Ken Cassar

Vice President, Principal Analyst, Slice Intelligence
Ken Cassar is the principal analyst at Slice Intelligence, where he oversees Slice's research agenda; identifying and contextualizing e-commerce industry trends from Slice's panel of 4 million U.S. online consumers.

Ken brings a rich online retail background to Slice Intelligence. Most recently, Ken was the senior vice president, media analytic solutions at Nielsen, where he developed several innovative digital commerce measurement and advertising effectiveness solutions. Prior to Nielsen, Ken was an analyst at Jupiter Research, where he was an early thought leader, trusted adviser and media source on e-commerce. His prescient outlook on fledgling e-commerce industry was a key contributor to Jupiter’s dominance as a digital media zeitgeist at the dawn of the Internet.

Ken has an MBA and Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. Ken aspires to stay technologically ahead of his teenage children, as evidenced by his ‘Gadget Geek’ Slice profile. He also has the appropriate jacket for every occasion.

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  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Can compete on experience over price?

    Nordstrom is absolutely going down the right path by focusing on experience and service over price, powered by technology. It is a very on-brand move, but more importantly recognizes that consumers are shifting dollars from products to experiences. Rather than trying to win a race to the bottom (price-wise) Nordstrom is playing a game that caters to its strengths as a brand.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2017

    How will AmazonFresh Pickup stores affect the grocery business?

    Historically, Amazon had been very careful about its moves in the grocery market. Amazon Fresh (with delivery) has had an extremely slow rollout. But Amazon does seem more urgent now. Amazon Prime Now skews much more heavily toward food than Amazon proper (about 35 percent of sales are grocery), and we see experimental store formats in Amazon Go and now Amazon Fresh Pickup. I think that it's a fair bet that Amazon will at least come close to the top five U.S. grocery retailers by 2022.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Has proven that online sales are going to the dogs?

    I was an analyst during the era and loved what Julie Wainwright, CEO of had to say about the potential of the business. The consumer proposition is SO clear, but the economics are so hard (shipping 30 pound bags of things worth $50 or so). The top-line growth is there, so we know that it is possible to achieve scale. The big question is whether the shipping economics will work this time around. I'd LOVE to see trajectory of costs for Chewy. Are they indeed moving toward profitability?
  • Posted on: 03/03/2017

    Will VR/AR keep consumers out of stores?

    Apparel is the biggest e-commerce category, but the inability to try on and feel products online has undoubtedly inhibited its growth. VR and AR don't solve the feel problem. If retailers were able to compel consumers to have their bodies scanned in detail, and they were willing to maintain precise measurements of each product, it could possibly fix the fit problem, but I've seen this tried before and it has gone nowhere. Count me as a skeptic.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    I do not subscribe to the idea that shipping and handling costs necessarily undermine the economics of e-commerce businesses. Yes, shipping and handling costs are not incurred by brick-and-mortar stores. But brick-and-mortar stores incur costs that e-commerce businesses do not. Commercial rent is typically 2 percent to 8 percent of sales for a retailer. Staffing of stores is more expensive than staffing a warehouse. And inventory managed out of a warehouse is more efficient than inventory managed from a distributed group of stores. The problem that omnichannel retailers have to deal with is that they incur all of those costs. The real question may be this: Do the economics of omnichannel retail work, or do retailers need to choose to be highly competitive in one channel or the other?
  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Is Amazon’s Alexa a threat to rival retailers?

    If I am a retailer that competes with Amazon, I would be very worried about the growing base of Alexa owners. 59% of Alexa devices sold thus far were sold in November and December of 2016, so there is tremendous momentum. Research from Slice last month showed double digit increases in Amazon purchasing after people bought their first Alexa device (with seasonal adjustments).Takeaways are pretty clear to me. 1) If you're a retailer, you need to get in bed with Google ASAP to help Google Home develop commerce platform to counter Amazon's power. 2) If you're a brand, you need to think about Alexa as you think about Google. You need to figure out what you can do to get your brand to the top of Alexa voice request results. I ordered AA batteries from Alexa yesterday, without specifying the brand that I wanted. Guess what brand came up? Amazon Basics. $7 for 20 AA batteries. The price was good enough that I didn't stick around to hear the second suggestion.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Third-party e-commerce fulfillers: Friend or foe to the grocers?

    Jon is asking the right question. I think that the analogy between Borders/Toys "R" Us and grocers today isn't quite right, though. Remember that Borders and Toys "R" Us had the option of building an e-commerce operation and outsourcing shipping to a third party -- UPS, FedEx or USPS. Instead they outsourced the whole thing. Grocers that sell fresh goods can't use traditional shippers, and instead have to turn to emerging players like Instacart, Shipt and Google Express to deliver or incur significant costs doing it themselves. Peapod and Fresh Direct seem to be managing in-house delivery profitably, but it took quite a while for them to do so. I agree, though, that retailers should maintain ownership of the customer relationship. If Shipt is going to delivery an order for grocery retailer X it really ought to be branded as Grocery Retailer X, not Shipt. Just like when I order from and the box is branded, not FedEx.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Will Costco, Kohl’s, Target, et al give Google Home an edge over Amazon’s Echo?

    Google may be the one company that can rally Amazon competitors into a foundation for developing a voice activated e-commerce platform to compete with Alexa. It will be tough to compete with the simplicity of Amazon and the virtues of Prime, but if Google can figure out how to tap into local purchase intent (OK, Google, where can I find an Xbox on sale near me?) it could be formidable. The trick is that retailers need to aggressively and quickly commit to Google and put their own Echo competitor dreams to the side.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    What will Walmart gain from its Moosejaw acquisition?

    Walmart is establishing a pattern of buying an array of established retailers (Jet, Shoebuy, Moosejaw) with existing customers, all of which offer strong value plays. Assuming that Walmart keeps these brand identities intact, the future of Walmart might look like some of the apparel holding companies, like VF and PVH, which could be interesting.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Will having the same buyers for online and stores work for Walmart?

    I see mostly upside here, for the reasons espoused by my esteemed fellow BrainTrusters. There is risk, though, that a buying group charged with responsibility for buying for both brick-and-mortar and online may look at the .com buy as an afterthought. Will they harass their supplier partners for direct-to-consumer friendly packaging in a category where online represents just 1 percent of the buy? Or will they force store-friendly packaging on .com because of the cost efficiencies. Walmart needs to remember that price isn't everything when it comes to optimizing online assortment.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2017

    Will women buy lingerie from Amazon?

    I am skeptical that private label apparel will sell particularly well online due to shoppers' need to see, touch and try on brands that they are not familiar with. However, if Amazon (or anyone else) can mitigate consumers' buying risk, I could be proven wrong. Low prices are a good start, coupled with free and easy returns and consumers might not feel that they're out on a limb. Finally, retailers could explicitly welcome customers to order adjacent sizes to ensure that they get exactly the right fit, knowing that there is no consequence in time and effort to send back the ones that don't fit. But, again, I am skeptical that this will have significant uptake, particularly in categories that are highly intimate.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

    Are vendors and stores headed for a fight over Amazon?

    Vendors have to follow the customer, and that increasingly means that they need to invest in online channels. And Amazon is clearly the most important. It is critical, though, that while vendors focus on Amazon, they exert as much effort on other retailers online for two reasons. Online apparel is fragmented and Amazon isn't as dominant in apparel as it is in many other categories. Second, and most important, it is in vendors' interest to cultivate strong competitors to Amazon online.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    Will its acquisition of boost Walmart’s online performance?

    This is a good move by Walmart. Shoes are a big category online, accounting for 6 percent of online sales during 2016. Walmart has virtually no footprint in shoes (pun intended) and ShoeBuy is a significant player in the category. It also underscores what is becoming increasingly apparent — that for Walmart to challenge Amazon it is going to take much more than
  • Posted on: 12/15/2016

    Will the newest Walmart c-store concept be the one that sticks?

    Walmart is doing exactly what it should be doing to learn into this space. Gas is a terrific traffic driver, especially if it's aggressively priced. If I can gas up, pick up groceries to tide me over for a few days and grab a cup of coffee in one stop, it could be a major convenience. Could be a great value option in the suburbs for moms on the go, especially. Kudos, Walmart! Keep on experimenting — do it quickly and look to scale quickly when you find the right model(s).
  • Posted on: 12/13/2016

    Are retail surveys hopelessly flawed?

    My favorite customer satisfaction survey is Delta Air Lines' question after you've used customer service, "Would you hire this customer service representative for your own company?" It is short and to the point. The mistake that retailers make is that they try to use customer satisfaction surveys to help diagnose everything under the sun. Keep it simple!

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