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: 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.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2016

    Will e-gifting replace gift cards?

    As someone who knows how to find my family members on Facebook but would have to dig around to find a shipping address, I think it's safe to say that digital gifting is only going to grow.But I think retailers have to pay attention to the personalization aspect of it. RSR evaluates retailers' e-gifting experiences nearly every year, and we find that it's not about convenience so much as it is about making something that feels impersonal and distant actually be very personal and high-touch. Video, pictures, music and the ability to share socially are all important aspects of personalization that e-gift cards provide that are harder for plastic giving. And the idea of making it easy to give something that needs to be customized or configured will definitely help digital gifting gain acceptance.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2016

    Are retail associates ready to deal with abusive customers?

    I think retailers need to be sensitive to the amount of frustration their experience creates in customers. We've come out of decades of cutting labor in stores, of forcing self-service onto customers, of forcing store employees to tell customers, "I'd like to help you but my system won't let me do that." Violence on planes is a good example -- what do you expect to happen when you cram people together into less space than they've ever had, nickel and dime'd them to get there and then tell them things like "The flight is cancelled and we don't have another for four days, sorry." Of COURSE you will get people who are willing to cross the lines of polite society.I think you're seeing the same thing in action in retail, though to a much lesser extent. You made me stand in line at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in order to get the TV I can afford, and after standing in that line for hours, I got there and you didn't have it? Yeah, it's not going to be pretty. I filled my basket at your store, but now you expect me to stand in a line 20-people long because you only have one lane open? You can tell me all you want about how the three other people who were supposed to show up called in sick and it's not your fault, but guess what? It is -- because you didn't pay people enough to make them willing to come in, or you didn't hire the right people to begin with, or whatever it is.Violence -- even rudeness -- is not an appropriate response to these frustrations. It never is. But I see too many retailers who don't care if the line gets too long -- at least they saved on payroll. Or they don't care that they're advertising something that's out-of-stock and they promise no rain check, or the order that they told you was confirmed actually is out-of-stock and now it's too late for you to do anything about it because it's sold out everywhere. Retailers heap a lot of indignities onto customers and turn a blind eye to -- or then complain about! -- the consequences. They need to own their responsibility for contributing to the environment of frustration that leads to people lashing out. Everyone needs to have more respect and empathy for the people around them and bad customer behavior should not be tolerated -- but you might take a moment and ask yourself, why are they so angry at me?
  • Posted on: 11/28/2016

    Online wins the Black Friday weekend again

    No new factors that I saw. Just the same inevitable trends. Retailers want customers to come to stores because they want the opportunity to sell to them more once they get there. Thus doorbusters and early (or late on Thanksgiving) holiday hours. But consumers have changed their shopping behaviors -- they cherry pick the deals and meanwhile capture other deals on their mobile phones while they're in a competitor's store. Thus traffic is down, online is up and mobile is also up. No mystery there!
  • Posted on: 11/08/2016

    What will Christmas on Sunday mean for last-minute deliveries?

    I don't remember any egregious misses last holiday season on the shipment front, certainly not like in 2014. I would attribute that to better communication between retailers and shippers. Retailers can no longer treat parcel delivery as an infinite capacity resource, but if they can give relatively accurate estimates of what they will need and do it with enough advance notice then everyone can win -- retailers, shippers, and customers. But I agree with Lee -- it's going to be an issue no matter what day of the year the holiday falls on.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2016

    Ode to retail: Death of the traditional mall

    Well, there are two points in the article that especially resonate for me. One, that we can't keep looking at channel sales. Online needs to be combined with stores and success needs to be examined by geography of the customer, not by store location. Two, that mall owners need to adopt the mindset of concert promoters and, relatedly, that malls will be destinations first and commerce will be second.When people say "shopping is not dead" and "the mall is not dead," we need to be really clear about what we're actually saying. Sure the mall is not dead and there will be malls in the future -- new ones, even. But they already don't look like the mall I grew up with and they will evolve even more in the future, pretty much along the lines that Lee talks about here. There are too many people who hear "the mall is not dead" and think they don't need to change. And that, in my opinion, is a fatal error.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2016

    At Amazon Books, only Prime members get the best price

    Other than the fact that they started out offering the same prices to everyone and now have changed the policy, I feel like this is a non-event. Grocery stores offer club pricing to their members and have for years and years. If Amazon wants to operate that way, they are welcome to give it a go.What I don't fully understand, though, is that non-Prime members can still get the low prices online, right? Just not with two-day shipping? So Amazon is putting into place a strategy that it explicitly took advantage of at other brick-and-mortar retailers -- the online price is lower, so why would I buy it in a store? It will be an interesting experiment to see if the price difference is enough to incent people to join Prime if they aren't already members -- is the value of having it right now at the best price worth $99 per year? Or will consumers just add to cart on their phones and go home instead of joining Prime and buying it in the store? I guess Amazon wins either way ...
  • Posted on: 11/01/2016

    Will integrating plus-size clothing boost Meijer’s apparel sales?

    I'm with Anne on this one. I think it's a great move in theory, but I think some of the practical realities may make it more challenging than it seems on the surface. Plus-sizing isn't just "bigger," it's a different fit. And lots of things that look flattering in smaller sizes aren't flattering in larger sizes -- and vice versa. So while it's a nice idea to really serve both shoppers, Meijer should continue to have some styles that are plus-size only, and some that are smaller sizes only. They can probably work that out with effective signage and some visual merchandising choices, but it's not a clean 100 percent fit to just take plus-sizes and shove them behind the smaller ones.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2016

    Should retail prices in-store be the same as online?

    We've seen it in our research again and again. Retailers would love to have different prices online vs. in-store, arguing that the costs of each channel are different. But you shouldn't be looking at your business through the lens of a single channel -- certainly, your customers do not. Your costs are your costs, no matter which channel, and everything should be priced accordingly, not based on the channel the inventory moved through.Even worse, having different prices online vs. in-store breaks trust with your customers -- as a customer, I'm supposed to trust that you are going to take care of me and offer me a fair value. But if I'm standing in a store and looking at your website, and I find the website lower, that just makes me feel like a fool for trusting you when you've obviously decided that store shoppers are more stupid than online shoppers and therefore will pay more. Because whether you mean it that way or not, that's how consumers will perceive it.That said, there is absolutely an opportunity for retailers to offer different *promotions* online vs. store, and that's something consumers understand and seem willing to accept. But you should still be prepared to match prices for the consumers who insist on it.I believe retailers completely underestimate how damaging it is to break trust with their shoppers, and this is one area where retailers can do an enormous amount of damage, fast, if they're not careful.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2016

    Will limiting incentives make Amazon reviews more credible?

    My faith in the reviews process has definitely been shaken by a recent purchase of, of all things, shampoo. I ordered the product after extensive reading of reviews for multiple options before making my choice, and my choice was definitely made based on the fact that the reviews for this product were much more positive than the other options. But when my product arrived, inside the box -- not the shipping box, but the actual product box -- I found an insert that said "review the product and we'll send you a free bottle."That gave me pause. And it shows how, sure, Amazon can tighten controls over incentivized reviews in the official sense. But how could they possibly stop these kinds of end-arounds like an insert in the box? I don't think they can. Community and transparency help, but I don't think it will be enough. Which means there probably is a future where reviews are about as useful as the comments on YouTube videos, which is unfortunate.
  • 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.

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