needs the human and technological resources to recreate a value-added relationship which comes from knowing their customers’ tastes, responding to their immediate needs and, better still, anticipating their desires. The aim is to advise their customers, or even act as a personal shopper or coach capable of forging a unique relationship with their customer, making their visit to the store memorable and securing their loyalty. This “virtuous circle” can be created if the brand has invested in the human and technological resources necessary to make the organizational changes and ensure a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.
About Patrick Bertrand:
A graduate of the IEP (Paris Institute of Political studies) with a degree in law, Patrick Bertrand joined Cegid as CFO in 1988 and in 2002 became the CEO of the group. His commitment and passion for digital technologies drove him to co-found AFDEL, the association of French software companies, over which he presided between 2007 and 2012. He is also a member of CCEN, the digital economy advisory committee of the French government’s General commission for investment.
Following his appointment by former French President Nicholas Sarkozy, he was a member of the French Digital Council in 2011 and 2012, and in 2014 he participated in now French President François Hollande’s “34 industry plans” program as a “qualified person” on the steering committee chaired by the Minister of the Economy. He has also been a member of the Board of the Federation of Electric, Electronic and Communication Industries (FIEEC) since 2010.
He is currently the President of the Lyon French Tech Association.