Mark Ryski

Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Mark Ryski is the author of two books on retail analytics, Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric and When Retail Customers Count – books that are widely considered the definitive reference guides for the retail industry. He is also the Founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation – the leading authority on retail traffic and conversion analysis. Founded in 1994, today Mark and his dedicated team work with retailers across virtually all categories and sizes from independents to large chains.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Should drones be used for data collection in addition to deliveries?

    While surveillance is becoming an increasingly normal part of our everyday lives, I think this crosses the line on privacy. Collecting data related to the purchase or regarding the successful delivery of the purchase is reasonable, but to have drones capturing images of everything it sees and then turning this information into sales opportunities under the guise of public service or helpful suggestions is going too far. I think Amazon and other companies are running far ahead of the legal oversight that should be required for this type of data gathering.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    As a solution provider, we try to avoid the pitfalls described in the article, many of which appear to be a function of inexperience and lack of common sense. In my experience, providing sketchy value is among the most common sins among service providers. Selling benefits is really easy; delivering benefits and backing it up with quantitative measures and ROI is really hard. As budgets continue to tighten, retailers are rightfully demanding formal impact assessments to support solution providers’ claims and so accountability is a big part of the discussion today. This all said, it does take two to tango. Many retailers, and especially ones struggling with poor results, can be very difficult to sell to and work with. Arcane procurement processes, rigid and/or vague RFPs and meandering decision making all contribute to protracted and convoluted negotiations.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

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

    Ramping up promotional activity and price-matching is a short-term fix for the top-line, but it will have a negative bottom-line impact. Dick’s has the financial strength to defend its market share and as a near-term strategy. I think it’s a reasonable move given the tumult in the sporting goods category. However, this approach is not sustainable in the long-run. Dick’s management needs to refocus effort on playing to their strength which is their physical stores.As the biggest and arguably the best sporting goods retailer in the nation, Dick’s needs to take advantage of the significant traffic they receive in their 700+ stores and convert more of this traffic into sales using immediacy, in-store specials and offers not available elsewhere.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    Is Target ready to make a move on the home delivery front?

    Grand Junction represents a new service feature that’s part of Target’s ever expanding and evolving home delivery offering. As noted, Target continues to play catch-up on the home delivery front, and while the Grand Junction addition will certainly help, it does not represent step-change. The big opportunity Valdez has that he didn’t have at Amazon is more than 1,800 potential physical stores that can be leveraged for distribution; the challenge he has is that he’s competing against Amazon and Walmart.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Does the internet know us better than we know ourselves?

    As a consumer research tool, Big Data has changed the game and will continue to be increasingly critical. It’s not hard to understand that actual behavior is far more indicative and insightful of future actions than merely asking people about their intentions or opinions alone. That said, I believe there will always be a place for qualitative input like focus groups, for example, where additional color and context can be captured to supplement and augment data-driven findings.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2017

    Is a positive quarter a sign of results to come for Nordstrom?

    One quarter or one event is hardly a trend, but Nordstrom's management still gets full marks for delivering solid results. This family business has been successfully operating since 1901, and despite twists and turns in the industry and structurally as a private-public company, they have continued to find a successful path forward. Impressively, Nordstrom’s management has been able to find the right balance of selecting and deploying technologies to maintain relevance to their loyal shoppers, but have never lost sight of who they are as a retailer and a brand. I am long-term bullish on Nordstrom.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    What to do when shop local turns into look local and buy online?

    This is a challenging problem for many retailers, and while there are no easy answers, guilt and/or confrontation won’t be very helpful. I do think retailers can close more showrooming prospects by personalizing their interaction. By reminding the prospect of the history of the store and thanking them for visiting the store. By being extremely knowledgable about the product and alternatives that the prospect might see online before they even look it up. And lastly, good old-fashioned selling -- ask for the sale. Emphasizing that they can take the purchase home immediately and perhaps even offering further discounts on complementary products. You won’t win them all, but a knowledgeable and engaged sales associate can go a long way to converting showrooming prospects.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Does Dunkin’ need donuts?

    As ubiquitous as "donuts" are as part of the Dunkin' brand, at this stage of the company’s maturity I see little risk in removing the “donuts” moniker. As described in the article, removing donuts from the name provides management more flexibility in expanding offerings and emphasizing offerings that are outside of the donut domain. Furthermore, the trend toward healthier diets plays well in the decision to de-emphasize donuts. I think it's a thoughtful and interesting move.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Can vending units help Uniqlo achieve success in the U.S.?

    This seems like bad idea that will ultimately prove to be ineffectual. Selling consumer electronics through vending machines to travelers in an airport makes perfect sense. If you’re traveling and your headphones die, you’re going to want another pair and if your flight gets in at 2 a.m., the Best Buy vending machine is a godsend. I can’t image someone feeling the same way about skinny jeans from Uniqlo. While I do believe that there is a place for clothing retailers in airports, I don’t think vending machines makes much sense. I believe that the key learning for Uniqlo will be -- this doesn’t work.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Are there too many grocery stores?

    The short answer is yes, there are too many stores selling groceries. The market is finite and so stealing share is the only way to grow. I have no doubt that grocery chains are acutely aware of the problem as they see it reflected in their top-line sales and even more compressed margins. The situation is particularly challenging with international players entering the market and non-grocery players nibbling at market share by offering food items as a traffic stimulation strategy. At the end of the day, consumers will decide who the winners and losers will be, but until then it will be painful for grocery retailers and good for consumers. The market is finite and ultimately something has got to give -- the shake out will come and it will be big.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2017

    Are private equity firms the true retail chain killers?

    Difficult sales conditions and negative comps have put considerable financial pressure on retailers and this is reflected in their debt loads. While it seems the current narrative about private equity is generally negative -- classic "black hat" raiders, pillaging vulnerable retailers -- it’s important to realize that private equity plays an important role in providing retailers access to capital and liquidity.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2017

    Is ‘free’ a big enough incentive to get consumers to try click and collect?

    BOPIS is here to stay and it makes sense for retailers like Walmart to encourage its use. Offering discounts to encourage use/trial of BOPIS is a reasonable short-term tactic. Once customers try and (hopefully) have a positive experience they are more likely to continue using it, regardless of whether there is a financial incentive to do so or not. Getting shoppers back into the store and the prospect of add-on sales is well worth the investment.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2017

    Can indie dollar stores compete with the big chains?

    Mom-and-pop dollar stores are in a tough spot. Given the abundance of low-cost goods available from the plethora of dollar store chains, there seems to be two primary ways for mom-and-pops to compete: 1.) store location and 2.) personalized store experience.The big chains tend to place stores where there is a concentration of shoppers. Mom-and-pop stores located in neighborhoods may have a slight geographic edge serving shoppers in close proximity and who live in the area. While lots of the product at dollar-type stores is similar, mom-and-pop store operators have the ability to build personal connections with shoppers which may help foster some modicum of loyalty.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2017

    Will ‘doubling down’ on tech help McD’s disrupt the fast food business?

    While I would stop short of calling McDonald's deployment of technology a “disruption,” I would say that they are thoughtfully interpreting changes in consumer preferences and responding by deploying relevant technologies in a thoughtful, methodical way. It’s hard to say which tech investments will ultimately prove to be most valuable, but McDonald’s approach to "launch and learn" is commendable.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    Can in-store experiences save retail?

    A great in-store experience is one that ends in a sale. Focusing on data and analytics to better understand customer behavior is critical, and I agree with the professor that retailers need to do more on this front. However, the professor is over-generalizing what in-store experiences are and minimizing how store experience helps create conditions that result in satisfied shoppers making a purchase. Creating a great in-store experience at Costco is a very different proposition than an Apple store and every retailer needs to understand what’s important to their customers.

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