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: 05/12/2017

    Do customer reviews suffer from a herd mentality?

    It seems to me that review mechanisms are getting more sophisticated precisely to minimize the impact of some of these biases. I mean, they looked at whether better reviews resulted in more sales and said it barely contributed, but ask any marketplace seller on Amazon and they'll tell you the FIRST review of a product -- no matter what it is -- can increase product sales by as much as 60 percent. So reviews still matter, a lot. But "guiding" consumer opinions by structuring what you ask their opinion on, for example by asking consumers to select from a range of attributes they feel apply to the product ("too big/too small" or "durable," for example) -- I think that's totally okay. Paying for reviews, whether with points, product or discounts, is not. I see plenty of people who are sophisticated about how to absorb reviews, too, and who are at least somewhat aware of their own biases when they read reviews. So I'm not sure it's as bad as the research makes out.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2017

    Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?

    I think shopping apps CAN help consumers. Certainly as more of the shopping process moves to digital there are more opportunities for consumers to take control of the shopping journey and shut out retailers or influencers they don't want to see.Personally I am not in the "apps are dead" camp. I think consumers avoid a lot of apps not because the concept is flawed but because retailer apps suck. Including a lot of the ones on Conde Nast's list -- they just happen to suck less than most of the others.It comes back to a very simple premise: are you helping consumers solve their problems? Or are you just trying to sell them more stuff? And if you don't see why these two questions are different, then that's a good hint as to the source of the problem.If you help consumers solve their problems, you're working against everything retail was built on, like trying to create more engagement and getting consumers to spend more time with you, so that ultimately they spend more money with you. But if you're truly out to help consumers the end game may not be to sell them more stuff, it may be to help them make fewer, more considered purchases. If you help them, maybe they'll make those purchases with you instead of someone else.I guess that means I'm coming down on the side of convenience, ultimately.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Will Amazon pull a Quidsi on Zappos?

    There are a couple of things to wonder about here. One, what is Zappos's marketing budget these days vs. pre-acquisition? I feel like I just don't see them out in the wilds of the internet like I used to. Without that continuing investment in awareness, then they could easily lose share. And as awareness of what makes Zappos unique fades, the value of the stand-alone brand also fades.Two, has Amazon actually learned anything from Zappos? The whole brand promise was rabid customer service. And Amazon is still resolutely impossible to deal with. I mean, they had to be sued to pay back money from kids buying in-app purchases after Amazon offered little in the way of tools to help parents manage their accounts. They're notorious for being difficult to get a hold of, whether you are a buyer, a seller, an author, whatever. So with apparently little to be learned, if the brand value of Zappos fades, then yeah, I can see how it no longer needs to stand alone.Three, is Zappos really all that? There was that whole Tony Hsieh/Holocracy thing that, over time, seems to come with more negatives than positives. Is that undermining Zappos's legendary customer service? I don't personally know, but if it is then I would say that would be another nail in the coffin of the stand-alone company.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2017

    How should retailers use social listening tools?

    I want to build on Ian's comments about "listening." While it is true that there can be lots of value in social listening, the whole point of social is to be ... social. I don't think the issue is so much about listening to what consumers are saying, or using that information in insightful ways. The bigger issue to me is that the only engagement retailers really use social for is to shout about promotions. Active listening means sometimes taking the time to feed back to the speaker what you heard, so that you can validate that you heard them and understand them. On the spectrum of listening there is far too little of that going on from retailers, in my humble opinion.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2017

    Have hacks damaged Amazon’s relationships with third-party sellers and customers?

    I think it depends on how Amazon handles this. Given that they had to be sued over in-app purchases made by minors just so that they would actually give back the $70 million in in-app purchases that were made because they had inadequate services to give parents control over those purchases, I will be very interested to see whether they make these sellers whole or just shrug and say "oh well, too bad for you." It's on Amazon to make their payment system as secure as possible. If someone breaks in and steals from it, to me, Amazon should be responsible for bearing the loss, not the sellers. If Amazon takes the same approach to this issue as the parental control lawsuit, I can see third-party sellers taking real stock of the cost/benefit of doing business with Amazon and finding that it's really not worth it. The margins and competition are tough enough when you DO get paid ...
  • Posted on: 04/10/2017

    Should the same-store sales metric be retired?

    I like the idea of "same trading area." I've also talked to investment analysts who prefer to look at comparable store traffic rather than comp store sales. It makes sense -- if the store is serving a greater purpose than just transactions, then you should have the traffic to go along with it. Reporting on sales or even conversion rate hides underlying issues. If conversion rates are steady but traffic is falling, not only are sales likely going down as a result, but you have fewer "at bat" opportunities with customers because they're just not coming in the door.At the end of the day, what's important is: are you measuring something that indicates the health of the business? That whole SMART thing: simple, measurable, etc. I'm not sure that comp store sales is a SMART measure any longer, not if you really want to know what's going on in stores.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2017

    Will adding Spanish give Amazon an edge over rival sites?

    To be honest, I'm surprised to find out they weren't doing this already. They have to have significant translation capabilities given the number of countries they're in anyway. I can see that it might be challenging to manage with marketplace sellers, but in the end, their value proposition is convenience and breadth of assortment. I would think multiple languages would fall in the "convenience" category, especially when those languages cover a significant portion of the population. The easier it is for consumers to understand what they're buying, the easier it is to buy.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2017

    Why do so few shoppers think of BOPIS as a ‘smooth’ process?

    Retailers have to decide: are they going to make the in-store pickup as convenient to the shopper as possible, or are they going to make it "inconvenient" in the hopes that it keeps the shopper in the store longer, spending money on an incremental trip?Some retailers have gone after the former -- putting pickup at the front of the store and staffing it well, with trained employees and a system for managing in-store inventory and recording picks.Some retailers have gone after the latter -- forcing consumers to walk all the way through the store to the back to pickup and all the way back to get out, or they don't have the inventory accuracy to promise what they're promising, or they don't have regular staff available who know how to manage in-store pickup or customer service issues that might arise at pickup.It is about saving money for shoppers, but it's also about convenience. Too many retailers are used to thinking about how to make their stores inconvenient -- to trap consumers inside so they'll spend more. That's why those experiences are losing to online.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2017

    How will online shopping transform the grocery business?

    Personally, I've been waiting for this for a while. Grocers lag pretty much every other sector in retail in terms of embracing online shopping. I think they have been too complacent. Once someone (ahem, Amazon perhaps?) figures out the business model, I think this will go much faster than we've seen in other verticals, if only because consumers ARE already trained in online shopping. There is some pain for the shopper in moving your grocery list online, but once you've done that, it becomes a maintenance exercise. I can see a future where grocery stores are 80 percent fresh, 20 percent shelf-stable and impulse, and a big warehouse section for either home delivery or curb-side pickup. And that's definitely not how grocery stores look today, which means the transition will be painful.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2017

    Do retailers need to work on making more emotional connections?

    What I love about the need for meaning and authenticity is the inherent contradiction implied by a retailer "taking a stand for something" and yet also listening and responding to its customers, who then feel direct ownership over the brand. I think it is this friction that makes achieving an emotional connection with customers so hard -- you can't sit up on high in a vacuum and declare what your brand is, but if you don't own it then consumers won't see you as genuine and they won't buy in themselves.Meaning and authenticity are hard because they are hard to measure, they require a strong culture and they require far more than clocking in and showing up. They require your own emotional commitment from the CEO down to the newest stock clerk in a store or DC. It's the one thing retailers can't fake -- at least, not for very long. Consumers will sniff out fakers in a heartbeat. And it takes constant vigilance to maintain over time.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Will store closings and layoffs end Macy’s woes?

    I don't think there's any doubt that Macy's was still over-stored, and probably still is after these closures. But I also think they are not nearly aggressive enough in overhauling the store experience to match new shopper behaviors. And I was just flat-out amazed to find a Macy's men's department with four cash registers on December 17th and only one person on staff. Eight people in line. We left without buying anything, simply because we couldn't find anyone who could take our money in less than a 30 minute wait. Omnichannel isn't Macy's only problem.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2017

    Should workers have the right to disconnect?

    It's a two-way street. If companies expect employees to be "always on" then they should also expect that employees are going to conduct life business at work -- and should give employees leeway to make that happen.If companies expect focused attention at work with no room for that run out to the doctor's appointment or texting with your kid, then they should also expect they have no right to intrude when an employee is not working. It's employment, not servitude.But there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the work, and it depends on the worker. And companies -- and workers -- should have the flexibility to work it out for themselves, as long as one party is not taking advantage of the other.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2016

    Will a higher minimum wage translate to better service levels?

    Last Saturday, on what is expected to be the highest in-store traffic day of the season outside of December 26th, I stood in a line 20-people long at a retailer who had six cash registers and only three of them staffed. And then I went to a department store that had only one of the three registers in the men's department staffed, and a line eight-people long. I actually abandoned my intended purchases at the department store because number two in line ended up in a "Who's on First?" exchange about making a payment on their store-brand credit account that had me about ready to commit physical violence. I stood in that line for 20 minutes, and the beleaguered cashier didn't have anyone to call, and no one came to help him out.So I look at that experience -- where the labor is relatively cheap since a higher minimum wage has not kicked in yet in a lot of states and on a day when you would think retailers would want to capture as many sales as humanly possible -- and yet, retailers were still not staffing at a level that makes any kind of sense, given the day and the season.It makes me ask myself: when labor is even more expensive, will that really incent retailers to use it wisely? Or will they just become even more irrational about labor and cut it back even more? Why bother being open at all, if you're not going to staff? Just shut your doors and let Amazon win ...
  • Posted on: 12/14/2016

    Will Santa’s helpers deliver gifts in time for Christmas?

    Last year everyone was more careful and I fear that has created a false sense of confidence for this holiday. Even with carriers communicating cut-offs for ground vs. two-day vs. overnight, it still seems like there has been a bit of a slowdown on deliveries because capacity is more constrained than expected. But I wonder how all of this marries up with the fact that early indicators are that consumers actually did shop earlier in November this year. At some point the budget will run out and there won't be more to buy -- or deliver.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2016

    Is in-store videoconferencing omnichannel’s logical next step?

    I'm actually bullish on the concept, and I'm personally not a big fan of video. But here's the deal. Chat is awful. Especially when you know it's a bot or worse, someone in a call center in another country cutting and pasting stock responses into the chat window. Video enables a much more personal and human connection, and what better connection to make than one with an associate in your local store?It's not going to work for everything — I can't really see a grocery store thinking this is valuable, nor a grocery shopper wanting to video chat with a store associate about a can of peas. But when I was looking for a drum set for my daughter, for example — that would be a perfect opportunity, especially in the used/resale market. See the product you're most interested in, talk to an expert — and not just a faceless, nameless person, but someone you could go meet in person....And before people write it off as too expensive or too distracting for in-store employees, think about the value of already having a local connection — through online interactions — that could potentially drive not just one trip to the store, but repeat trips through developing a relationship.

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