Ralph Jacobson

Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, 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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  • Posted on: 10/20/2016

    Will Millennials abandon traditional grocers?

    I think "traditional" grocers have all the opportunity to continue to capture Millennials' share of wallet, as most Millennials already shop at those stores, by a wide margin. The innovators in that store segment are taking the successful elements of specialty foods stores and implementing them in their stores. This is a simple but not always easy effort, yet it is showing confidence in the traditional food store market and that it has good growth projections for the future.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2016

    Can retailers inspire greater sales using Pinterest?

    Pinterest IS a social channel and it has all the value to retailers (and CPG brands) that any popular social channel has. Its format definitely lends itself to being a great marketing tool, and folks of all ages are getting more comfortable using it, not just Millennials.As we have already seen with other social platforms, public interest and usage will wane for most channels over time and new ones will emerge as popular (Anyone remember MySpace?). Pinterest may continue to grow, however retailers need to stay close to these trends and be agile enough to switch/add social channels as needed.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2016

    Is the craft brand trend healthy for big retailers and manufacturers?

    Major CPG brands, as well as major retailers have already established several "craft" brands to capture their share of this growing market. Additionally, M&A activity will continue to drive this trend. The small, often startup companies that began this movement will ultimately be challenged by the major brands unless they were the original "Uber"-type brand in their category.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2016

    Smartphones drive increased e-mail usage

    I think email marketing is on the rise despite the misguided stories about its demise. Email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective forms of corporate outreach. A recent report found that the median open rate in the U.S. for email is 17.6 percent, while the average click-through rate for a banner ad is around 0.17 percent. Personalization via the right targeted devices will help in adoption. However, we are finding that Generation Z kids are not yet using email in general. Perhaps that will change as they age, yet whether they eventually will use email is a major question for retailers and CPG brands looking ahead to the long-term viability of it as an advertising tool. It’s an especially critical question since Generation Z could account for 40 percent of consumers by 2020. I think that's the issue, as much as the devices and better personalization.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2016

    Should in-store associates help online browsers?

    As we all face the challenge of delivering a seamless shopping experience, the more an enterprise blurs the lines between online and offline shopping, the more seamless it will become for the shopper. This is a great example of a successful tactic to achieve this goal. I see this being adopted by more retailers and I only see in-store shopping being enhanced due to more involved staff with local store inventory. Really great effort!
  • Posted on: 10/12/2016

    Could a ‘breakfast aisle’ revitalize the grocery center store?

    Simply put, I believe CPG brands and retailers need to think about starting from scratch in the center aisles since 95 percent of them look the same way they did 100 years ago. They typically don't take many recent shopper trends into consideration. Perhaps I'm way oversimplifying, however we need a fresh look for sure to stimulate profitable growth.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2016

    Is it time for retailers to stop the Thanksgiving madness?

    Always a tough question. For physical stores, and having been a supermarket manager in the '80s, I can say that there can sometimes be a happy medium in response to this question. Our stores used to be open on Thanksgiving Day, however they closed their doors at 2 p.m. That way you give those folks who "need" to shop on the holiday somewhere to go, yet you don't interrupt the most important time of that day for your staff.I do love that more and more retailers are choosing to take the whole day off, though! Fully support it. I don't think they'll lose any measurable business.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2016

    Should retail prices in-store be the same as online?

    It's always confusing for the shopper to see price variances across channels for the same retailer. However, it certainly is simple enough to run an online promo and clearly state "this price is only available on this site." Additionally, of course the costs vary across channels. Yet, the more you "co-mingle" those costs with such services as "BOPIS" and others, you can even out the spikes in cost overruns in specific channels.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2016

    Will retailers lose retiring boomers to experiences?

    Regardless of activities taken on by retirees, there will be markets of goods and services to respond to those activities. Tiny house boom? There are plenty of products to fulfill that trend. RV travel/living? Again, a whole new world of opportunity for retailers. This is simply a shift in market demand that CPG and retail brands will quickly learn to provide new product categories for.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2016

    Supply chain management: Lessons not learned

    In the fashion world, as in the food business, we're dealing with numerous suppliers that operate at different speeds, coming from different points of the globe. Fast fashion retailers have made some impressive strides in some cases, a couple of which were mentioned in the article. The challenge is a fundamental shift in operations, planning, fulfillment and assortment optimization. This will not happen for a couple years across the majority of retailers at the very soonest. I do see change happening though, as the innovators take share (AND share of mind) from those still operating with traditional processes.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2016

    Is consistent messaging the key to loyalty?

    One thing I consistently share with retailers is the fact that we shouldn't be too proud to look outside our industry for best practices. When it comes to customer loyalty, true loyalty, look to airlines & hospitality. In the case of this article's topic, I look to — of all things — the automotive industry to see that consistent messaging over the past some 40 years has "driven" fans of BMW to stay loyal to "The Ultimate Driving Machine." 'Nough said. ;-)
  • Posted on: 10/06/2016

    What is the ‘maker movement’ and should retailers care?

    The sputtering existence of 3-D printing over the past few years reminds me of the infancy of PC adoption by the public. Once viable uses and affordable printers become mainstream, retailers and CPG brands will very much have growth opportunities. I don't believe this will take a measurable portion of the pre-made product market in the foreseeable future.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2016

    Will retailers find gold or coal in their holiday stockings?

    I think this holiday period will be a strong season for retailers, however I believe there will be more variance across metropolitan areas in the U.S. than in recent years. Certain cities are seeing stronger retail recovery than others. Retailers shouldn't assume the same forecast across the country. We may actually see dips in growth in depressed regions. Online shopping will indeed be the great equalizer, both regionally as well as for smaller retailers versus the giants. Online allows small players to "punch above their weight."
  • Posted on: 10/05/2016

    Why aren’t more retail apps being downloaded?

    For shoppers there has to be a compelling reason to download a single merchant app, otherwise their phones will quickly get out of hand, so to speak. Aggregate apps, as I consider Amazon to be, are far more convenient for shoppers, whether that's fair to other retailers or not. I'd like to see how individual retailers evolve their mobile strategies in the next 12 months in order to respond.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2016

    Are the alternatives any better than annual performance reviews?

    I was going to say that performance review processes shouldn't differ for retailers versus other businesses, however, on second thought, I do believe there are nuances that should be considered. Full-time versus part-time staff need different approaches since their motivations typically differ. Also, with retail generally being a week-to-week-driven business, shorted intervals between reviews is required. That's why I like the evolution of managers to become coaches for the staff. Ongoing adjustment of personal goals should be the culture for retailers.

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