Mark Heckman

Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting
Mark is a supermarket industry veteran with broad experience based in a mix of retail marketing, brand partnerships, category management practices and consumer research. Over his career, Mark has worked with noted organizations in the supermarket industry to include positions of Director of Marketing Research at Marsh Supermarkets, VP of Marketing for Randalls Foods, MARC Advertising, and Valassis Relationship Marketing Systems. In 1993, Mark led the analysis team at Marsh that composed and presented the Marsh Super Study, which was published by Progressive Grocer Magazine and later became a case study at the Harvard School of Business.

In 2006 to 2011, Mark returned to Marsh Supermarkets to lead the marketing efforts at the Midwestern chain as Vice President of Marketing, following Sun Capital's purchase of the company. Upon completion of his duties at Marsh, Mark returned to his consulting practice where he currently works with retailers, marketing services and technology companies to develop sucessful programs and partnerships.

Mark is a past member and chairman of the Food Marketing Institute's Consumer Research Committee as well participating in the recent Retail Shopper Marketing Commission founded by Coca Cola and the In-store Marketing Institute.  Mark is a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business with a BS in Marketing and was honor graduate of the Defense Language Institute, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. Mark currently resides in Bradenton, FL with his wife Karyn.

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  • Posted on: 10/20/2016

    Will Millennials abandon traditional grocers?

    Millennials may be leading the exodus from traditional supermarkets, but they are certainly not the only cohort group that is curtailing their use of this retail format. Sure there are plenty of steps retailers of all stripes can take to attract Millennials and, as with all key shopper segments, it begins with understanding their priorities and in-store shopping patterns.The good news is that traditional grocers remain in position to offer the broadest and most relevant selection of their favorites and also arrange their assortment in such a way that saves them time and angst vis-a-vis the supercenters and other larger formats. That will not happen, however unless "traditionals" become less traditional.The larger question remains as to what is the destiny of traditional grocers in general. Given technology, changing consumer preferences and a plethora of new shopper options, obsolescence is right around the corner unless dramatic steps are taken to adapt.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2016

    It’s time to say goodbye to bad apps

    Trend studies tell us that folks are shopping more stores for their needs, both online and in-store. These same reports paint the picture of a shopper who wants to be focused and efficient, not one that will tolerate extra steps or work on their behalf, even if there is some incremental value for them in the process. I think we know what makes apps good or bad Easier is to use better than harder, payment options are good thing, and certainly if I can save tangible amounts of money and time, we know that shoppers will at least give you a test ride.But the truth of the matter is that shoppers have already said goodbye to bad apps. Today, practically every retailer in the shopper's consideration set has their own app with their own nuances and functions, which lives in its own world, and doesn't connect to any other retailer the shopper might engage. In this world, shoppers learn over a short period of time which apps to use and which they delete to make more space on their mobile device.In a perfect retail world, multiple retailers will learn that it is better to reside on a "community" shopping app, where multiple (and even competing) retailers actively engage a common customer base, instead of insisting the shopper use their app exclusively. Then the shopper would have no need to download a dozen apps instead, just one or two. That's what the shoppers want. It is that simple.So to answer the question of what makes an app successful, I would start with its ability to eliminate the need of other apps. After that, the rest is minutia.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2016

    Could a ‘breakfast aisle’ revitalize the grocery center store?

    While I applaud any type of merchandising concept that is driven from the consumer's perspective, what Kellogg's is doing is hardly new. Many retailers have attempted, with limited success, to reconfigure their stores on the basis of shopper solutions, rather than traditional retailer-brand category definitions. For example, my alma-mater, Marsh Supermarkets built a series of stores 15 years ago that drastically re-organized traditional categories into alcoves that surrounded the center of the store, which was predominantly fresh produce and specialty items. Each alcove focused on compatible items such as breakfast products, household products, juices and beverages, pet food, and on and on.The results were mixed at best, with many shoppers being totally put off by learning a new shopping routine that reflected a true departure from the traditional category/aisle configuration they were accustomed to. However, over time, many shoppers learned to adapt and actually preferred the new configuration as they found that compartmentalizing products in terms of how shoppers thought about them spared shoppers the trouble of going down long aisles with many items and categories they rarely or never buy.Of course, the perceived downside of shopper-centric merchandising is the notion if you do not drag the shopper by thousands of items they have no interest in they will not have the opportunity to "impulse buy" a high margin item that was not on their list. This of course is flawed thinking given much different shopper expectations nowadays compared to 15 years ago when Marsh "jumped outside the box."If the Kellogg's initiative has any lasting merit, it will be in the inevitable benefit to incremental sales based upon the thesis that if you more logically organize products per the shopper's use of them, shoppers will buy faster and have more time to buy other non-intended items during their incredibly short amount of time they spend in the store on any particular trip.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2016

    Will retailers lose retiring boomers to experiences?

    I am an advocate of brick-and-mortar retailers specifically focusing on managing the customer experience, whether it be for Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials. The larger motivation for doing so represents a pure point of difference from those selling online or those occupying the "pure price" marketing position.However, creating a shopping environment that appeals to shopper's emotional and sensory needs requires a deep understanding of what truly motivates various shopper groups and applying that knowledge to shopper engagement.I feel it begins with assigning a specific, senior-level individual that has both a background in shopper psychology and retail operations to that task. These folks are not easy to find, but are truly in position to harness the right information about shoppers and translate that knowledge in cogent, doable programs and practices.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2016

    Schnucks bans solicitors from outside its stores

    It would be easy to hang Schnucks out to dry for this new policy, but actually given the situation with the union picketers, I would have made the same decision. What I would recommend Schnucks doing, however, is create an at-the-checkout coupon that adds a few dollars to the shopper's purchase that would go to the Salvation Army. These programs are easy to implement and very commonplace, particularly if you shop Publix, where they seem to have a checkout charity program going every week. Creative minds can always find acceptable alternatives to ringing bells and red buckets.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2016

    Target holds first storewide sale

    To David's point, I stopped in yesterday to Target and bought $75 worth of furniture and pet supplies yesterday, not knowing about the 10% off sale. No one told me about it in the store, nor was there any signage announcing it. I did not learn about it until after I got home and certainly did not get the 10% off my order.One of my merchandising mentors once told me, "Mark, anyone can give it away." After my experience yesterday, I am not sure that is true when it comes to Target.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2016

    Can Dollar General afford to price it out with Walmart?

    Dollars stores (as a retail channel) have found a viable niche over the past decade. However, market saturation and continued pressure from other price retailers (Walmart among them) is having a predictable effect on their performance.Many of these dollar stores have ventured into expanded frozen foods, dairy and even some produce. All of these additional offerings come with their own expenses and downsides.My advice to dollar stores is to think about being a source of a combined trip. This could translate into partnerships with c-stores and in some cases food retailers that have an expertise in fresh foods, meals to go, etc.Developing these offerings internally will likely be too expensive and too far afield from their core business to develop these offerings organically, but branded partnerships could drive incremental traffic and new synergies.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2016

    Will third time be the charm as grocer changes loyalty program again?

    It appears that Woolworths' recent false starts with their loyalty program structure has more to do with their own internal financial issues than negative feedback from their shoppers. Loyalty programs in the food sector in general are under pressure to be worth the bother, given the plethora of programs in the marketplace and the heightened expectations shoppers have of such initiatives.Air miles can be a powerful secondary currency if the carrier is dominant in terms of flights in the retailer's trading areas and has a reasonable miles-to-free-flight conversion rate. However, carrying un-redeemed points or air miles on the retailer's P&L can become a detriment to profitability without a consistent and corresponding lift in sales. To that end, many of these continuity programs begin with promising results but eventually become a financial burden to the retailer without evidence of incremental sales.If I were Woolworths, I would go back to basics. Providing immediate gratification without multiple steps, secondary loyalty partners or messy redemption models, blending their merchandising promotions and pricing with their loyalty rewards so that the shopper realizes real value in real-time.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will drop shipments become a major online fulfillment tool?

    As a retailer, I would generally be cautious about abdicating the responsibility of delivery to the supplier. I would also be concerned about suppliers becoming too proficient at interacting directly with my customers, given the opportunity for the supplier to eventually set its designs on leaving the retailer out of the loop.On the other hand, if the retailer can devise a system to selectively drop ship certain products and commodities that currently consume heavy inventory holding costs and retain the key relationship with the customer, drop shipping could be part of the ultimate solution retailers are looking for as they down-size their footprints and in-store inventories.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2016

    Is Walmart on a roll?

    Good retail performance is always about flexibility and adaption to competitive and marketplace threats. While Walmart has some fundamental long-term issues to wrestle with, their reactions in terms of store closures and price reductions appear to have righted the ship in the near-term.Longer pull, dealing with the acquisition of, heavy store inventories and continued pressure from other price operators will create challenges that will continue to plague Walmart. Time will tell if they are up to the task.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Is Walmart passing its crime buck to local governments?

    I find this whole discussion a bit disturbing, but sadly not surprising. It's not "Walmart's crime" it is the communities's crime. Believe it or not, Walmart pays taxes and lots of them to cover police, fire and other services. If Walmart ceased to exist tomorrow, the crime and those perpetrating it would not vanish with it, but just migrate to other retailers where the opportunity for crime presents itself. Who would pay for the "crime" then?While it's always cathartic for its critics to beat up on Walmart and blame them for everything from income inequality to union busting, the fact remains that without Walmart and their ascension to the number one retailer in the world, many items that shoppers in their communities buy on a regular basis would cost considerably more. That would also hold true for the police, firefighters, EMTs and other public servants.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Kroger pushes its tech advantage

    Kroger has been operating in the rarified air of growth and profitability for a record number of financial reporting cycles. Much of their past success can be tracked to their penchant for technology and progressive solutions, whether they be for labor scheduling, pricing strategies or providing customer-centric content to their frequent shoppers.Going forward, predictive analysis and other companion intellectual property resources will help them determine optimal variety, selection, omnichannel communications and store design as they face the same issues that other brick-and-mortar retailers must deal with. These issues range from right-sizing their stores and their offerings to updating their customer touch points as the consumer changes their priorities and expectations. Kroger will no doubt handle these issues much more empirically and accurately than their less-equipped competitors.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2016

    Why is Target making nice with Amazon?

    As an addendum to Herb's remarks, I also believe Target understands that ultimately the "elite" retailers will be dominant both online and in physical stores. With the recent announcement of Walmart possibly joining forces with, Target is likely choosing their dance partner for the new competitive marketplace.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2016

    Will Target and Harry’s make for a perfect retail partnership?

    This works well for both brands. Target typically indexes lower among men and carrying Harry's razors provides a new reason to consider Target over Walmart, Meijer, Walgreen, CVS and other retailers. For Harry's it provides a well established brick-and-mortar retailer with over 1700 locations to dramatically expand their market exposure.Longer-term, for Target, being a distribution extension for other compatible, well known online-only brands could be a bright spot for them as they struggle somewhat in their re-positioning efforts.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2016

    Walmart’s CMO talks time, money and message

    Equating convenience with a mega-Supercenter is a tough sell. Walmart will need to get very shopper-centric with its store design, layouts, product adjacencies and technologies to pull off touting Walmart as a time saver.

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