PROFILE

Nikki Baird

Managing Partner, RSR Research

Nikki Baird is Managing Partner of Retail Systems Research. Formerly, Nikki was a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where she covered extended retail industry topics like supply chain, RFID, retail operations, POS, and in-store management.

Most recently, she was director of marketing for StorePerform, a store execution management software provider, now RedPrairie. Prior to that, Nikki was director of product marketing for Viewlocity, a supply chain software provider focusing on adaptive supply chain execution and exception management. Nikki came to Viewlocity from PwC Consulting, now IBM Global Services, where as a senior manager she led IT strategy consulting engagements for retail and CPG clients.

Nikki has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, focusing on operations and IT. She also holds a bachelor of arts in political science and Russian, with a minor in physics, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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  • Posted on: 09/01/2016

    Has American Girl made a wise move into Toys ‘R’ Us?

    As a parent who now has two carefully wrapped and preserved American Girl dolls sitting in her garage waiting for the next generation, I am of two minds about this question. One, I agree -- it's all about the experience. There is an American Girl store at my local mall, and not only is the store itself an experience but several of the restaurants around the store also offer doll-related experiences, like special dining options for families out for a trip to the store and doll-sized seating at special tables in the restaurants.But I've also seen a lot of knock-offs of American Girl dolls, ones that are exactly the same size but just "not exactly" the same quality or level of detail. If you care about the stories and the brand and the detail (and don't care about the money), then no matter where American Girl is sold, the knock-offs will pale by comparison -- most especially by a direct comparison.So if Toys "R" Us is going to sell American Girl-sized dolls no matter what, and American Girl retains at least some control over the experience, then they might as well be in the game.I think ultimately, though, American Girl needs to create a better online experience -- a gaming experience or virtual world experience. They have one, but it's kind of lame. For my daughter, at least, it pales in comparison to, say, Minecraft. Which is why all of our American Girl dolls are now in the garage. American Girl has a good experience, but what if, increasingly, it is the wrong one? Then distribution through Toys "R" Us is neither a benefit nor detraction to the brand. It's just a delay of the inevitable.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Is a ‘DARK’ cloud looming for brands over GMO labeling?

    I'm not strongly for or against GMO. When there are millions of people starving, and GMO promises to increase yields and resist disease and drought, it's not so easy to be against it. And when risks are being taken in regards to our food supply and decisions are being made without understanding the full implications of those risks, it's not easy to be for it.I think the conclusion that the front line of the battle is going to be grocery store shelves is sound. This bill was passed in the face of a large and growing group of voices that want at least transparency so that they can decide for themselves, and it was pushed through in the manner of politics as it existed before the digital age. If consumers don't like the outcome, they will indeed organize and vote with their pocketbooks -- Whole Foods' position on this in particular seems out of step with its customers. And digital makes it easier than ever to organize and sustain that kind of anger.But look at what's happened in the cereal aisle over the last 10 years, as parents decided they actually DID care about what was in those Cocoa Puffs, and the brands were forced to respond with whole grains, no high fructose corn syrup, fewer dyes, etc. For every brand or retailer who decides to ignore customer voices, there will be ones that differentiate and win by listening, even if it means participating in a paid certification program or coming up with their own scheme.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2016

    Are self-checkouts dooming impulse purchases?

    I thought about going there too. I'm glad you said it. Impulse selling is based on the idea that the longer you're in a store, the more you buy, so why not wait in a line and be tempted by the candy bar? When the real value comes from making consumers' lives easier (by getting them in and out of the store quicker), thus earning lifetime loyalty. Tough news for Coca-Cola and Mars, though.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2016

    Are self-checkouts dooming impulse purchases?

    I don't think it's as complicated as all that. I just think self-checkout pods aren't designed to foster impulse purchases. The shopper mentality is no different if you're standing in line waiting for a full-service lane vs. standing in line for SCO. The problem is the full service lane is designed to guide you in and embrace you in a two-sided assault on the impulse shopping front.SCO pods themselves have little room for impulse items like racks of gum or mints, and most retailers don't have any real line control leading into their SCO lanes. SCO gets used enough, at least around here, that there is almost always a short line -- it's those people standing around in the middle of the aisle holding baskets and looking pained because they know they're blocking the way for everyone else, but there's nowhere else to stand while they wait for a pod to open up.Put the same kind of all-embracing path full of impulse items leading into an SCO checkout, and I have a feeling you'll see the same kind of effect as in full-service lanes.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2016

    Walmart Canada to stop taking Visa at the checkout

    The only thing I can say about this is that if the credit card companies think retailers' anger about some of their practices is just a storm that will blow over, I think this, along side the various lawsuits, is proof these disputes are not just going to fade away -- in the minds of retailers and in the minds of consumers.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2016

    Target designing stores as go-to place for smart home tech

    The reality is that more and more products come with technology either in them or necessary in order to make them work. I'm still not sold on a smart-home -- I'm still scarred from trying out the Kivo (keyless entry system) and standing on my porch waving my phone at the lock which would not let me in my own home. And I'm convinced there will be a news headline someday soon (if not already): "Family forced to send Bitcoins to Russian hackers to turn their refrigerator back on."That said, the tide is inevitable. It may be the early days still, and this version 1.0 from Target may not last or may have to be rebooted at some point, but they're smart to dip their toes in the water. Selling smart tech is not the same as selling, say, peanut butter. You kind of have to put more effort into it. Better to learn that now than when it really counts.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2016

    Will shoppers want to interact with AI ads?

    I watch my kids, 11 and 14, and I think that generation will be much more voice, video and hands-free oriented than any of the rest of us. They barely learned how to write before being given laptops for school. The only papers they turn in are for math. They are truly the YouTube and Siri generation. In fact, they get annoyed with me when I don't use the voice features of our car -- which they, I confess, know how to use better than I do.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2016

    Will shoppers want to interact with AI ads?

    To the extent that customers are willing to interact with ads, I think this will make ads more engaging and perhaps more valuable or useful for consumers. The problem is this doesn't change the fundamental problem of ads, which is that they are an interruption play in a world where consumers increasingly look to avoid such interruptions.What I would rather see IBM do with The Weather Channel assets is actually predict the weather better. Or at least let me interact with the app in a more natural-language way: "I want to go for a hike in an hour. What are the odds I'll get rained on?" THAT would be more interesting to me. If Watson can build enough trust with consumers around the weather, then maybe consumers would be willing to take recommendations too -- "It's going to snow today. How about some soup for dinner?"But making consumers wade through a bunch of ads they haven't asked for -- however smart and chatty those ads might be -- that's a no-go for me. Sure, some people will love them. But it's still an analog way of advertising, no matter how much AI is behind it.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2016

    Should Gap sell on Amazon?

    I'm a little torn on this one. Gap is its own brand. If you're into Gap, then anything not Gap isn't going to cut it. If Amazon sells a ton of Gap merchandise, Gap doesn't lose -- they win. You can't get Gap anywhere but from Gap. But the percent of people who feel that much loyalty about Gap in particular seems way smaller than in the past. Gap khakis? Meh. Not the must-haves they used to be.So I think it's a totally viable strategy as a brand to sell on Amazon -- in that sense, Amazon is no worse of a monster than Macy's, so why the heck not? But if your brand doesn't have the strength in its own right to stand up against knock-offs and close-enoughs, then yeah, an Amazon strategy seems more suicidal than smart. And Gap these days seems about as meh as the khakis they sell.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Should Sears sell its Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore brands?

    I think that's a great idea, Mark. If only Sears was run by someone who actually cared about making the retailer a success, rather than there simply to suck it dry, it might've had a chance. As it is, it's been so sad to watch the inevitable decline, I think I've become numb. In my head, Sears is already dead. But you're right — big box stores are vulnerable. It would be an interesting way to go after them.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Should Sears sell its Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore brands?

    Well, let's start with the big question -- is Sears done? This line caught my eye: "The company pointed to weakness in apparel, appliances, consumer electronics, footwear and Sears Auto Centers as the biggest factors in the decline." What, exactly, was left off the list that WAS a success? I'm thinking "nothing."The only value left in the company is the real estate, which has already been parceled off into REITs, and the brands -- which are now naturally on the table. No surprises here. It's only a matter of time. Anyone want to start an over/under pool on the actual date of the company's filing?
  • Posted on: 05/26/2016

    Why Apple must move beyond the ‘wow’ moment

    I'm not so worried about whether Apple will be able to capitalize on its fan base or rely more on a service and subscription model as I am worried about a lot of "me too-ism" out of Apple lately. I don't expect Apple to change the world with every new product release, but I do expect to see them lead, not follow. And there are a lot of areas -- voice recognition, for example -- where Apple, once a leader, now feels like a follower. As someone pretty invested in the Apple brand, THAT worries me.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2016

    Millennials want money to leave home

    To me, there's a weird dichotomy out there. Labor shortages and companies desperate to hire qualified grads on the one hand, and yet, complaints from Millennials of being offered no-pay internships or effectively slave-labor compensation, even (and especially) for companies that are highly desirable employers.How do both of these exist together? How do these exist in a world of declining productivity? There seems to be this disconnect out there between the value of the work and employers' willingness to pay according to that value at the skilled end, and demands for wages that don't feel like they match up to the value of the work at the unskilled end.It's like all the incentives to be productive, to strike out on your own, to invest in your future, have all been eroded or skewed: you invest thousands in an education to end up on your parents' couch, or you work in fast food and end up on your parents' couch.There's plenty of blame to go around, from Boomer parents who make it too easy for kids to come back home to the Millennials themselves who maybe choose degrees in industries that don't pay (what's the percentage of kids with STEM degrees sitting on parents' couches, I wonder), to the weird and perverse political and economic environment we find ourselves in, to companies who look at labor as a cost instead of an investment.No easy way out. No wonder everyone's so angry these days.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2016

    Why isn’t in-store tech focused more on full-service?

    This question is easy to answer. Why are retailers not investing in tech to help store employees? Because that would require training them and paying them for delivering higher quality service and customer engagement, and otherwise investing in store associates.While I do believe that many retailers have gotten themselves into a vicious cycle where their store ops model is now dependent on low wages and high turnover, I don't really believe that they actively intended to end up in this place, and it's clear -- the AT Kearney study is just one of many -- that it's a bad place, and not suited for the kind of in-store experience customers currently desire.How to break out of it? Not so easy. Especially when Wall Street brutally punishes the stock of anyone who invests in stores these days. But retailers definitely need to break the cycle. The reason why consumers don't want to interact with employees isn't because they LIKE self service. It's because employees are so unprepared to help the customers of today that it's just too painful to interact with them. That's the only reason why self-service works in most retail verticals.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2016

    Nordstrom expands rewards to non-card holders

    I'm not a store-brand card holder, so I have a hard time sympathizing with a strategy that forces store-brand card use. And I've seen enough data from Millennial studies that show that, financially educated by the Great Recession, they are leery of credit. Which means that benefits or not, it may be increasingly difficult to convince people to sign up for store-brand cards.Combine that with the value in knowing all of your customers, across all of your channels, and I can see why Nordstrom is opening its loyalty program to all comers. And in doing so, they almost HAVE to differentiate between a non-card holder and a card holder. Otherwise, they risk gutting their card program, which I assume is profitable above and beyond the loyalty aspects.Honestly, I expect to see more and more retailers offer these kinds of loyalty options -- if only to increase their ability to track online and offline activities together by customer.

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