PROFILE

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

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  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Can retail compete for data scientists?

    Some great points have been made in the comments section so far. I would add that retailers need to first reassess their current systems for utilization (I have seen as low as 10 percent), because more utilization can circumvent the need for additional data scientists. Also, I see new technologies in the marketplace that extract data scientist requirements almost entirely in some cases. Retailers need to do some key business functions evaluations before adding more data scientists to the headcount.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Is four-wall profitability still a relevant metric?

    No, I really don't believe that physical store metrics should be merged with omnichannel or abandoned. There are too many factors unique to stores that need to be captured to determine accurate performance. The costs associated with stores can be leveraged across channels, as they are currently in most organizations. However, throwing too many elements of the business into too few "buckets" can cause misleading results.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    What factors weigh on tech purchase decisions?

    Retailers need to take a simple and direct approach to technology investments. 1) Assess true technology needs, 2) Review utilization of current systems. I have seen retailers want to "rip and replace" applications that are only leveraging 10% of current functionality. And 3) Compare those vendors that can augment current systems with cognitive, machine learning capabilities without replacing the applications. That will build enormous potential with the smallest investment.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    NRF Show attendees aren’t sure how 2017 will shake out

    I am more optimistic for a steady growth trajectory for retailers that respond quickly to evolving shopper trends. That is what the successful innovators are doing. I think consumer confidence will grow as more investment in the country via jobs, infrastructure, etc. becomes even more apparent. Let's see what happens. I know the world is watching!
  • Posted on: 01/19/2017

    Will a movie and gourmet food combo drive crowds to the mall?

    "Experience" is the final true differentiator for malls, and retailers in general. I see these high-end theaters doing well to create compelling reasons to spend more time in malls. I also see these venues in different types of malls, including outdoor/strip centers, as well as indoor malls. People are looking for new ways to enhance the shopping experience, and this is definitely one way to do it.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2017

    Will 2017 be the year retailers start making their stores relevant again?

    Good perspective, Nikki. I agree that the vast majority of stores aren't all that different looking than those of many decades ago. The innovators in store design are a small portion of the total sum of stores, so few shoppers actually see any innovations -- with very few exceptions.Investments, however, should also be made behind the scenes, invisible to shoppers. If you look at some new machine learning/cognitive capabilities available today, you will see how to better merchandise your stores and remain in-stock without being overstocked. And that can definitely be done with only a couple technology investments and not having to "rip and replace" all of your systems.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2017

    Are reports on the death of newspapers greatly exaggerated?

    This is primarily age/demographic-driven. I don't think that's a surprise. I think stores need to master the convergence of print into digital better than what has been done to date in order to appeal to those older folks, like me, who are far more comfortable in general with print versions.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2017

    Will 2017 be the year of the chatbot?

    I have firsthand experience with these technologies and I see them as being points of differentiation. I also see them as ways to highlight and move more volume across the product portfolio. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com has done a great job with their GWYN application to give great assistance to those who need to make a gift purchase and have no idea what to get for the recipient. The application can also highlight items that neither human call center people nor the shopper themselves may find based upon their inputs into the system, therefore driving revenue from slower selling items. I think this is a great thing and it has huge potential for the future.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    What do Millennials want in store design?

    The first issue I have with the questions posed in this article is that all Millennials are NOT alike. You need to break down the demographic much more effectively than just that huge age group in order to plan your particular format of physical store. So a fast-fashion retailer would have a different approach than a supermarket, etc. And of course that's true for all age groups. First determine specifically who your intended audience is. From there, the suggestions in the article can definitely make sense. In general attention spans for all American have shortened, so creating "sound bites of merchandising" can be very effective.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2017

    RetailWire’s top five discussions of 2016 – What will top the list in 2017?

    Of course, Amazon was and continues to be the major disruptor for retail. To start off 2017, just as major retailers are shuttering stores, Amazon is opening them. I think we will also see a major shift in technology investments for 2017. More opportunities for automation in-store and in the back office will drive labor expenses down further as the minimum wage debates continue.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Will Millennials lead a resurgence in home cooking?

    The growing trend of "Foodies" among this age group continues to drive the folks to eat out of the home, however, there is indeed opportunity for CPG and food retailers to entice them with fast, yet compelling options to eat in the home. I feel the sky is the limit here, as opposed to the bland concoctions of home meal replacement offerings of the past.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Are convenience stores in for a big year in 2017?

    Agility is key for c-stores. Matching the personalized shopping experience that innovators in other retail formats are achieving is a great first step to driving new growth this year. Streamlining assortment and increasing overall inventory turns is also a way to be more agile.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2017

    What does the strong 2016 Christmas foretell for retail in 2017?

    The toughest thing to do to address the perennial challenges, like inventory visibility, demand forecasting, returns, etc. is to determine the right tools for them. I see 2017 moving even deeper into true machine learning/cognitive technology capabilities to leverage "dark data" that is invisible to most retailer systems in order to capture new insights never before achievable.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2017

    Should workers have the right to disconnect?

    Store-based staff tend to have less opportunity for personal time to spend online than office retail workers, so those are apples and oranges in comparison. Store staff should be able to disconnect entirely in off hours. Office staff typically have plenty of personal online time spend during the workday, so they should also have access to work email after hours.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2016

    How can the retail job market survive the AI revolution?

    Yes, AI is helping evolve the retail landscape, however, there are very low-tech innovations that are currently being implemented that are displacing human workers as we speak. Hand-held self-checkout, menu ordering kiosks, etc. are just the beginning. As other costs continue to rise, including the U.S. minimum wage requirement, retailers need to take action to maintain viable margins to stay profitable.

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