PROFILE

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: 04/24/2017

    Should Bloomingdale’s sales associates receive commissions for online sales?

    I am entirely sympathetic with Bloomingdale's sales associates. They are right that they are undoubtedly having an impact on online sales. Tracking multi-channel attribution though, down to the transaction level, would put an undue burden on the consumer and would be far too imprecise for a compensation system. Better to develop a system of attributing offline influenced online sales at the store or market level than at the employee level. Employees ought to be careful, though, to not overplay their hand -- odds are that they gain many store trips from well-informed customers that visited the website and then the store. My bet is that there are many more online-influenced store purchases than offline-influenced website purchases.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2017

    Will Chewy.com help PetSmart gobble up the online pet market?

    Wow. This is the boldest acquisition that I've ever seen of an online pure play by a brick-and-mortar retailer. Not just the fact that PetSmart paid $3.3 billion, but the size of the acquisition relative to PetSmart's $8 billion market capitalization. It is a "bet the company" move. For this deal to pay off, scale and bricks and clicks integration will be critical. They need to continue Chewy's pace of growth to achieve profitable scale on delivered orders, and they need to leverage PetSmart's huge store base as miniature fulfillment centers.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Will Amazon pull a Quidsi on Zappos?

    This is a great question. The drop in share of online shoes versus Amazon begs the comparison to Quidsi. I believe, though, that Zappos has such positive brand equity that its customers are much less price sensitive than on any other Amazon property. Amazon would be crazy to shut it down. Regarding a comment below, I do want to clarify that the Slice data sourced is just online shoe data, and excludes apparel and accessories. And we do indeed have a great way to track online sales now via panel, which many world class brands and retailers have become reliant upon.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2017

    What will the fourth industrial revolution mean for retail supply chains and jobs?

    I worry, a lot, about the impact of all of this automation on jobs in the U.S. The retail industry has picked up so much of the slack from manufacturing shifting overseas (albeit with lower paying jobs often without benefits), but every day we're hearing about key tasks in the retail store, from the cash register to stocking to customer support, being moved to machines. My economics professors would assure me that with increases in productivity, living standards inevitably increase and would have many historical examples to cite, like the invention of the chainsaw leading to a boom in building. Still, I worry ...
  • Posted on: 03/31/2017

    Why is Amazon trying to convince CPG giants to go consumer direct?

    My guess is that Amazon doesn't really want manufacturers to go direct, but to shift focus from brick-and-mortar retail to online retail. "Direct" to Amazon likely still has Amazon acting as the hub of demand generation, fulfillment and the conduit to the consumer.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2017

    Will ‘ambitious store redesign’ lift Target to new heights?

    We've seen a lot going on lately around new store formats, focused on omnichannel. IKEA is developing smaller, more local store formats in Europe. Walmart is trialing gas/convenience/online order pick up in Denver and Alabama. And of course Amazon has turned Seattle into an omni-channel petri dish. Target is trying to split the difference between these "ground up" omnichannel efforts and the common "omnichannel after-thought" strategy that defines much of omni-channel today. It's easy to say "too little, too late," but who knows? Better to try new things than to try nothing.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Can Nordstrom.com 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 Chewy.com proven that online sales are going to the dogs?

    I was an analyst during the Pets.com era and loved what Julie Wainwright, CEO of Pets.com 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 Jet.com and the box is branded Jet.com, 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.

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