E-Commerce & In-housing: Interview with Sébastien Camusot

Sébastien Camusot, 35 years old, is the new E-Commerce Practice Leader of WITH Paris.

Sébastien was brought on board by our two co-founders, Branislav Peric and Olivier Philippe, following an extensive career in e-commerce (most notably at Amazon France).  Sébastien is above all a young man guided by business issues and technology to help brands meet the challenges of e-commerce.

— Sébastien, how did you start your career at Amazon? What secrets did you learn there?

I was lucky enough to join Amazon in France very early on. There were 80 of us when I started and when I left, seven years later, we were over 1000! It was an exciting time of hyper-growth both on a business level and great from a human point of view. I met some extremely brilliant people who were very important in my development, and are still involved today.

Amazon is the temple of execution, every action must have an impact and must be able to be scaled up.

Amazon really has something special. There is a permanent emulation that allows you to fulfill your mission, often by exceeding the objectives. I attribute this strength to the quality of the recruiting, because if you want to succeed with big projects, you need talent, and if you want to go fast, you have to use the best possible technologies. Technology allows you to mine data and use intelligence into your decisions. From that point of view I have to say I’m distorted! An action must be accessible otherwise it does not exist, that’s the big secret, but shhh! If Amazon has succeeded in earning the trust of millions of customers, it is thanks to their ability to go in depth into all the pillars of eCommerce: availability, price, and excellent service.

— What were you doing in the retail side of the company?

At the beginning I was in charge of merchandising aspects and the development of the business through marketing operations, promotions, advertising, traffic generation to recruit new customers and develop the turnover of the IT products category. On the one hand you have marketing and advertising programs and on the other you have the business intentions and challenges of the suppliers. Your goal? Creating the best possible combination between the right lever and the most relevant brands during major events. That’s for the high point part. Beyond this aspect, you have a test & learn different dimensions to launch new functionalities, such as new filters, to find the PC with a particular configuration, a more project-oriented dimension.

Either way, the most important thing is the impact you had on customers, including turnover and customer recruitment or retention.

After 5 years I was then called to launch the food category. We were a small team with a specific role on key functions, purchasing, logistics, catalogs, and marketing and customer experience. What is interesting is when you work on large-scale projects such as launching in a few months more than 40,000 orderable references, to the standards of the Amazon customer experience, you discover the importance of having rules, teams and information systems to make decisions in favor of the customer.

To support change and generate performance, you will always need these 3 ingredients: people, operational excellence and technology.

It’s pretty comfortable at Amazon, you often have rules for a lot of things. It gives you a framework to execute well and to make a model viable in the long term. It’s simple, at Amazon you have to constantly audit and adapt the rules to be relevant and have impact, which is one of the reasons Amazon is so successful.

— What did you learn from your experience at Amazon? It’s a company that is as much a dream as it is frightening, isn’t it?

What scares me is the status quo. If no one innovates, no one can take risks and the world doesn’t change. It’s very easy today to criticize the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) situation, but when Amazon arrived in France in the 2000s, large retailers did not understand the extent of the change that was coming with the arrival of eCommerce. Basically, the need has not changed: a customer wants to find his product, he wants to have confidence in the price level charged by the brand, and he wants quality service. The only thing that has changed is the method of getting there.

What I take away from Amazon, is that if your intuition is not enough, you have to be convinced with data and launch experiments to provide an experience that has long-term value. It’s actually quite simple and rational.

Did you know for example that every 12 seconds, Amazon releases a new block of code around the world? It’s like adding new bricks to a house all the time. What can scare you is the size of the house that is growing every day. Seen from the inside you are focused on your mission. You are not afraid, you rather want to do well and your road-map is clear: constantly improving the value proposition for your customers.

— You then went to work with L’Équipe (French Sports Newspaper) and then at Joone, “stylish diapers…”. I know that WITH only recruits atypical profiles. You are no exception to the rule! Why did you choose to join this digital player of a new genre?

In the years after my experience at Amazon, I experienced different structures and phases of growth. I went through the rapidly changing world of media and startups that wanted to grow at high speed, I also took the time to follow the Wagon bootcamp to consolidate my knowledge in WEB development and then finally, I launched an operational consulting offer dedicated only to Amazon. And then I joined WITH. I ran into Branislav Peric and Olivier Philippe during the first wave of COVID. We talked a lot about the dynamics of the consulting market during this period. Today, the challenge is enormous to support brands in their transition to new business solutions.

We are recruiting talents who will be what we call the “dots”, or traits of union, whose mission is to inject new capabilities into our clients.

Since 2015, they have succeeded in deploying a model that meets the challenges of transformation and acceleration of major players in cosmetics, food, and luxury. WITH has a unique approach, in its way of operating on behalf of its clients with its in-housing model. Beyond the talents that make up the Paris and Madrid offices, this is one of the reasons that made me want to join the WITH project.

— What do you do, concretely, for the brands that you work with?

I recruit and coach a team of in-house experts and consultants who work on behalf of clients such as Biocodex, L’Oréal, Danone, or emerging brands looking to accelerate internationally, in Europe or in the US.

WITH has a unique approach, in the way it operates on behalf of its clients with its in-housing model.

We start from the intention of our customers, which is often a target for the sales generated via eCommerce channels and from there we write an approach to address the specific issue. What is very exciting on a daily basis is that each client has their own particular problem and we have to find the best configuration through 3 elements: people, operations and technology. People are the basis of each of our projects, they are the vector of change. We are recruiting talents who will be what we call the “dot”, whose mission is to inject new capabilities into our clients. By capacity, I mean technical skills, an operational approach and a powerful use of technology.

— How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you support brands?

Crisis or no crisis, to support change and improve performance, you will always need these 3 ingredients: people, operational excellence, and technology. I stress this point, but it’s important to stay focused on the fundamentals. Today, of course, more must be done, and faster, by integrating a performance and profitability approach.

The best answer we provide is our expertise internalization offer which allows companies to be supported in an agile and powerful way through a consultant who is 100% dedicated to a client’s problem.

— Thank you very much Sébastien!

Thank you William! See you soon for an upcoming article on a deeper analysis of the evolution of e-Commerce! In the meantime, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn where I regularly share news and analyzes from the sector.