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: 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.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Are $3.00 generics a sound grocery e-tailing model?

    Meh. I feel like this is a lot of hype for what is not fundamentally any real, differentiating business model. This whole "brandless" argument is the worst kind of marketing hype and it must be a slow news week because I'm a bit startled at just how much attention the concept is getting. They're advertising, they're promoting, they still have to make consumers aware of them. They have to make an investment into educating consumers about the value proposition involved in the products they're selling, which is basically low price and quality ingredients. The only thing a brand is, when it comes down to it, is a shortcut to understanding what you can rely on about the products you're buying. That's it.So they make you buy them in round-dollar increments ($3 won't be the only price point forever) -- which, as others have pointed out, is not any different than a dollar store, just with a bit more confidence that the stuff didn't come from a container washed up from China. Like I said, meh.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2017

    How will 3-D printing take hold at retail?

    All you have to do is use a 3-D printer once and you will see right away that the technology is a long way away from either an application on a store floor at scale, or an application in the consumer's home capable of producing retail-quality products. My son has two 3-D printers and a table full of bad print jobs. The issues that hang him up are not related to the printer function itself. There is simply a lot of configuration and testing to get the right combination of speed of printing, heat of the extruder, scaffolding to support whatever you're trying to build and internal structure and composition of your design. And once you think you have that figured out, you then have to compensate for weather -- the temperature in the room, but also the humidity has a big impact. And for all I know, high pollen days or ozone alert days where particulate matter in the air is overly high.The point is, these things are still super finicky. And it's way more art than science in getting something to print successfully. More commercial/industrial machines don't have these problems at the same scale, but there's a reason why most of the tests listed above were limited -- because you can't just throw it into the back room of a store and assign a part-time sales associate to babysit it.I'm sure it will develop and mature. I'm not sure it will move so quickly as all that. And with the skills and resources required to keep these machines printing effectively, I'm not sure it's a cost effective trade-off against a traditional supply chain -- yet. There's a long way to go. This is nowhere near its hockey stick of adoption.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    How can retailers make employee recognition resonate?

    None of this works if the company cannot demonstrate that it authentically cares about its employees. If employees are bitter or feel used or abused by everyday policies and interactions with management, no amount of gratitude for a milestone - even if the person driving the program themselves genuinely cares for the employee - will ever come across as genuine. So in this list, I would order company culture #1. If you have a company culture that doesn't revere company heroes, or whose idea of recognizing a company hero is a lousy gift card that, by the way, has exclusions on how it can be used (I've been the recipient of an employee recognition gift certificate that could not be used on electronics or appliances. How awesome is that!), then calling someone out as a company hero is just a slap in the face.What's most dangerous about such programs (and I'm not advocating against them so much as advocating to be genuine and meaningful about them) is how easy it is for corporate headquarters people to misread the store attitude. Things that seem to be little or no big deal are often very big deals to the people most impacted (let's talk about on call scheduling, for example). So someone with good intentions can suddenly find themselves blundering into a minefield.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    How smart is’s decision to delist Costco’s Kirkland brand?

    It's funny to consider this question today, when rumors are flying that Amazon is going to start carrying IKEA products. At some point you have to ask where the line is, because it gets blurrier every day. Selling Amazon Echos, using Amazon Web Services, carrying Costco's private label brand. I guess it comes down to doing what makes customers happy while also delivering the best margin to you. If you can do that without competitors' products, great. And if you can't, you better find a way to do it WITH competitors' products.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Can retailers escape the scourge of free shipping?

    Well, there's free and then there's fast, and I think you need to distinguish between the two. Consumers may expect free shipping, but does that expectation really include two-day? Next-day?I suspect we are headed toward a permanent landscape of free ground shipping (up to seven days) -- and even within that, the potential for a minimum order to avoid a shipping charge, then membership-driven or very large baskets to get free two-day shipping, and membership-driven or a premium charge to get next-day or same-day.The reality is, no matter how it settles out, retailers have to get sharper about their supply chains and how to position inventory to meet demand -- and how to get it to customers quickly and cheaply. The days of fulfillment being a profit center are definitely over.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

    Are smart speakers limited as a shopping tool?

    If mobile conversion is lower than desktop, and most people attribute that to the highly visual nature and ease of use of the desktop experience even as more and more people shop on mobile, how does a completely image-free shopping experience ever hope to hold a candle to it?That's not what home hubs are about -- discovery or browsing or any of that. They're about reordering and convenience. "Alexa, turn on the living room lights." "Alexa, place my favorite Starbucks order." It's the maintenance device, not the discovery device.But retailers should not be complacent, even if that's the only niche these home hubs occupy. Because the convenience of reordering could lose them a lot of business they depend on today. "Alexa, order more toilet paper."
  • 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.

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