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.

  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Subscription services are moving beyond just being surprise boxes

    I very much agree with the idea that this is a relationship. I've tried quite a few different subscriptions and I like the idea of being delighted, or of having one less thing to worry about (like needing to buy more dog food). But as soon as it becomes more hassle than delight, then the value of the subscription gets questioned. That's what happened with my family and Lootcrate. The quality of the t-shirts went downhill and while some people may value some of the online freebies, my family really didn't. it pretty much comes down to three strikes and you're out. Three boxes in a row that don't deliver, and the subscription gets cancelled.So, data crunching is crucial, and so is community -- not just for the stickiness of being part of something fun, but also to sense if you're hitting or missing on a box. As soon as that happens, the company needs to be on notice that they have a customer at risk of canceling.It's not an easy business. But at this point, I think it's a pretty established part of the overall retail model -- I don't think it's going away. I believe that pretty much every retailer needs to think about if they have a subscription opportunity, because the flip side of three strikes is that as long as you keep delighting, people will keep subscribing.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2017

    Are staff shortages affecting retail sales?

    Probably the clearest sign that a store is understaffed is all those "Help Wanted" signs in the windows and doors as you walk in. Or maybe even the latest signs I've been seeing that say "Weekly job fair on [XX day] -- we'll hire you on the spot!".If you're having problems finding all the people you need, then the issue is not the people, it's your wage. Or benefits -- because, honestly, retailers leave a lot of value on the table by not thinking about some of the "soft" benefits that employees really value, like shift flexibility or putting schedules out far in advance so they can plan their lives.Bottom line, I think retailers already know they're well past muscle and into bone. What I don't get is the continued refusal to recognize that the issue is that the labor market has heated up, and if they want to compete, they have to pay. From what we've seen in the market, even investors expect that retailers will have to reinvest in labor. With the store in such a precarious position in terms of meeting consumer expectations, retailers better get on it quick, before they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Customer data is grocery’s new battleground

    Well, I guess we could say that AMAZON is busy using customer data to transform the grocery shopping experience. As for everyone else, there are still too many barriers in the way: as Ken says, too shortsighted a view of the opportunity, as well as too many silos, an IT investment perspective focused on cost containment rather than strategic investment and too few internal skill sets prepared to use the data gathered in any long-term, strategic way.We just completed a study on customer engagement in retail, to be published in December. What I learned is that retailers think "promotions" are the same thing as "engagement." And that pretty much sums up everything that is wrong in retail today -- and grocers are no exception.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Is private label grocery about to go to the next level?

    Is this about private label? Or is it about the declining power of brands in general? My money is on the latter. It's not that Amazon or Lidl are private label powerhouses (though they are). It's that consumers don't care to pay premiums for nebulous brand promises (though I would argue they WILL pay premiums for value -- it just has to match up to their expectations of what value is).I think there's also something to say for niches. Big brands don't want to take on the risk of going after niche markets -- if it's not a billion dollar brand, it's not worth the effort. But there is plenty of money to be made by going after product categories or ingredients or health benefits that meet smaller niches -- and in fact, with the granularity of social media targeting, it's cheaper than ever to reach those people. If big, national brands aren't going to adapt to fill those niches, then why not private label?The most important thing to remember, though, is not to confuse chickens and eggs. The fact that Amazon/Whole Foods means a bigger opportunity for 365 isn't a testament to Amazon. It's a testament to their ability to use data to identify consumer trends and then exploit those trends. You can't sell things that people aren't willing to buy.
  • Posted on: 11/10/2017

    Omnichannel is just a term to describe everyday shopping

    Um, retailers have been implementing omnichannel strategies for the last eight years. A lot of them have been what I've called "shellac," as in a thin outer coating that makes promises to consumers while changing very little internally. But we are definitely reaching the tipping point where retailers can no longer protect their internal structures -- organizational structures, processes, tech investments, economic models -- from the changes required to be truly "omnichannel."However I would argue that it's less about omnichannel and more about data. Retailers need to get into far more of a data-driven mindset than they are today. THAT's where Amazon is killing it, not by being omnichannel.And I would just like to note that any argument over the term omnichannel is just a distraction. We need to call it something. Who cares what it is? But it's not fair to say "it's just retail" -- not yet. Because retailers clearly aren't there yet.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2017

    Are retailers caught in a content trap?

    Easy answer to these questions: it's hard to justify investing in something that doesn't have an immediate payoff. A promotion leads to sales. A conversation may lead to a more loyal customer ... eventually. And if that more loyal customer spreads the word to other customers, that's very hard to track or measure. So they fall back on what's tried and true.To get out of this, either someone needs to prove that engaging in conversation pays more long-term than engaging in promotions, or someone needs to take a header and just give it a try to see what it really gets them. But most retailers don't have the confidence -- or the runway -- to cut short-term benefits for nebulous long-term gains.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2017

    Is Ace on-brand with The Grommet acquisition?

    Yeah, I think it does. I think there's going to be a lot more activity in the future around maker spaces and the results of efforts from those maker spaces, and it makes sense for big chain retailers to get in on that. Another one that seems like a match made in heaven: Best Buy and b8ta. The future of retail will not be won by who has the best brands. It will be won by who has the most unique experiences (and the products to go with them).
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?

    Yes, retailers confuse "experience" and "service" all the time. I think of experience as before the sale and service as after the sale, as a general way of distinguishing the two -- customer service doesn't always have to be in the context of "wow."But I don't think axioms are the issue -- the whole structure of retail is designed to make it difficult to deliver dependable -- great -- customer experiences. From the low-cost, cookie-cutter employee model in stores, to the technology decisions that have created inflexible siloed processes -- yes, it requires heroic effort on the part of the business AND on the part of customers, to create great experiences and sometimes even to get great customer service.That's why it's so hard to change. Yeah, T.J. Maxx isn't going to implement the same kind of employee model or customer experience strategy as Barneys. But neither should they (or any company, for that matter) be complacent about whether the experience their customers are getting right now is good enough.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2017

    Costco ups its delivery game for online orders

    I agree, it's something Costco needs to do if they want to stay relevant. And they should probably expect a bigger response than they'd maybe like to see. As a Costco shopper who would love not to have to haul my purchases home, I'm all for it.I have to say, though, they will really need to upgrade their online experience if they want this to work. That's part and parcel, pun intended!
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Thrive Market co-founder: ‘Data and storytelling go hand in hand’

    Paula and I are working on a benchmark survey on exactly this question. We framed it as "customer engagement" (results coming next month). We've already found some depressing things: retailers believe consumers are only motivated by price and nothing else, and yet they also believe that brand identity is increasingly important to consumers. They want to understand their customers better, but consistently turn away from data to focus on pushing promotions and advertising.So my answer to the question is: no. Retailers stink at combining data and story-telling. Apparently, the only thing they're good at is advertising price reductions on items they sell. No wonder they're struggling.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    I'm not sure that this is the whole story. Ironically, there is a press inquiry in my inbox as I write this, from a reporter looking for commentary on how Millennials are getting more considered in their buying, looking for less but higher quality."Fast" has to be balanced with "sustainable." I don't think it's fickleness and flocking to the next big thing that is driving the pressure to be fast. It's that if consumers see it, they expect they won't have to wait six months before it makes it into distribution. If they see it, and want it, they'll find it. And if you don't have it, you lose. But there are environmental consequences to "fast," and ethical ones, and Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly conscious of those.So yeah, lead times need to be shorter. But don't think of this as disposable fashion -- good for a few wears and then off to the next. I think that will turn out to be a mistake.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2017

    Has Amazon created another high-draw shopping model with its Treasure Trucks?

    This doesn't strike me as a highly scalable model -- scarcity of both the truck and the items available on the truck seem to be an important part of making this last. I do like the part treasure hunt, part food truck (hunting down or keeping on the lookout for your favorite food trucks), part steal of the century concept. There are a lot of elements going for the concept. But it works in part because it's Amazon, so awareness of the truck is high (thanks in part to a large amount of media coverage). The deals they opened with are the kind that would get people chasing a truck ($60 NES Classic?!) and Amazon can frankly afford for this to bomb from a profitability standpoint and still "win" -- through delighting customers, showing a bit more personality and fun than they usually do and bolstering their reputation for delivering amazing deals.Could a start-up pull this off? I highly doubt it. Could Macy's or Best Buy copy it? Yeah, I guess. Problem is, they didn't think of it first. And actually, that's the real challenge here -- that other retailers who have been in the business longer didn't come up with the idea themselves, not anything to do with business model or home delivery or anything else.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Why is Amazon paying full-price for third-party inventory?

    Anyone who still persists in believing that Amazon is about lowest price is way behind the times. Amazon is about convenience -- that's what Dash buttons and Alexa voice ordering is all about. And Amazon is about ensuring that they remain, if not grow, their mindshare capture as the "Google of products." If they have to buy products at full price from their marketplace sellers in order to ensure they're meeting those two objectives, which ultimately translates into "guaranteed place to find what you're looking for," I would consider that merely a marketing investment on their part, and well worth the ROI.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    Is the one-stop grocery shop coming to an end?

    I feel like this is a pretty easy one to answer. One, a higher concentration of urban living makes the weekly trip impractical just from a storage perspective. Two, people care a lot more today about what they put in their bodies than they did when I was a kid and I only expect that trend to continue. Three, I think there is some anticipation of the behavior that may come from omnichannel grocery buying. My household is halfway there. We get center-store basics like toilet paper, paper towels, Cheerios and dog food on subscription. It's not 100 percent of our basics purchases, but it will probably move that way in the future. Because it's not 100 percent, our family splits between Sprouts for fresh and Target for everything else. And as our basics purchases move to 100 percent subscription, it's going to be Target that loses -- not Sprouts.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2017

    Will H&M perform better after ending monthly sales reports?

    Yes, yes, 100 percent yes. When you have to spend more time explaining why this June's numbers are different because this date was a Saturday last year and there was that big festival that happened across a bunch of markets last year that fell in July this year and on and on -- when you have to spend more time doing that than actually reporting your results -- you need to shift to quarterly reporting.I agree, however, that it doesn't solve the problem of short-term thinking. But it does at least let the company spend more time talking about where it wants to go, rather than focusing on why this month wasn't really comparable to the same month a year ago.

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