© La Poste
As president of Mediapost Communication and director of innovation and big data at the French postal service, La Poste, Jérôme Toucheboeuf has been at the forefront of the digital revolution in the industry. He explains the digital strategy of his group and details how initiatives already put in place have led to growth.
Leaders League. What are the ambitions of the group in the digital domain?
Jérôme Toucheboeuf. Our objective is to offer clients personalized services that simplify their lives. To achieve this, integrating digital technology into our different activities is vital. This allows us to improve the quality of existing services and develop new ones. The Facteo project, for example, has equipped postmen and women with specially designed smartphones, allowing for more direct and effective interaction with customers and making the management of recorded delivery signatures and the redirecting of packages easier. Concerning purely digital services, we have developed a digital hub dedicated to the sharing of information between all our connected devices.
With the decrease in letters being sent, is this strategy a way to improve your margins?
It’s clear that the use of material communication is in decline. This is a consequence of digitalization that holds true for other sectors of activity as well and La Poste group are not the only ones effected by this phenomenon. All businesses must change with the times. This is why digitalization is an integral part of our strategy.
What means are at your disposal to undertake the transition to digital?
We have allocated 550 million euros over three years. With a considerable budget such as this, it is important to use it wisely. We rely on acquisitions to obtain ready-made technology. We make sure that we choose the right projects for us, according to our capacity and ambition. In May 2016, we acquired ProbaYes, specialists in artificial intelligence. Bolstered by thirteen years of experience working in the area of big data, the team develops algorithms which allow their clients to boost performance. We are, for example, going to be able to optimize our buildings’ energy consumption. Our subsidiary La Banque Postale already uses these techniques to anticipate and reduce fraud linked to payment by debit and credit card. Another subsidiary, Geopost, recently invested in the startups Stuart and Resto-In. The former run an app which offers parcel delivery by professional courier within an hour. The latter put restaurants in touch with professional couriers to deliver their meals to customers. Thanks to these investments our group can from now on optimize time-to-delivery and provide a high value-added service.
It’s often said that the quality of a strategic transformation depends greatly on the solidity of a group. What strengths can you draw on?
They are numerous. First off, the 80,000 postmen and women at work each day represent a sizeable asset. The same applies to the 17,000 points of contact we have in France. These allow us to maintain our close relationship with customers. Our logistics facilities are also an advantage. In total we have accumulated 6.5 million square meters in infrastructure (storage facilities, post offices etc.) and transport 13 billion objects each year. These are primary assets when it comes to our digital strategy since they generate a colossal amount of data. Furthermore, La Banque Postale is an undeniable strength thanks to its position as a community bank. The customers trust us, and we count on this relationship to help us change. It is for this very reason that we have put in place a data charter, to consolidate the links with our clientele. It was necessary to define the terms of our use of personal digital information. We have applied careful oversight to our use of information and our transparency. The willingness to protect data is part of our ongoing effort to continue to offer innovative services to customers by putting them at the very heart of our strategy.
Translated from French by Simon McGeady
Find more analysis articles & interviews in our 2017 Innovation, Technology & IP Report.