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: 06/21/2017

    Why did McDonald’s end its Olympic sponsorship?

    The Olympics, politics aside, are an expensive sponsorship in both actual dollars and relative to other, more measurable marketing investments. Perhaps MCD realized that it could better invest the money in customers or a better customer experience? They seem to be making good progress on their turnaround and this just might align with that strategy.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    These surcharges are relatively minimal in the context of whatever the total basket of goods will be. If time matters -- and it does -- it's a relatively small price to pay for either the retailer or the customer. Given the significance of Black Friday, if anything is surprising it's that the surcharge isn't higher.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Will the Bonobos acquisition give Walmart a fashion edge?

    Three thoughts on Walmart buying Bonobos, especially contrasted against Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods Market.
    1. If you consider Amazon's now 20-year obsession with customers and Walmart's lengthier obsession with low prices and size, it's hard to relate to what Walmart is trying to achieve if it has anything to do with either Walmart's or Bonobos' customers.
    2. As a fairly loyal Bonobos customer and someone who only shops Walmart to pay attention to what's going on there, this deal is a turn off. As someone who devotes his professional life to customer marketing, it's equally a turnoff.
    3. Walmart's core acquisition -- i.e., Jet.com -- was smart given Amazon's lead over Walmart in digital commerce. This deal might buy Walmart some talent, but it's not going to be overly accretive nor is it going to be explicitly synergistic. Again, contrast this to Amazon and Whole Foods sharing a core customer base of more affluent customers, a commitment to those customers and commitments to making the world better and it's difficult to see Walmart with a brilliant grand strategy here.
    4. Beyond Andy Dunn's implied interest in working with Jet.com's Marc Lore, which could be quite palpable, it's hard to see other Bonobos employees being terribly excited about working for Walmart. By contrast, there is tremendous enthusiasm at Whole Foods about working with Amazon.
    If I ran a long/short hedge fund this would lead me to (remain) being long Amazon and short Walmart.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Is it time for stores to ditch the free Wi-Fi?

    While there are a number of retailers that still do not offer in-store Wi-Fi, the research and the common sense to recognize that doing anything that degrades an in-store customer experience is only going to help retailers fail faster should be enough to answer this question. There are all kinds of benefits to retailers and customers with offering Wi-Fi, including in-building penetration of cellular signals and the ability to actually know who's in the store (not that retailers view this as a priority LOL).The future of retail and the future of loyalty revolve around more than just the right goods...the future depends on a better customer experience. Retail totally fails at this today as an industry and we are going to see closings, bankruptcies and declines in valuations continue.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Are some retailer CEOs too old to learn new tricks?

    Having worked for a once-great retailer (Macy's) and many others as clients, retail lacks great leadership for this century. I agree with Gene Detroyer in his comments that there is still too much arrogance and myopia in the industry.That arrogance and myopia is in contrast to retail leaders prioritizing customers not just as a marketing strategy, but as a fundamental business strategy. I've lost count of how many retail executives, when asked whether they perceive Amazon as a threat, have dismissed the notion by saying "we don't compete with Amazon." Darwinism in industry as in nature.Just yesterday there was a story citing a study that revealed that nearly half of retail (42 percent) has no plans to offer same-day delivery.Maybe more retail executives should pay attention to Amazon's stock price and, even better, read Jeff Bezos' letter to shareholders from 1997.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    How should self-checkout be incentivized?

    The encouragement, where appropriate, to use self-checkout is simple: it's a better experience than waiting for a live cashier. When it's not, customers will not want to use it, or use it reluctantly. In terms of inhibitors, a longer line is the obvious starting point, much as a long line in a staffed check-out is an inhibitor to using that versus self-checkout.Like so much of retail, it comes down to people and systems. Self checkout is always shorter at Costco, which also staffs the self-checkout lines for when you purchase wine which requires human intervention for age/ID validation.Also, like so much of retail, companies need to shift their thinking from discounts as the only way to motivate customers. The power of a better customer experience is not only more powerful, it's more profitable.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2017

    Will mobile wallets replace plastic loyalty cards?

    Without question, mobile adoption for payments and loyalty are the future (and for leading brands, the present). However, mobile adoption and integration is not a silver bullet to reverse the negative trends in loyalty program engagement and participation.The bigger issue is the dearth of effective relationship marketing to support the loyalty programs and demonstrate brands' ability to recognize customers. It will take more than mobile to solve these problems, but rather some significant shifts in how retailers and other brands employ loyalty strategy on an enterprise wide and brand-driven basis.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -- Samuel L. Clemens aka Mark Twain.As we read each day of chains filing for bankruptcy, some not for the first time (e.g., RadioShack), let's consider some notable exceptions -- smaller proprietors emerging in categories that are otherwise ripe for sightings of "the walking dead." Take menswear and Sid Mashburn. What started as a sole proprietorship in Atlanta has now expanded to five markets stretching from east to west across the U.S. It's still a sole proprietorship and it has also been ranked and mentioned by the likes of GQ and Esquire as a top menswear merchant in the U.S.Smaller operators may have (some) disadvantages in terms of purchasing power but they can crush large chains when it comes to merchandising, concepts and a superior branded experience.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Will Dick’s Sporting Goods win by cutting SKUs?

    One of the fundamentals of retail merchandising I learned at Macy's (not today's Macy's, the original that ended after is disastrous LBO) was that "narrow and deep" wins. While mass merchants (Amazon, Walmart) struggle with that, department and specialty stores need to embrace such a strategy. Props to Dick's for not trying to sell everything to everyone.Relatedly, retailers should take a similar approach to customer management -- segmenting and then investing appropriately.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will the AWS outage make retailers think twice about cloud?

    Cloud computing, done right, is still reliable and the economics are such that retailers have no real choice. That said, and as Paula Rosenblum aptly points out, retail leaders need to be responsible for their own technology stacks, disaster recovery, backups, switchovers, etc. These leaders are retail executives and vendor executives. No technology is perfect and just like any other "vendor," beyond the product itself it's the people behind it that matter most.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Why are stores waiting until checkout to ID shoppers?

    The biggest limitation with shopper identification in brick-and-mortar retail environments is neither technology nor shopper apprehension. It is retail strategy where neither customers nor customer-focused technology (which should follow customer strategy) have been top priorities, at least for most retailers. While there are exceptions, retailers have struggled to do fundamental things like accurately track real-time store-level inventories, so it's not a surprise that in-store customer identification prior to a POS experience hasn't been a top priority.Retail technology is not easy, as there are a lot of moving parts. What is easy (or at least easier), is reprioritizing a business strategy that is more focused on customers and their customer experience.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    What does it take to drive a top-down plan for customer-centricity?

    There's no doubt that customer-centricity starts at the top: not just the C-suite, but the CEO and ultimately, the board. We see many clients (companies) where there is a shift to customer centricity -- including from some of the world's great brands -- but too often it's nothing more than lip service or messaging.For customer-centricity to be genuine, it means that the company's business strategy includes the customer as a top priority. By our assessment, this prioritization means that the customer commitment is a top-3 or at worst, a top-5 priority within a company's business plan. This type of commitment means it's measurable, and talked about not just internally but externally. The external communications are essential and ensure accountability from shareholders and Wall Street, the ultimate scorecards (for public companies).
  • Posted on: 02/10/2017

    Is personalization better appreciated online or in stores?

    Too often we confuse or mis-associate personalization with relevance and recognition. There are degrees of precision that are both valued and appreciated and those are not necessarily aligned with what we often consider as personalization, which is more 1:1.Retailers struggle to be precise -- see the discussion earlier this week on how most retailers guess whether they have goods in-stock for BOPIS -- and once you get to a store-level this makes personalization problematic.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Did President Trump go too far with his Nordstrom tweet?

    We've all been hearing that "the rules no longer apply" and this is now more true than ever. Politics are increasingly inseparable from business and vice-versa, and that is largely due to the POTUS and his executive actions in his first few weeks. It's not just Nordstrom either. Look at Uber and Lyft, where the former saw mass customer defection due to its CEO meeting with POTUS. And Nike and Under Armour, where the CEOs of each company have taken very different positions, with Mark Parker coming out clearly against the Executive Order on immigration and Kevin Plank coming out staunching supporting Trump.We are only at the beginning and the longer-term ramifications are not yet understood. What is clear, however, is that brand loyalty will be either reinforced or eroded through increasingly political forces.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

    How good is ‘close enough’ when it comes to in-store inventory?

    It's so classic when it comes to retailers literally guessing whether or not they can satisfy customers. If they guess right, then terrific. Guess wrong and it's more than a fail when there are so many alternatives (e.g., Amazon) that offer a much greater degree of certainty.I recently had a similar experience to Nikki's with Best Buy. After ordering online and giving the store 45 minutes to pull the items, they were not available. It was a quiet day in the store and there were plenty of associates milling around, not looking particularly busy. Given that I was pressed for time and frustrated, I simply asked them to cancel the order and bought from Amazon. The goods came from Amazon as expected and it took Best Buy 10 days to fulfill its promise to cancel my order. Total fail.BOPIS is a great concept but when you arrive at the store and it's significantly faster and easier to order from Amazon (in hindsight) or walk to the goods on the floor for purchase, the brand trust the retailer might have had quickly erodes.

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