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: 06/27/2017

    What happens when you put a c-store on wheels?

    I'm not certain what will happen when a thousand people ask the same "store" to drive to their location, however I do see an opportunity to bring the goods to the shopper. "Location, location, location!" -- right?! Hey, crazier things have worked.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2017

    How will 3-D printing take hold at retail?

    Thus far I've seen no compelling reason for using 3-D printing in retail that cannot be accomplished by traditional manufacturing/production processes. Yes it is a novelty for now. Once this technology takes hold in another industry and becomes more mainstream retailers should look to see how they can leverage it, as they have done with so many other programs like loyalty (which began in other industries originally).
  • Posted on: 06/26/2017

    Is e-commerce making vendor compliance programs more important?

    Contract compliance continues to be a real challenge for all parties concerned. There are great tools available to help effectively manage this problem, however I believe blockchain technologies will help alleviate even more obstacles as all transactions in the supply chain become more transparent because of the adoption of blockchain getting more ubiquitous. I think blockchain will do for transactions what the internet has done for communication.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    Should brands ditch the slang?

    Keep the messaging positive and mainstream. Many of the words we all use today were slang to start with, but have become a genuine part of our vernacular. In those cases, I don't think slang is at issue. However, when brands employ short-term, trendy language, it comes off as insincere.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    How can retailers make employee recognition resonate?

    Make it genuine. Make it consistent. Solicit input from all staff on whom to recognize. The quiet people need this, too. Make the recognition valuable, not necessarily monetary. Lead by example. That's easy to say, but no so commonplace in practice.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    Regardless of the retailer, I still believe competing on price alone is a tough life to live and be profitable long term. The services available to the shopper are the differentiators, like free shipping on everything, BOPIS, etc.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Can humanizing self-checkouts reduce theft?

    As a past store manager, the more human interaction your staff can provide, the less theft you'll have, in general. So, even if you train your front-end staff to just say hello to each shopper using self checkout, that is a great first step. I have seen other shrink studies that have found self checkout theft is not all that high, actually, as most people are inherently honest. Utilizing the latest security technologies available for self checkout is also a must to bring the shrink down even further.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Why are so many associates being deprived of tech by their employers?

    The problem is that comprehensive business case justification is rarely employed to determine the viability of in-store tech investments, actually. Potential revenue gains, increased inventory movement and staff productivity need to be quantified and an ROI developed. I am shocked at how often this is not done effectively. To respond to potential staff misusing the technology, I'd respond that the retailers that already have a track record of using it can attest to the tech's value.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    Where’s the art in data-driven marketing?

    Product and service trends evolve over time, as does our language. The email marketing templates you used a years ago are no longer relevant. The best practices today still require the finesse and artistic capabilities of the specialists to drive effective campaigns. Data only provides information and hopefully, insight. It still takes people to create the effective narrative.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    Will AI transform gift giving?

    This is goodness for both the shopper and the retailer. There is nothing sinister nor heartbreaking about a technology that can help the shopper find a gift for someone with whom they may not have much contact. The shopper doesn't always know how to shop for every occasion. This tech helps those folks.The retailer wins because of the happy shoppers AND the fact the the 80% of SKUs that move slowly now have literally equal exposure as the top 20% do, so movement grows throughout the assortment, and the most senior leadership of the retailers using this technology are absolutely thrilled. Staples, North Face and other are using it, too.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    How can grocers capitalize on small brand allure?

    The niche appeal of smaller brands continues to grow for consumers who like to buck the traditional brand tsunami. The funny thing is that many of these (at one time) smaller brands are now becoming fairly large companies that are able to leverage economies of scale with logistics and distribution costs. Also, I've see smaller brands collaborate to reduce LTL costs. This can be done effectively today.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Who owns the in-store experience?

    Our resident genius, Nikki, has hit the nail on the head yet again. Ever since I was a supermarket store manager in the '80s, we knew that customer service labor expense was the first thing to cut when payroll budgets got too tight to handle. I'm certain that's still the case today. Who owns the in-store experience? Well, let me make perfectly clear what we used to say in that same company. "If you're not helping the customer yourself, you better be helping someone who is."In my view, everyone owns it. I realize retailers want "one throat to choke" for performance measurement, however the minute a retailer puts THE most critical KPI on the shoulders of one person or department, everyone else will point their fingers at them when something goes wrong. Perhaps that's too simplistic, but it worked well for one of the top 10 best grocers in the country.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Can retailers escape the scourge of free shipping?

    The high-level suggestions in the article and even in the discussion questions are a start, potentially, to easing the pain of free shipping. However the challenge needs to be addressed at the systemic level. Shoppers will continue to demand stuff for free so it's time for all retailers large and small to look into the very latest innovations around emerging technologies, like blockchain, to minimize supply chain and transaction costs. This is where innovators are reducing and even eliminating costs as we speak. There's a ton of good insight around these newer capabilities on the web.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

    Could 3-D tech move apparel manufacturing into stores?

    With the innovators in this industry moving lead times from seasons (months) to days, I believe it's just a matter of time when this on-demand approach will be ubiquitous. Shoppers are happy to wait for custom apparel.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Will personalized pricing only lead to more discounting?

    The benefit to real-time personalization of the shopping experience, not just personalized pricing, is that the merchant can target specific audiences to offer the promotions that make the most sense. This can include discount pricing, or it can include higher pricing than other demographics yet still offer compelling promotions that may not erode margin. The key is to elevate the promotional campaign to the overall experience so you're not locked into simply giving mass discounts to everyone. There are some great tools today that retailers are leveraging successfully to do this.

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