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

  • Posted on: 12/08/2016

    Will e-gifting replace gift cards?

    This is a great option for gift givers. It is more personal than a gift card and less trouble than going to a store. It may take away more of the traditional shopping journey experience, however that may not be a bad thing. Retailers can leverage tools like real-time personalization technologies to make this work seamlessly. I like it!
  • Posted on: 12/07/2016

    Are retail associates ready to deal with abusive customers?

    As a supermarket manager in Chicago in the '80s, trust me I had my share of abuse. How to respond to troublesome customers must be part of initial onboarding, but also reinforced on a regular basis. Lead by example and require your managers to stay on the sales floor as much as possible.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2016

    How can retailers prompt customers to write product reviews?

    Although I agree with the good Dr. Needel that people are more likely to respond to surveys, rather than write a review, I'd also say that effective incentives are proving to drive more reviews to be written. Email encouragement to write reviews helps, however you need to make it worthwhile. Offering a three-point review outline, such as "Please write you review at [this link] and (1) tell shoppers why you bought the product, (2) if you like it and (3) if you'd shop there again." Keep it simple and painless and guide them through the process.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2016

    Five ways to sell customers a new identity using emotional selling

    Emotional selling is definitely taking place in some innovative stores today. It doesn't need to be a choice between analytics or "emotions," however. It can be both. In fact, it SHOULD be both. Real-time personalization can be leveraged to help drive an emotional connection with the brand. Real-time Personalization helps marketers improve customer experience and makes personalization easier by learning through each interaction and delivering the right content to each visitor in the context of their previous interactions with the brand. The accuracy and effectiveness can grow as more data is acquired, and with machine learning, the relevancy can become truly impressive.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2016

    Could digital advertising be replaced by a subscription model?

    As obstacles arise, advertisers invariably come up with solutions. I don't see that changing in the immediate future. However, subscription models are definitely showing their advantages and I can definitely see innovative retailers making this work long-term with the right systems in place to manage the consumer data effectively.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2016

    Click and collect and ship-from-store change associate job descriptions

    This has already become "table stakes" in the retail biz in the U.S. Those that are making this work have a deep commitment at store level and ensure the staff put high priority on managing incoming online orders. I had a great experience at Target this week with such an order. Stress-free.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    Can engagement replace transaction rewards?

    I think this is a real component for true loyalty. We need to be aware that just because you have a high penetration of loyalty program member customers doesn't mean they actually prefer to shop with you. These ways listed in the article are definitely the next step to driving real engagement and passion for the retail/CPG brand.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    What convinces retailers to innovate?

    As the saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Retailers need to address many perennial challenges, like in-stock conditions, COGS, etc., while managing emerging issues including e-commerce shipping charges, differentiation, etc. All of these lead to opportunities for innovation. There are some great examples around the world of retailers taking advantage of the newest tools while minimizing the risk of being first-movers. The leadership of these organizations needs to initiate the need and potential for innovation to gain enthusiasm throughout the enterprise.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2016

    What does a record Cyber Monday foretell for the remaining holiday season?

    We have seen self-gifting on the rise so far, and other economic indicators are looking somewhat positive, so I believe there will be enough spending left over to boost overall U.S. holiday sales a bit this year. Retail promotions continue to push price primarily, so this market is very much a shoppers' market. Credit purchases vs. cash are also strong, so more household budgets may stretch a little more this season, too. For the future, I don't see this activity slowing down in the next 12 months. I wouldn't try to predict beyond that time frame.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2016

    Online wins the Black Friday weekend again

    It has become a shopper's world and price alone cannot be very many retailers' strategy for success. There HAVE to be compelling reasons for customers to shop your website and come back to your website in the future. Seamless e-commerce websites, painless fulfillment and attractive pricing are just the table stakes at this point.We have to rethink what drives loyalty. What draws shoppers back to the largest e-commerce sites? What are the key factors that keep people from coming into the physical stores? I think the Black Friday phenomenon will continue as long as retailers promote it. If the merchant provides great pricing, the shoppers will take advantage. It's not much more complicated than that. However, if you want to also drive true loyalty AND generate the most margin, then you have to investigate some of the newest tools available to leverage external structured and unstructured data to find exactly what is driving your target audience. Personalization is critical in the shopper journey and being able to literally "see" this typically "dark" data will help differentiate your offers from the competition.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2016

    Ten tips to a stress-free, enjoyable and productive holiday

    Great tips. Bottom line, have your staff walk in the "shadow of the leader." Set the tone in your store. When the lines get long, get out on the sales floor and talk to customers waiting and cheer them up with some free samples, coupons, etc. Be super cheerful and your staff will follow your lead.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2016

    How important is convenience to motivating online holiday shoppers?

    According to a new study from UPS and ComScore, online shopping has surpassed in-person shopping. I think this has everything to do with convenience. As we all know, it's just too easy to shop online. The easier merchants make this task, the more people will keep doing it.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2016

    Here’s one way retailers can measure cross-channel influence

    I agree with Nikki 100 percent. Most retailers severely underestimate cross-channel influence. We all assume there's some push and pull from one channel to the other, however shoppers connect the retailer across all channels far more than most of us think.Another somewhat related point is how metrics are affected across channels. Simple things like if a consumer purchases three shirts online and returns two of them at the store, how are the revenue metrics settles among the channels? And if that store closes and the local market online revenue declines similarly, how do metrics align?These are critical yet somewhat basic questions to answer.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2016

    Are retailers carrying enough inventory for Christmas?

    Of course, this question is nothing new. We ask ourselves this every holiday season. I feel that demand forecasting has finally come of age for retailers and CPG brands. These organizations can now leverage myriad external forces like social chatter, news, local events, weather, etc. and see how they're potentially affecting demand on a by-store and even by-SKU basis. Merchants need to take the gut feel out of the equation and use the tools available to them to make proper allocation decisions.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2016

    Gamification reaches the next level

    The first key is to be relentless and stay close to social sentiment. When it goes "south," react and adjust appropriately and immediately. I feel there's plenty of room to grow for brands, however, there needs to be a clear objective articulated across the enterprise with defined, measurable goals.

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