PROFILE

Jeff Miller

Director of Marketing, OceanX
Jeff Miller is a world traveler and curious mind, as well as an experienced digital commerce leader with a diverse background in both B2C and B2B sales and marketing. Jeff is the Director of Marketing for OceanX, a subscription commerce platform running over $1B in direct to consumer sales for some of the largest retailers and CPGs in the world.

Prior to OceanX, Jeff had marketing and e-commerce roles at the national yoga studio chain, YogaWorks, the direct response agency, Launch DRTV, global watersports brand Body Glove and helped found MWRC Internet sales an e-commerce platform company. He is also the President of the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, a Los Angeles based non-profit that works with wounded military and at-risk youth to feel the healing power of the ocean through surfing.
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  • Posted on: 09/19/2017

    Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy, enters ‘new era’

    This one is sad but also so obvious to see coming. I wish I could say that this will turn around a brand that I loved as a kid, but I don't think Chapter 11 will force management to make the necessary and obvious changes that they should have made over the last decade. Everyone points to retailers like Apple and REI where shoppers come as a destination to play and learn. Toys "R" Us by the very nature of their products and their target audience should have been focusing on playing and learning and transforming their stores into destination locations instead of trying to compete on price, selection and worrying about bonuses tied to same store sales.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Gap Inc. leans more heavily on Old Navy and Athleta

    Closing under performing retail locations is something every retailer should be doing on an ongoing basis. Hard to say if they are moving quick enough, but I doubt this will be the last announcement of store closings for them in the immediate future. The problem with Gap and Banana Republic to me has been the race to the bottom with pricing and promotions. I honestly get an email from them every day with some version of 40% off and the rare times I do shop in store, I see a similar themed window or poster. 40% off is not a merchandising and marketing strategy.I applaud them for taking a risk and opening more Old Navy and Athleta stores in this environment. I don't see how Athleta will succeed in the long term in a crowded space with a trend timeline that is poised to slow down. I hope for their sake that they have learned some key lessons. I hope they will be able to test these stores and have a chance to change or get out of the leases with less pain so as to avoid a similar announcement of closing of these stores a few years down the line as Amazon and their private labels dominate the apparel basics category.I also like that they are testing a few niche online programs like the new and still under marketed Baby Gap Outfit Subscription Box. I hope they launch more non-promotional tactics and programs.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2017

    Do independent retailers need a marketing plan?

    Yes, all retailers and businesses of all shapes and sizes need a simple marketing plan and then more importantly, need to actually implement it, measure what is implemented, and then assess and tweak. Far too many retailers I work with confuse a marketing plan which outlines many of the great questions here with marketing tactics and more commonly, simple media actions that are usually sold to them and not looked at with how it matches up with the plan and goals.These 5 questions are a great start but I would add some qualifiers and additions like:
    • Specific goals. Easy to state a goal like "grow sales" or "increase brand awareness." Better to say "grow revenue by 10% over last quarter, month, etc."
    • Try to find ways to measure what you are doing so you can do more of what is working and stop activities that are not working. Does not need to be perfect, just consistent.
    • Sharing your goals, marketing plans and all of this info with your entire team so that they are on board. Brick and mortar independent retailers' main advantage over Amazon and other e-commerce players is the people in the stores who are experts and can help guide a purchase. The more they understand the items listed above, the better they can help you achieve these goals and maybe take ownership of some of the tactics.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2017

    Are Whole Foods’ price cuts game-changing for food retailing?

    Amazon is certainly winning the PR battle and in this case doing it by dropping prices on just a few products. Over time, the real economics of grocery business coupled with Amazon's amazing skill at execution and public market's decision on when they value growth over profits will probably have most impact on pricing.The biggest challenge for other food retailers will be around the Whole Foods related Prime membership benefits. Think about how much better an Amazon Prime membership will be compared to your current Vons or Ralphs rewards program where you just save money but there are no other real benefits of membership. Is anyone proud to be a Vons reward member? Imagine getting all current benefits of Prime plus similar, one click checkout on your phone, probably better savings than other programs and then add in some kind of amazing home delivery options all for $99. This real loyalty program will put some serious pressure on them.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2017

    Should Starbucks close its online store?

    This seems a bit like if a tree falls in the woods and no creature is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I knew they had a subscription business called Starbucks Reserve but did not know or even think to look for a traditional e-commerce store. They never put much effort to marketing it and with this decision, it seems like a victim of priorities. With so many retail locations, expanding grocery and availability through so many e-commerce players, I don't see them losing many sales with this decision.However, if they did not have the near universal adoption of the Starbucks app, I would argue that they would lose an important touch point with their customers to speak directly with them via a shopping experience.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2017

    Are vendors delivering better online experiences than multi-brand sellers?

    I am by the nature of my business firmly on the side that all quality brand manufacturers should invest and sell direct before any advantage they have by being a brand is destroyed by Amazon. However, I have a hard time believing these results when Amazon and Walmart dominate much of e-commerce based on people's actual choices and not what they tell people in a poll.However, I think that vendors have the greatest opportunity if they really commit to the channel and spend the time and effort on technology, customer service, media spend and most importantly creating an engaging customer-centric experiences that solves a shopper's needs better than Amazon or other multi-brand retailers.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Should all retailers offer subscription services?

    Subscriptions are of course impacting store traffic especially for retailers who have failed to differentiate themselves and who spent too much time focused on transactions as opposed to customers. A well-run subscription program in conjunction with brick and mortar sales and standard e-commerce should be a part of every retailer's plans because they create another touch point with the customer. They can compete if they dedicate some resources to run it operationally and dedicated marketing to have it both stand out while also being integrated.Our company is running a few of these programs for some of the largest retailers in the USA and are pitching many others and the story is similar in that they are all looking for authentic ways to connect and subscriptions and memberships are a great tool to have.There are large retailers who are using new and innovative membership models to drive both subscriptions and also in store traffic and even social engagement. Play by Sephora is probably the best example of this where they are using an Birchbox like beauty box mixed with in store experiences and activities that are an exclusive part of membership to better connect with their shoppers.A lot of the comments thus far focus on the dual main factors of subscription success -- convenience via auto-ship and value. However, the new wave of subscriptions which are becoming a part of a larger omni-channel retailer's plans involve much more than that and should make members feel special, surprise them and provide a sense of belonging.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    Will military tech give Amazon an edge delivering packaged meals?

    I am not sure where the consumer demand for this is. They would need a pretty ridiculous marketing campaign to convince the standard Whole Foods shopper of the value and quality of a MATS over real "whole foods." I guess I can see a place for this replacing other similar pre-packaged offerings if quality is better but not sure I see this as the future. I would rather them put efforts into removing the insane amount of food waste that the current food supply chain creates.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    Great job on tackling this issue. This list is really solid. I would add for us that thinking that our timelines based on internal goals have any impact on our retailers timelines for decision making. In some ways it is a simple human skill of being patient in the sales cycle and understanding that what we do and what we offer is the most important thing to us but is most likely a bullet point on a long list of things they need or want to do.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    Will more promos fix Dick’s Sporting Goods pricing challenge?

    It is crazy to me that CEOs get away with "dropping prices and being more promotional" as a strategy. So short sighted and illustrates the challenges that these companies have being based on Y/Y same store sales vs Amazon being judged on growth. Yes prices need to be competitive but of course in a focus group if you ask customers about price will respond that prices should be lower. Has a customer ever said the opposite?Mr. Stack should talk with CEOs of places like Gap or Macy's where their promotional based marketing and sales strategy has been a race to the bottom and they need sales and ongoing 40% messaging to make a sale.Sporting goods already has low price retailer in Big 5 (yes they are still around even with next to zero in online sales) and then of course you can get almost everything in a Dick's direct from the brands they carry or Amazon. They need to take a page out of REI or even places like Sephora and Best Buy and offer a better quality shopping experience with true experts in the sports who can help a mom shopping for their first soccer cleats or golf club make the best and most cost effective decision for what they need.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2017

    Should Walmart buy Birchbox?

    A Walmart acquisition of Birchbox certainly makes sense for the Marc Lore, new Walmart strategy of buying "cool" e-tail brands that frankly have almost zero impact on Walmart financials. The Jet acquisition was a big swing, but these others will end up being rounding errors in the overall long-term financials, gives them some good PR and maybe adds a few non Walmart customers to their databases.From the Birchbox perspective, a sale to Walmart or another retailer is bordering on a necessity. Katia and her team have made some hard, smart and commendable changes to their business and operations to move towards profits after 7 years chasing growth. However, they are still losing the battle to more focused IPSY who are riding a wave of digital influences and deep pocketed Sephora Play Box who use the subscription as a marketing tool to drive store engagement in the market that Birchbox pioneered. They also have still have some business practices like running customer service from a NYC address that make it difficult to compete in a hyper competitive beauty industry that like everything is moving towards long tail products, ingredients and problem/solution on Amazon and less on brands.I am rooting for Birchbox because I feel that people who pioneer an industry and take risks should see success and a lifeline/sale from a larger retailer seems like a much better bet than an IPO or more rounds of funding.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is Wayfair Amazon-proof?

    Wayfair has done a good job going after a large and still growing niche and things like visual search and machine learning along with continued investment in customer service should serve them well to compete against Amazon in this market. As an investor, I would be a bit scared looking at acquisition costs and also delivery costs as they will eat into the margin and Wayfair does not have the same goodwill and concern for growth at all costs over profits that Amazon has. Luckily, furniture has pretty high margins built in historically. Nothing like mattresses or anything, but much better than many other categories.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    Can in-store experiences save retail?

    Creating unique in-store experiences fits great for some retailers (Lululemon, REI, Sephora, etc.), but for vast majority it will not make the difference vs Amazon. Instead of "experiences" or events, retailers should focus investment (time and money) on hiring high quality people, training them properly and ongoing, and then paying them a wage with growth/learning opportunities in a great work environment to retain people who represent the brand. Apple stores are less about experiences and more about knowledgeable, helpful and efficient people they hire and keep.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2017

    Is online fulfillment from stores too complex for e-grocery?

    Online grocery of certain items like fresh fruit and veggies and even specific cuts of meat that people will want to select will have greater challenges than other grocery items like toothpaste and of course things like apparel. There are systems in place and they will improve over time to assure accuracy, but the question is, will the companies invest in them when they don't see ROI?A bigger question and something that the eco-conscious side of me hopes is that these advancements and consumer shifts will lead to less fresh food being displayed and going to waste. I know the stats of American shoppers choosing over and over again to prefer a fruit selection that looks full but that "marketing" tactic leads to huge waste that sadly is not allowed to be donated in many cases. We still have people who don't have access to fresh foods and we still overproduce and then throw away. Maybe online orders and pickup will help over time.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Are $3.00 generics a sound grocery e-tailing model?

    Of all of the new e-commerce players out there -- I give them credit for something that stands out. It really looks to me like a mix of Thrive Market, private label products from Trader Joe's and style and messaging ripped right from one of my favorites -- RX Bars. They will be challenged by many large players online and brick and mortars like Trader Joe's, Amazon, Jet, Walmart, Whole Foods, Thrive and more. However, if they stay somewhat niche and the quality of the food and service is excellent, I can see them carving out a nice business. It will depend what the VC's expectations are.Eventually, if they plan to build more of a brand as opposed to a retailer, it will be interesting to see if they are tempted to sell on Amazon to expand the brand. Same question many brands are facing now across multiple industries.

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