Ralph Jacobson

Global Retail & CPG Marketing, 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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Building a Smarter Planet Blog

Only 40+ years in the Retail & CPG Industries. Let's talk about your business challenges sometime soon! Maybe I've seen them before somewhere in the world, like Shanghai, Saudi Arabia or Bangalore!
  • Posted on: 02/22/2017

    How long should data consolidation take?

    This challenge can be effectively addressed today with some of the technologies you're hearing about, including machine learning/artificial intelligence. There is quite often no need to rip and replace your assortment planning and other systems and incur that massive expense. What you can do is literally augment your current applications with the help of "cognitive" APIs in a cost-effective way to help these applications "learn" as more and more data is consumed over time. Analysis will be completed in less time with better insights.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2017

    What tech tools do independent grocers need to compete with e-tailers?

    One of the statements in this article, "The pinnacle of shopping data is average basket growth over time," reminds me of a directive my field supervision gave me as a store manager in the 1980s: "Grow the average transaction just 25 cents and you will blow away your sales targets." It seems like we're still trying to find nirvana. The good news is that there are, in fact new technologies that have come into the market in only the past few months that can truly address this. If you do the research you can find real-time personalization and customer journey analytics tools that are very affordable for the independent grocer. The answers are out there!
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Are Boomers being ignored by retailers?

    Of course today's news is all around the younger generations, however to say that retailers are ignoring Boomers is a stretch, I think. I still get hung up on the fact that not all Millennials are alike, and the same is true for Boomers, Gen Zers, etc. Retail (and CPG) marketers need to stay true to their intended audience(s) and provide goods and services that satisfy their shopping missions.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Do consumers want to follow grocers on social media?

    There is more passion for food than ever. There is more interest in social chatter than ever. So why wouldn't grocers be more popular than ever on social media? Well, a couple are very popular. They are typically not traditional-format grocers, though. They are the ones that have established very compelling brand loyalty. And I'm not describing those mainstream grocers whose frequent-shopper discount program has 99 percent penetration in their transactions. I mean those with real loyalty. Those that shoppers pass by other stores to shop. Those retailers have cracked the code on brand passion and have enthusiastic followers on social channels waiting to see the next recipes, specials, etc. It's a culture that takes time and leadership commitment to develop.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

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

    You know, talk is cheap. We have done research that shows 80+ percent of CEOs say they're customer-centric, while 80+ percent of their customers feel the brands don't understand their needs. The creation of awareness, (both internally at the organization and externally with customers) of the brand's customer-first approach needs to be executed with a relentless, consistent drumbeat of communication. Leaders must exhibit this focus in a genuine way that gives credibility to the effort. Then staff will believe in the culture.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2017

    Is third-party content more effective in generating online sales?

    For the moment third-party reviews have a strong value to shoppers. Sure there are exceptions, and that general sentiment may change. However, it behooves a brand to highlight its five-star rating in its promotions. Ride the wave while it's cresting.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    What goes into productive sales calls at retail?

    I like the tactics mentioned in "The Challenger Sale" book by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon from a few years ago. The seller needs to, 1.) Teach the customer financial insights about their company that the customer didn't know, 2.) Tailor those insights to the specific role of the person being pitched (merchant, marketer, etc.) and 3.) Take control of the sale by being assertive and pushing the customer outside their traditional comfort zone to generate breakthrough results.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2017

    Will a universal cart change online shopping?

    I think this is a great issue to resolve. Seamless shopping is what this is all about.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2017

    Is personalization better appreciated online or in stores?

    The positioning of the survey questions has everything to do with the responses received, of course. If you ask, "Do you want a store associate to know everything about your past purchases?" I'd say, NO! That is personal business and can cause angst in a face-to-face environment. However, if you ask, "Would you like assistance in-store with your shopping list to help ensure you find everything you need?" I think you would get far different survey results.Make the in-store experience compelling with real-time personalization and other tools, and the adoption of personalization will rival online adoption.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Why in-store merchandising has to change

    Mark's third point is most often overlooked by merchandisers, and if it is considered in the merchandising execution (either in-store or online, by the way), I believe the tools available today are not employed effectively. We have seen truly amazing affinities of categories and individual products that prove the value of these items to drive incremental revenue growth. We worked with a pet store that was ready to eliminate the live fish category when they discovered this category drove more than $200 million in revenue throughout the store annually.Also, the visual merchandising of most stores is virtually the same it was more than 50 years ago. Seriously, how different does the center store of a traditional supermarket, or virtually any category of a department store, look today from how it looked a half a century ago?! Sure, there are some fantastic retailer exceptions to this view, however the majority need to at least follow their lead.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

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

    One of the culprits here is not only the obvious lack of true supply chain visibility, but also the fact that not all data is even seen by retailers' systems today. We are hearing that 80 percent of all data is "dark data," and this is one example of how retailers and CPG brands could get even closer to inventory level reality with the capability of "seeing" all the data in the first place. Technologies are available now in the marketplace to accomplish this.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2017

    What will lower Valentine’s Day sales mean for retail?

    The vast majority of procurement has already happened a long time ago for the merchandise intended for this "holiday," so if this projection is to be taken seriously, the discounting will need to start immediately. Remember, your best discount is typically your first discount.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2017

    Will automated scheduling ease retail’s staffing problems?

    I would not be using the term, "automated scheduling" in this discussion. This kind of technology has literally been around for more than two decades. What we need to differentiate is the ability of a scheduling system to learn the needs of staff and make adjustments based upon all facets of the business, including staff's desired shifts, specific skills required for those shifts, anticipated shopper traffic flow, etc. Taking both internal and external data sources (e.g., weather, local sports events, etc.) can help determine demand for shopper traffic, as well as demand for staff work schedules, etc. These artificial intelligence capabilities matched with individual staff desires can lead to a truly cognitive scheduling tool.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2017

    Why do so few shoppers think of BOPIS as a ‘smooth’ process?

    This is one of those areas where human execution of business process is a critical success factor. All the technology in the world won't help the customer if the staff is not properly trained. Easier said than done, by the way.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2017

    Is omnichannel cannibalization retail’s biggest challenge?

    We all worried about cannibalization more than a decade ago. It's really not happening to any degree. The overall market is growing. More tonnage is moving across channels. Is the revenue growing at the pace we'd like? Nope. However with consumer pricing product value deflation, you have to also look at the item movement across the channels.The issue, as Gib describes, is to assess your enterprise technology systems and see what is actually being utilized today. You may be surprised at the low level of leverage your team is extracting from the applications you already have. Beyond that, there are very cost-effective (and even free!) apps to augment shopper insights capabilities that also unite cross-functional practitioner roles, like merchandising, e-commerce, marketing and fulfillment. All of these people using the same apps.

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