Ralph Jacobson

Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, 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: 08/18/2017

    What will more electric cars mean for convenience stores?

    Quite simply, I don't see internal combustion vehicular transportation diminishing measurably in the next two decades at the very least. People still want the ability to refuel/recharge quickly, and even the fastest chargers can't compare to current refueling times for gasoline. And there are still too many drawbacks to electrics like expensive battery replacement costs and rare earth element strip mining. I'm actually disappointed that the planet is excited about electric cars that have been around for more than a hundred years. I still think hydrogen is the way to go. Clean, limitless and versatile. Mass adoption would drive costs down even further.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Did retailers shine or go dark on the rare solar eclipse sales opportunity?

    This is an excellent example of an opportunity that is difficult to take advantage of because people just don't have the time, quite simply. This is why retailers need to leverage the newest technology capabilities that capture external data sources like local news events, social chatter, weather, etc., and use this information to gauge shopper interest in local events. We are seeing this work in some really innovative retailers as we speak. Cool stuff.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Should drones be used for data collection in addition to deliveries?

    If the data is presented in ways that are not "creepy" then apprehensions may be avoided if this technology gets out to the public. Beyond that, from an internal business intelligence perspective, the insights opportunity for this technology is immense.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    Carol has a done great job of pointing out many of the most common mistakes providers make with retailers! I think the overarching one is probably that providers need to focus on the business challenge that the retailer feels they have, rather than a challenge that the provider thinks they have -- and from there drive home how the retailer can grow profitably by addressing that challenge. After they agree that the problem can indeed be addressed effectively, then the provider may talk about their solutions, but not before that time.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Does the internet know us better than we know ourselves?

    This reminds me of the fact we have known for a long time that shoppers tell you what they think they want, but their actions don't exhibit what they told you in surveys. For instance, they tell you they want more product variety, yet they only purchase 20 percent of your assortment, typically. So yes, technology will take that human emotion component out of the equation and provide real-time insights to shopper journey behavior in ways that will not make surveys obsolete, but augment the intelligence gained from them with machine learning capabilities.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2017

    Is the future of fashion gender-free?

    I think there have been hints of this trend for literally decades. Women have definitely worn men's apparel and lately the opposite is popping up in more urban areas, typically. The good news is that the targeted audience is wider and almost all-encompassing, so the opportunity is fantastic for retailers and apparel brands.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2017

    Is it time to reinvent category management?

    The true innovators are now collaborating, not just transferring the burden of category management from the retailer to the CPG supplier. Yes, they supposedly have been "collaborating" for decades, however in the majority of cases, "The fox has been watching the hen house." Now we are seeing suppliers and merchants optimize the category assortment mix to the best possible intersection of revenue, velocity and margin. This is taking into account both internal data of product movement, etc., along with external data that follows sources like social sentiment, long-term weather patterns, events, etc. to capture true shopper journey components.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Why is big food turning to pop-up stores to tell brand stories?

    These pop-ups are great ways to drive shopper awareness and build brand value and true loyalty. 'nuff said.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Should executive pay structures change to address slower growth at retail?

    If we start revising performance metrics away from the traditional ones that have always "paid the bills" just because they may show declines (e.g., same-store sales, etc.), then we have even bigger fish to fry than just executive compensation strategies. We do have a recruitment problem to get recent graduates into the retail business as a career, however there is no challenge to get qualified senior executives to fill posts at the top of retail organizations, whether they come from retail or outside the industry. We must continue to offer attractive comp packages to capture the best people to run our retail companies. That shouldn't change.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2017

    Is agile fulfillment the solution to retail’s renaissance?

    All businesses, not just retailers, need to become more agile. In fact all business partners in the retailer's ecosystem must be able to respond in almost real-time to the ever-evolving operational landscape that is driven by consumers, competitors and external forces. I believe that many retailers will actually continue to operate their fulfillment functions five years from now the same way they do today. The trouble is these retailers will not be growing profits at the same pace as the agile innovators will be. It's as simple as that.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Can customer journey methodology level the playing field for brick and mortar retail?

    One of the keys here is to focus specifically on the unique characteristics of store engagement technologies. The newest machine learning/A.I. capabilities I'm seeing in the marketplace can drive new insights in store-level shopper journeys, including the pure integration of the digital experience analytics with store data insights. In-store customer experience analytics, predictive customer intelligence and other tools are indeed becoming requirements for marketers and e-commerce to leverage today.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Are the four Ps of marketing irrelevant for retailers?

    I wouldn't say that the four Ps are dead. "Place" of course becomes less relevant when shopping online, however I will even say that "place" is critical when it comes to website design. If a shopper doesn't easily find the product they are searching for, then "place" on the website is most critical. This can be enhanced with technologies like intelligent sequencing, for instance."Product" is key because if there isn't a compelling product in the mix, then no further shopping journey will happen. Next "promotion" is all about creating awareness for the product and/or service. If the shopper doesn't see any interesting campaigns either online or in-store, then the advocacy for the brand wanes quickly. Finally, how has "price" become irrelevant?!I hear the message in the article, however I don't think we should abandon the four Ps quite yet.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Are retailers squandering store traffic?

    The challenge is first to remain a relevant draw for shoppers to take the time to visit your stores. This has everything to do with being a compelling merchant that has the products people want to see / feel / hear / touch / smell better than they can online. Sure, there's a conversion issue today due to myriad causes, showrooming not the least of them. CRO is just one tool to leverage, alone with other critical ones to gain insights into how to generate those ways to get shoppers to buy more in-store. We can all think of those innovators that always have heavy traffic in their stores and are leaders in conversion rates. It can and IS being done.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Will grocery stores become the new mall anchors?

    People haven't slowed down shopping at grocery stores, regardless of what you may have heard, and won't anytime soon. Why wouldn't you put that draw in your withering malls? The ones I've seen so far are doing just fine as the anchors.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Should user-generated content move beyond product pages?

    I am seeing more and more retailers and CPG brands leverage UGC not just online, but also in print catalogs. A well-known landscaping power tool manufacturer is among the best I've seen by inviting users to meet for professional photo shoots outdoors using their products. Really great stuff. It looks very genuine.

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