B2B ecommerce veteran Devashish Saxena joined food-service products distributor Imperial Dade in March as the company’s first chief digital officer. Here he shares some of his strategies for meeting Imperial Dade’s customers’ expectations for a new digital buying experience.


Devashish Saxena, chief digital officer, Imperial Dade

Imperial Dade, a major distributor of food-service packaging and janitorial supplies, is ready to take to a higher level its B2B digital commerce interactions with customers.

Devashish Saxena, as a former head of digital commerce at several large companies, has plenty of ecommerce experience behind him as he takes on his new role as Imperial Dade’s first chief digital officer.

“We will put the customer at the center of everything we do,” he says in this exclusive DC360 interview. “Through a data-driven approach, we will gain insights that enable us to anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations.”

Digital Commerce 360: You’ve built digital organizations at major companies including PPG, Rexel, Premier Farnell and Texas Instruments and guided them in making data-driven decisions to deliver business impact. What are some of the experiences that stand out for you where digital technology and strategy made a positive difference?

Devashish Saxena: At Texas Instruments, I was part of a team that revolutionized TI.com from a static brochure-ware site to a dynamic, user-focused design engineering tool that became the go-to destination for TI’s customers. We built a thriving design engineering community, E2E.TI.com, which remains a driving force today. Our team also created data frameworks that accurately measured the ROI of online conversions, connecting them to offline sales performance. The impact of our work at TI cannot be overstated – we changed the way TI interacted with its customers and transformed the company’s digital presence.


As digital employee No. 1 at Rexel and PPG, I was essentially a startup founder within two global powerhouses. At Rexel, we shifted the company’s focus from being a logistics company into a value-added, data-driven omnichannel distributor that saw €2.2B (US$2.4 billion) in digital sales in 2018 — all in less than five years.

This transformation was a human-centered effort, where digital technologies were key to driving organic growth. At PPG, we established AI as a core and integral part of our digital strategy, creating an AI factory that identified and scaled use cases across the value chain. As an example, an AI scaling effort in manufacturing at PPG could drive a few hundred million dollars in EBIT at scale. These milestones will stand out as significant achievements in both companies’ digital journeys.

DC360: As Imperial Dade’s first chief digital officer, how are you enjoying the new role? How can you use your C-level position to coordinate efforts companywide to build a solid digital and omnichannel strategy?

Saxena: As Imperial Dade’s first chief digital officer, I am thrilled to be leading the company’s digital transformation journey. The warm welcome I have received from every corner of the organization — from our CEO to employees in Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Finance, Operations, and HR — has been nothing short of phenomenal. The positive energy and excitement for what lies ahead are palpable. It’s an honor to be part of a team that understands the significance of this journey and is committed to making it a success.

Driving a digital strategy is not just about adding new tools or technologies — it’s about fundamentally changing the way a company creates value. This is why we use the term “transformation” so often when talking about digital. And it all starts from the top.


At Imperial Dade, Jason Tillis, our CEO, Charles A. D’Elia Jr., our chief commercial officer, Scott Crocco, our chief financial officer, and our Board members all understand the magnitude of this work and are committed to making it a top strategic imperative. They know that it requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to embrace change. With their support, we are well-positioned to make a lasting impact on the company and our customers.

DC360: How important is it to Imperial Dade’s future to develop a world-class omnichannel experience for your customers?

Saxena: As I mentioned above, it is one of the key strategic imperatives for the company. So, I’d say it is very important.

DC360: What are Imperial Dade’s customers’ biggest demands and expectations — and how can you address them?

Saxena: In my short time at Imperial Dade, I have had the privilege of speaking with many of our customers, and it’s become abundantly clear that they have a deep love and respect for our company. Why? Because we listen to them, and we consistently exceed their expectations.

However, we recognize our digital experience has not kept pace with our customers’ rising expectations  which is why it’s such a priority for us now. Our customers have reasonable expectations — give them digital options for engaging and doing business with Imperial Dade – that are easy, intuitive, and fast. Speed is critical for our customers.


That is exactly what we will do. We will continue to speak to our customers, understand what their journeys are, and where they experience any friction today. As we reimagine our digital experience — including a new ImperialDade.com site and a mobile app, we will constantly seek to remove those friction points for our customers. Furthermore, we want to do the same for our amazing sales team who are out there in the field every day serving our customers. We want to make it easier for each salesperson to serve their customers every day.

We are fully committed to delivering the best possible digital experience for our customers and sales team alike!

DC360: Please comment on how data science powers the omnichannel experience. How difficult is that to accomplish, and what are some of the critical technology systems you’re deploying to support that?

Saxena: In today’s digital age, data-driven decision-making has become a crucial aspect of any successful company’s culture. For Imperial Dade, it is not just a nice-to-have but a fundamental requirement to remain competitive in the market. By utilizing data science, machine learning, and AI, we can take our tribal knowledge and transform it into a culture that prioritizes customer satisfaction and delivers unparalleled value.

As we embark on this journey, we will put the customer at the center of everything we do. Through a data-driven approach, we will gain insights that enable us to anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations. This new way of thinking will become the norm for our teams, ingrained in the fabric of our organization. By doing so, we will improve our ability to serve our customers and create a significant competitive advantage that sets us apart from our peers.


DC360: What about change management? How are you getting Imperial Dade’s internal personnel, suppliers and customers on board with the digital omnichannel commerce experience?

Saxena: This topic of change is absolutely crucial, and it reinforces what we previously discussed about the paramount importance of driving digital transformation from the highest levels of leadership. Most organizations have an inertia to change, and many have designed their current business processes years ago, which can impede progress. To capture a significant portion of the value at stake, everyone must change. Our customers must change (and the good news is many are ready), our salespeople have to change, our marketing people have to change, and over time through this journey every person at Imperial Dade must be prepared to adjust how they work on a daily basis.

With the focus and support of our leaders, my goal will be to build a compelling and concrete reason for why we must change before moving into a tiered and phased approach to bring it to life. In my experience, demonstrating small successes and creating numerous internal advocates for change are critical to our ability to successfully shift. But this is a process that demands continuous and ongoing focus — every day, every week, every month.

DC360: Imperial Dade has made several acquisitions of other distributors. How challenging is it to get then all connected and contributing to the company’s digital and omnichannel growth strategies?

Saxena: Imperial Dade continues to differentiate itself in the marketplace by strategically growing our North American presence through both acquisitions and organic growth. Our approach to digital and omnichannel must complement our growth trajectory, as our expanded footprint better positions us to effectively serve national customers in the U.S. and Canada.

To be successful, we must focus on integrating new businesses as they are acquired, ensure our processes are aligned, and ultimately migrate them to our primary ERP. As we build out our new digital experiences, we will actively work to ensure we build the right architecture to connect effectively into our back-end systems, enabling a single, superior customer experience on the new ImperialDade.com.


DC360: Going forward, what critical steps will Imperial Dade need to take to establish a cohesive coast-to-coast omnichannel business?

Saxena: In my first 90 days at Imperial Dade, my top priority is to kick off the execution of our new digital experiences. This is a crucial step for us, and with only five weeks left as we speak, we must act quickly.

We have already developed and aligned on an omnichannel strategy; we are already engaging with our customers to understand their journeys. We are already assembling the teams we need to kick off execution. A sharp focus on execution will be critical in the early part of our journey, which includes our work on data and business process and engaging our people as part of the journey.

DC360: What excites you the most in new digital commerce technology?

Saxena: AI.

DC360: What do you see as the most significant commerce challenges and opportunities in digital commerce?

Saxena: The problem I see in many companies today is that they continue to view digital commerce simply as a technological upgrade, rather than a fundamental shift in the way businesses create value. This narrow mindset limits their ability to fully leverage the potential of digital technologies to transform their operations, reach new customers, and ultimately drive growth. Companies that succeed in the digital age understand that digital commerce is not just about implementing new technologies but about reimagining their entire business model from the ground up.


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