PROFILE

Phil Rubin

CEO, rDialogue

Phil is CEO of rDialogue, an Atlanta-based customer marketing firm with clients ranging from mid-market to Fortune 100 and in industries including retail, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, dining, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Representative clients include Caribou Coffee, Cracker Barrel, Kimpton Hotels and Sprint, as well as a number of clients that can’t be named like a world famous customer-centric department store.

He has nearly 20 years of strategic marketing experience with an emphasis on customer loyalty and relationship marketing, integrated communications, partnership development, promotions and program development. He founded the loyalty practice at Loyaltyworks and led the spin-off of the practice to rDialogue. Prior to Loyaltyworks he was Group Vice President and General Manager of The Lacek Group, a loyalty marketing firm now part of OgilvyOne. While at Lacek he established the Atlanta office and was responsible for leading the development and implementation of relationship marketing strategies on behalf of clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cox Communications and UPS.

Phil has developed and managed loyalty and relationship marketing as a client both at Midway Airlines and at GTE Wireless (now Verizon). He began his career going through Macy’s Executive Training Program and working in store management.

Phil has an M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing and Strategy from Tulane University and a B.S. in finance from L.S.U.

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  • Posted on: 08/25/2016

    Can Best Buy build momentum with new services and IoT?

    Best Buy, as everyone is agreeing, is on the right path with IoT and should easily outpace brick-and-mortar legacy rivals like J.C. Penney and Sears. Amazon, not so much. But Best Buy, more than other brick-and-mortar merchants, knows how to leverage its capabilities around customer data via CRM activities (e.g., Reward Zone, digital communications) that will amplify its physical advantages, including Geek Squad. Having nicely integrated payment and credit features helps as well and it's great to see Best Buy continuing on the right path.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2016

    Has beauty been the ‘missing link’ for Kohl’s business?

    It's very smart of Kohl's to recognize the value of beauty as a category, though this is not a newsflash to other more traditional department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom. Now more than ever, beauty as a category is a traffic driver, a frequency play and an "affordable indulgence" as much as it is a reflection on consumers seeking wellness, at least in terms of aging and appearance. It's recession-proof as even in tough times beauty is steadfast and often a contra-indicator (the "Lipstick Index").
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will Amazon drive-up grocery stores disrupt food retailing?

    It is a huge mistake to think that Amazon will fail to disrupt any market, given its track record. While it does not bat 1.000, it does pretty well and has disrupted business for everyone from Nordstrom to Netflix. Underestimate AMZN at your own peril.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Will other brands follow Birkenstock in cutting off Amazon?

    Any manufacturer that is going to stay away from Amazon needs to make sure it's got great retail distribution that can compete with Amazon. Birkenstock has a powerful brand so it's possible this will be a good move for them but for many others, and perhaps for Birkenstock as well, they will be not only biting the proverbial hand that feeds them, but perhaps cutting off their own.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Will Adidas’s Speedfactory disrupt shoe production?

    Customization in the athletic footwear category is nothing new and something that's long been embraced by the category leader, Nike and its sibling, Converse. While this is an interesting step — no pun intended — and an interesting location (for me, being based in Atlanta), Adidas is lagging behind Nike and Under Armour in terms of momentum and category leadership, so it's at least good in terms of PR but falls short, especially given the volume, of making up some key gaps. All you have to do is walk into one of the Adidas doors to see the contrast.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Where would J.C. Penney be without Sears?

    Two thoughts come to mind when it comes to J.C. Penney and Sears:
    1. Jim Valvano's strategy of simply "being in a position to win" when the game is on the line that brought him and NC State a championship in 1987, against very long odds. For J.C. Penney this is a function of making the necessary changes a few years ago after its disastrous pivot under Ron Johnson in order to survive. These changes are clearly bearing fruit for the business, which is now more customer-centric in its business strategy than perhaps it ever has been. This kind of focus on customers is a winning strategy. Period.
    2. A good friend and colleague said, in the early days of our firm, "sometimes it's not how good we are but how bad everybody else is." Sears isn't doing much to make things more challenging for its competitors. While this is clearly not the only explanation for J.C. Penney's recent success, it's certainly helping.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Are supermarkets digitally disconnected from retailing reality?

    Grocers have a built-in advantage over some emerging new models but the longer they fail to innovate the more they will be displaced like retailers in other categories. Whether it's new models like Blue Apron, mass merchants like Target increasing their emphasis on grocery or Amazon Fresh, there are plenty of threats to grocers who are and continue to lag behind where consumers and technology are going.Beyond some of the individual relationships, the main driver of grocery "loyalty" is habit as much as it is anything else. Beyond those local relationships, which are really tough to scale, grocery shopping, in spite of the data being collected, is still too much of a mass marketing and old-school game.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2016

    Is brick & mortar ready to leverage in-store shopper data?

    It is imperative that brick & mortar retailers leverage customer data beyond digital channels, which means in physical stores. There is more data and increasingly affordable technologies that can distill critical insights in what we describe as "the last three feet of retail." Between payments, geospatial data, digital "sensors" (e.g., beacons, apps, RFID/Bluetooth and WiFi), the opportunities exceed the willingness of most retailers to innovate.Retailers that fail to innovate are increasingly vulnerable to Amazon, as well as other innovative merchants (PIRCH comes to mind as an example). More than vulnerable, they are going to be "retail road kill" as Amazon and others focus on customers, data and relevance, relegating others to fight for scraps and ultimately, liquidation values.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2016

    Amazon launches Prime Air

    Amazon continues to lead and develop its own path forward as it grows and expands its dominance. Investing in air cargo capacity is another example of how multi-dimensional Amazon's business plan is and likewise an additional pillar in support of a bullish case for its business.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2016

    Why is Target making nice with Amazon?

    These sentences from the article say it all: "The news that Target is bringing Amazon items back, industry watchers say, is a nod to reality. Amazon isn’t going anywhere and Target shares many customers with the e-tailer."Indeed Amazon isn't going anywhere and everyone shares customers with Amazon. Target, more than others, has had a more strategic relationship with Amazon in the past and perhaps this thawing in relations is a first step in a closer and even more strategic relationship in the future. Target might be very well served to do just that. Amazon too, for that matter.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2016

    Will Target and Harry’s make for a perfect retail partnership?

    This is a smart and totally win-win deal for both Target and Harry's. Target gets to protect and even grow its men's grooming business with a brand that will grow share of wallet among customers and expand reach. Harry's gets incredible and on-brand retail distribution with a merchant that is among the leaders in balancing what's good for the business and what's good for customers (and what's good for its suppliers).The loser here is Gillette and also the other legacy brands in the category, though they are already on their way to losing share here to Harry's and Dollar Shave Club.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2016

    Where should retailers concentrate their tech focus?

    Tech R&D investment is absolutely critical for survival but ONLY if it is reflective of a company's business strategy, objectives and priorities. That said, at least some of the strategy, objectives and priorities should be about the customer which leads me to suggest that investing in tech R&D to improve the customer experience is a winning answer, if not the winning one.Clearly Amazon and Mr. Bezos have long seen the customer as their number one "obsession" and if there's any question regarding how that has paid off please see their stock performance.Unfortunately most retailers see things differently, which is why they are mostly getting crushed these days.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2016

    Why has retail’s transition to data-driven enterprises been so arduous?

    If you need evidence that retailers have been too slow to be leverage analytics and be more data-driven, just look at their stock prices. There is an increasingly clear and sizable gap between retailers that are customer-centric and data-driven versus and more traditional merchants. Using data and, in turn, analytics to support, inform and drive the business is essential and a core element of being customer-centric. Like Amazon.Retailers have under-invested in technology to leverage data -- especially beyond systems to support merchandise information -- and have been lagging in areas like relationship and loyalty marketing. While there are plenty of (generally weak) retail loyalty programs, the key value of such programs is the data yield and the output is a better customer experience. Like Amazon.Until retail leadership makes the customer a priority in the overall business plan, leveraging analytics, moving beyond mass marketing and creating more valuable customer relationships to drive the business won't happen.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2016

    Is Amazon.com retail’s 800-pound gorilla or a crafty coyote?

    Thanks for your comments Doug. My point about Nordstrom was less about eCommerce and more about how, across ALL channels but stores especially, it has failed to keep up with the customer promise that its brand and business was founded on. Macy's too, for that matter (my first job after undergrad was going through their Executive Training Program and then working in store management).Nordstrom had the chance to do so after launching Fashion Rewards in 2007 (we helped there) but never was able to commit to relationship marketing, ironically because that was "owned" internally by the direct division, which includes eCommerce!I agree with you completely about the eCommerce channel, which is why retailers that are also or more store-based need to create a better experience for customers. Amazon has done that better than anyone in digital channels and it results in far fewer reasons to visit a Nordstrom door. One eCommerce strategy worth considering, especially for mono brand retailers, is to sell through rather than against AMZN. At least a mono brand retailer has the margins to do so.Last weekend I visited a Pirch store for the first time and it blew me away. Far and away the most exciting retail store experience that I've seen in a long time and one that will be reasonably well insulated from AMZN!
  • Posted on: 07/20/2016

    Is Amazon.com retail’s 800-pound gorilla or a crafty coyote?

    Whether Amazon is an 800-pound gorilla or a crafty coyote is one way to think about it but the reality is that its both, neither and a whole lot more. People and companies, retailers especially, have long underestimated Amazon and those that continue to do so will find growth a significant challenge. Just look at Nordstrom.Most retailers, unless they have an exceptional customer experience that extends to the physical world (i.e., stores and other tangible points of distribution that are not purely digital) are going to lose to Amazon eventually. How many retailers do we know that are that good? Sadly, it's a short list.The gap in what Amazon is capable of -- its reach, its ability to integrate a variety of offerings and most importantly, the wrapper of all this in a "customer-obsessed" culture that has been a driving force in its business for more than 20 years -- and most retailers mean they must aggressively innovate or die.

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