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: 03/23/2017

    Will customer tracking help save shopping malls?

    Just like retail stores, malls can gain important insights through shopper analytics. And with the general weakening of brick-and-mortar traffic, mall operators in particular should be measuring traffic volume and trends. Tracking shoppers via Wi-Fi signals on smartphones is perfectly fine as long as shoppers have opted in. Just because some segment of the population, like Millennials for example, seem to be OK with being tracked, doesn’t give mall operators the right to infringe on shopper privacy.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    What do know-it-all shoppers want?

    I think many knowledge shoppers merely want to complete their transaction with as little friction as possible. While there is no doubt that knowledgeable associates can have a significant impact on the shopping experience, even the best service will be misplaced for a shopper who simply doesn’t desire or appreciate it. Associates need to hone their skills at reading the shopper and adjusting their service based on the shopper's needs. For example, if a shopper merely wants a fast and efficient check-out experience, deploying mobile POS with which sales transactions can be processed anywhere in the store could certainly help.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2017

    Why is the U.S. so bad at airport retailing?

    I believe that U.S airport retailing is a huge missed opportunity. In general, retail shops in airports are not run like typical retail stores, but rather more like product showrooms operated by staff who appear to have very little interest in the product or delivering a great service experience. In some airports this is because the retail store is not actually run by the retailer, but rather by a management group that operates all shops in the airport. Given the captive and significant shopper traffic opportunity airports enjoy, I believe the offering could be and should be significantly better.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2017

    Will the soy-in-chicken report sink Subway?

    Subway’s aggressive stance is understandable given the allegation, however now it needs to answer the question, where’s the beef -- I mean -- chicken? If their chicken sandwiches do indeed contain a high percentage of soy as the CBC report suggests then Subway could very well take a hit as once-trusting consumers look elsewhere for meal choices. On the other hand, if Subway can back up its claim then I believe that they will easily weather the chicken controversy.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Do consumers want AI and AR in their mobile apps?

    A virtual dressing room won’t help you if no one wants to buy your clothes. For many retailers, I believe that AR and AI are technologies that have a long way to go before they can provide a meaningful ROI. While it’s in all retailers' best interest to understand what’s available and how it might be applied to their retail business, many of these new AR and AI technologies fall into the "shiny new thing" category. I encourage retailers to focus on establishing solid in-store execution prior to getting too carried away with AR and AI.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Can calls for food transparency be answered digitally?

    Yes, digital tools like SmartLabel will play an increasingly important role in food marketing/retailing. Consumers have never been more informed or likely as concerned about food safety as they are today. Providing more information is good for consumers and it’s also good for food retailers and suppliers. However, given that margins for food retailers are already so tight, the challenge will be the cost of acquiring and implementing the technology. All that said, it will happen -- one way or another.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Are free returns a good way to drive online sales?

    As a consumer, I love it; as an advisor to retailers, I know it’s a profit killer. It’s no surprise consumers love free returns, but that doesn’t mean it makes business sense -- even if it has become the price to play in online retailing. Retailers need to take a very hard look at profitability on sales related to their returns/shipping policy and think carefully about how they implement it or modify it.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Can RadioShack come back from bankruptcy — again?

    There’s only so much damage a brand can sustain and RadioShack has long past its limit. New management means new hope, but when the hole is so deep -- which it is for RadioShack -- there comes a point when it’s irredeemable. That’s where RadioShack is, in my opinion. I'm not sure what "strategic" options they may be exploring, but any further investment in RadioShack sounds like good money chasing bad.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    Fair points Ken. "Slick" is vague. I completely agree with you that discovery is critical and that mom-and-pops still need to have a competent site.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Will Dick’s Sporting Goods win by cutting SKUs?

    Rationalizing the product mix and vendor base is a thoughtful move. Cutting some product lines and even some underperforming categories will enable Dick’s to go deeper on product lines/brands that consumers are demanding. While there’s always a chance that cutting a product line/brand could cause a shopper who is loyal to that brand to go elsewhere, the fact is that there are so many overlapping products/brands that can easily be substituted, I see this as low-risk and am confident that Stack and his merchandising team will make smart decisions on what stays and what goes.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    Running a mom-and-pop retail operation has always been challenging, but in some ways I think these stores are less susceptible to digital threats than larger retailers. Consumers have very different expectations of mom-and-pop stores. Shoppers don’t expect them to necessarily have an app or a really slick e-commerce site. To the shoppers who frequent mom-and-pop stores it’s the uniqueness, quaintness or location that makes them interesting. While the retail industry media is naturally dominated by the big chains and their goings-on, I do think mom-and-pops and small independent retailers add color and flavor to the industry and I’m confident that they will continue to not only survive, but thrive.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Are chains cannibalizing their own in-store sales with e-commerce?

    Yes, online is cannibalizing in-store sales to some extent and it’s easy enough for retailers to analyze their transaction data to determine exactly by how much. The problem is that retailers are in a classic catch-22. If they don’t have a strong online presence, they risk becoming irrelevant in an increasingly online world; if they do have a strong online presence, they face even more aggressive price competition from online players and they risk cannibalizing their own in-store sales. It’s a delicate balance and, as the article points out, most retailers are still trying to find the right balance. But finding a balance is exactly what all retailers must do.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Will the joking stop now that IKEA furniture can be assembled in minutes?

    Amen. I predict the divorce rate will decline. Consumers love IKEA and now I suspect they will love them even more.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2017

    Is raising membership fees getting riskier for Costco?

    Given that Costco hasn’t raised membership prices since 2011, now seems like a reasonable time. The increases are modest and given Costco’s unique store experience and value proposition, its legions of fans won’t be significantly offended. While online players will continue to lure shoppers away with promises of even lower prices and delivery to their door, the Costco experience is truly unique and I believe their brand loyalty is formidable.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2017

    How long before Abercrombie & Fitch’s rebranding takes hold?

    A 13 percent comp decline in the face of the largest ad campaign in the company’s history (on top of negative comps in Q1, Q2 and Q3) is ominous. To say that the “rebranding fell short” is a profound understatement. With results this challenged, I find it more than underwhelming for the newly appointed CEO to suggest that they need to “sharpen the brand identity, create an invitational message and evolve the creative” in order to turn the business around. Based on the results, Abercrombie & Fitch needs to take far more aggressive and decisive steps to turn this around -- time is not on their side.

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