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Sonepar CEO Philippe Delpech Going Digital and Staying Over the Counter


Our goal: To become the first global B2B Electrical distributor to provide a fully digitalized and synchronized omnichannel experience to all customers.

In only a few years’ time, the majority of the global workforce will feature people who have never known a world before the internet. To properly meet the expectations of these lifelong “digital natives”, it will not be enough to simply provide online ordering options or a smartphone app. Businesses will have to rethink most of their current practices.

After steam, electricity, and information technology, we are now living through another industrial revolution. The best way to characterize the transformative power of data is that it is the ‘new electricity’. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has frequently said, “Moving from having lots of data to creating predictive power and analytical power inside of every organization: That's what the fourth industrial revolution is all about.”

There is no longer any debate about the necessity of the so-called “digital transformation” of B-to-B businesses. No one thinks it’s a niche idea or a passing fad anymore. We all know it’s a mandatory undertaking that must be embraced by B-to-B companies in all sectors.

Ask 'How?', not 'why?'

At Sonepar, too, we have been experiencing exponential data growth, and we are very proactive on issues like compliance, privacy, and security. We knew we needed to fully embrace the potential of digitalization to keep a hold on our place as a market leader. From our shareholders to our associates, everyone was convinced of the interest and utility of launching a digital transformation project across our Group. In fact, when we first announced our plans, the response was immediately “How?” and never “Why?”

Our goal: To become the first global B2B Electrical distributor to provide a fully digitalized and synchronized omnichannel experience to all customers.

Our digital enterprise strategy includes projects that transform our IT practices, strengthen our cyber-security, and provide a global corporate data lake. We are digitizing our internal processes, our supply chain, our warehouses, and our inventory management.

We are also optimizing all our digital e-commerce platforms to be more user-friendly and more interconnected with our other digital systems; the COVID crisis has accelerated a move to online sales. Already today, 30% of our orders are placed online, a figure which jumps all the way up to 70% in countries like Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Underneath it all is a clear understanding that our data must be accurate, trustworthy, “clean” and presented in the same way and the same format, no matter where in our Group it originated. This is a frequently underestimated necessity of any successful digital transformation—and failing to make data quality an objective can be a big problem. A 2018 IBM study revealed that poor data quality costs the US economy $3.1 trillion a year.

When asked what effect the COVID-19 crisis would have on the pace of technological transformation at their company, 75% of Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed answered that it would accelerate change.

A Digital Factory to think out of the box

The heart of our overall digital transformation is a Digital Factory: a cutting-edge way of upgrading and modernizing our customers’ experience, all while bringing the complete galaxy of Sonepar brands into a full omnichannel operating model. This, augmented by CRM capabilities, will propose a consistent and seamless experience to our customers, whether they come to us through a computer, a smartphone, or in a physical branch.

Each of our countries has a digitalization project roadmap, identifying the sorts of skilled people they will need to train or hire, and the capital investments they need to make. Our ambition is to bring our entire Group up to a homogenous level of digitalized processes and services.

The Sonepar Digital Factory must be the digital know-how reference in our industry.

Still Sonepar, not Sonepar-dot-com

Our customers will continue to be free to interact with us in whatever way is most convenient to them, whether that’s over the counter, a phone call, a face-to-face meeting with a sales associate, an email, online, a smartphone app or some other technology yet to be invented! The important thing is that whatever channel a customer chooses, the interaction will be seamless and synchronized.

We will also—as always—respect and maintain the local culture and differences. Indeed, the work we are doing globally builds on excellent initiatives and successful smaller projects from local sites across our group. Finding the perfect blend of local and global is embedded in Sonepar’s DNA.


The impacts of the first phases of our transformation project are already clear: by allowing us to provide better service and support, digital allows us new and better ways to keep the customer in the center of everything we do.

With our journey now well underway, there is still a positive spirit and full commitment across our Group. We know it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we are building on each phase to make the next phase better.

Going digital to stay different

Since our creation in 1969, Sonepar has demonstrated over and over again our unique ability to turn trends into business opportunities. Our digital journey is just another example of that. We strive for unity, not uniformity. We thrive on synergy, not sameness.  We listen and learn and leverage our rich diversity. We empower our people as individuals. In short: we are Powered by Difference.