PROFILE

Ralph Jacobson

Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

Ralph Jacobson is the Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive for IBM. He is responsible for marketing IBM Consumer Products Industry Solutions to clients in areas including business strategy, operations and the consumer experience.

Ralph has worked in the CP and retail industries for more than thirty years. For more than a decade, Ralph has consulted to more than one-hundred clients around the globe, from Shanghai to Saudi Arabia.

Originally Ralph began his professional career at the largest supermarket company in Chicago, where he worked in store operations and marketing for seventeen years. He is married with two sons and resides north of Los Angeles, California.

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  • Posted on: 09/29/2016

    Can Snapchat Spectacles avoid the missteps of Google Glass?

    We still have quite a ways to go to see widespread adoption of wearables ... especially for the eyes. I think people are still not seeing a need for this on an ongoing basis in their lives today. I do see potential adoption in the near future (2 years or so) when convenience, fashion and desire align to drive the product category's success.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2016

    Will retailers be treated to a record-setting Halloween?

    While traditional candy shopping continues to grow slowly for this holiday, more adult activities also drive sales. The key is to leverage external data for "holidays" like this. Local events, social chatter, hot news items (candidate costumes) and even weather drive business for adults ... and kids. The ability to derive insights for the data sources is beyond the typical human merchant's analytical skills. There are some new tools to get this job done effectively now, and some innovative retailers are seeing huge gains in demand forecasting accuracy for exactly this type of holiday event.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2016

    Are smartphones changing how Americans shop from home?

    I think the transformation has already happened based upon the most recent studies. Will mobile at-home shopping adoption continue to increase? Yes. In both developed and under-developed regions of the world, shoppers are going mobile-only very rapidly. In under-developed regions, shoppers have virtually skipped the PC stage. Tablets have not penetrated shopping to the degree mobile has.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2016

    What happens when managers unintentionally demotivate employees?

    As a supermarket store manager in the '80s, I can say these are actually spot-on and super applicable yesterday and today. The issue is that these challenges continue to exist. Only individual store managers who take their "Shadow of the Leader" management style seriously will eliminate these issues ... one store manager at a time. Senior leadership can only enable via training, however, practical application is completely up to the individual.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2016

    Is consumer demand really that unpredictable?

    Of course, retailers have an inherent disadvantage of forecasting consumer demand versus other industries. Hospitality, airlines, etc. all have consumers who make reservations, so anticipated incoming demand can be very accurately determined. The trouble is, retail shoppers typically don't make reservations to go to a grocery store. One of the keys to leveraging that same kind of accuracy in retail is to ingest as much historical information about consumer demand as possible. The more data that is captured and analyzed, the better that new technologies can utilize machine learning to create "hyper-local" demand forecasts for retailers down to the individual store and individual SKU.Are many retailers using this capability? No, not yet. However, this capability does exist and it leverages unprecedented types of data from external sources including social chatter, news, local events (sports, etc.), weather, etc. and how all of these sources affect each other. The forecasting accuracy has shown significant improvements with real retailers as we speak.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2016

    Are you ready for Generation Z?

    I think we must look at the diversity of Millennials, and even boomers to realize that all Gen Z people are not alike. There will be massive shifts in lifestyles ... more experiential, for instance, than product-driven. However, that doesn't mean there aren't huge brand/product opportunities with Gen Z.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2016

    Is digital defining the shopping experience?

    Not all retailers have struggled to respond to this trend. Stores that are jumping on the digital shopping experience opportunity are gaining influence at earlier stages of the shopper journey. There are some great tools that retailers can take advantage of to leverage digital influence in the shoppers' eyes.One capability that innovative retailers are implementing is customer experience analytics. This enables marketers and customer experience professionals to quickly understand, analyze and take action on data-backed insights to improve sales, shopper engagement and conversion rates.Each application will have its own metrics and these metrics will drive the budgeting process more effectively. By 2018, Gartner believes 70 percent of eCommerce will move from B2C and B2B models to models that focus on the individual customer experience.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2016

    Will smart shoes and AI take wearables to a new level?

    Wearables have to provide compelling value to consumers with the utmost convenience. Few people still wear Bluetooth earphones (that may change with iPhone 7). Smartwatches haven't significantly penetrated the overall watch market ... yet. When the convenience of wearables, of any type and function, outweighs the inconvenience (having to also carry a smartphone, having to recharge batteries with heavy use, etc.), widespread adoption will happen.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2016

    Consumers rely on reviews, but they don’t trust them

    Human nature enters into this just a bit. Ask yourself, "Do I really trust what this stranger has written on the internet?" There are so many variables and potential reasons not to trust (e.g., "stranger," written vs. spoken face-to-face, on the internet), that shoppers tend to disbelieve at first blush. When retailers have intentional strategies that they effectively execute to "maintain" the authenticity of reviews, online reviews can become far more valuable for both shoppers and the retailer.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2016

    When will AR and VR become “realities” at retail?

    We are currently working with retailer and CPG brands on this, and we see some compelling reasons to pursue these technologies. Of course, the organization must prioritize its projects appropriately. AR/VR may end up way down the list if properly vetted. You'll see some good, practical examples at shop.org and at NRF's annual event in NYC. It's worth exploring as a potential differentiator ... for now.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2016

    Why are retailers struggling with Big Data?

    There are several challenges for retailers to overcome, which leads to the current situation found in the research. First, there is structured and unstructured data to capture. This comes from both internal (call center, customer reviews, etc.) and external (social, local events, news, weather, etc.) sources. The challenge is not only to identify, because 80 percent of data is literally invisible to the vast majority of retailers' systems, but also to capture and effectively analyze. So, to view this "dark data" you need the right tools (which are available in the marketplace today, by the way). Additionally, you need to get key lines of business (marketing, ops, merchandising, etc.) to agree on what your objectives are. This is the first piece that many retail organizations struggle to define and use to guide strategic execution. Keeping the consumer in focus and understanding which specific shopper persona you are targeting will help clarify your objectives.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2016

    These social media behaviors are turning off your followers

    I think consumers' tolerance for irrelevant ads is higher than ever, no surprise. I also think this is true in most every media channel, including TV. Who watches commercials anymore? Brands do indeed need to strike a balance between promotions and information/entertainment in order to be a credible social connection for their loyal fans. I think one of the best types of content to push on social is ways to incorporate the brand into the lifestyles of the target audience. And after the drumbeat of that kind of messaging becomes understood over time, the brand can then integrate promotions to drive shoppers toward their products and services to improve their lifestyles.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2016

    Can crowdsourced price data change shopping habits?

    I actually do know people who shop at more than one store to find the best prices ... even though their time and gas exceed their savings, most likely. However, since Basket can determine overall best prices for the entire shopping list at one store, this may indeed have legs.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2016

    Can pop-ups wake up mall traffic?

    More to the point of another of today's RetailWire articles, many Millennials (and Boomers) have shortened attention spans and anything new and intriguing will capture the attention of mall shoppers ... for at least a minute or two.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2016

    What does it take to earn Millennials’ loyalty?

    There are myriad articles on how and why Millennials are not all alike. I still believe this to be true. A key mistake marketers can make is to target them equally as a single persona. In fact, you'll find that Millennials and boomers are more alike than not. Nevertheless, I do see the point of this article. I would also add that many people in this age demographic tend to show brand loyalty to a vital few retail and/or CPG brands that truly matter to them. Loyalty is not dead. Millennials continue to prove this with their favorite tech brands, etc. Retailers and CPG companies can leverage these trends with intentional digital marketing campaigns that do not lump all Millennials together.

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