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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Building a Smarter Planet Blog

  • Posted on: 07/28/2016

    How should commissions work in the era of omnichannel retailing?

    There are some really insightful comments posted here so far, so it's obvious that this is and has been a real challenge for years ... even a couple decades at this point. I think a serious, intentional update of sales staff roles both online and offline is in order for the vast majority of retailers working with commission programs. I do feel commissions still have their place today as a key incentive for the staff. If retail management addresses this issue across channels and functional silos, there can be effective sales handoffs that capture sales contribution, and "sales assist" efforts from each potential salesperson.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2016

    Is it time for marketers to embrace radical transparency?

    I'm certain the intention is sincere, however this could be a slippery slope — for all retailers and their supplier partners. Do we truly want to be held to our COGS by consumers? Also, true landed costs include far more elements of the supply chain than are depicted here. Simple messaging of "cost" is something shoppers can understand. More detail than that becomes confusing and mostly misleading. If you offer a good product at a competitive value, this further "transparency" is unnecessary.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2016

    Will meal kit delivery services move beyond niche status?

    This is not the first time retailers have offered these services/products. Most trends come and go, and I can easily remember when physical stores offered kits/"home meal replacements." I'm a bit surprised 3 percent of households have tried this recently. I would think the number would be even lower. There are inherent limitations to these offerings regarding product variety and also challenges with costs -- purchase price versus individual (DIY meals) and costs for logistics to assemble and ship these products. I think the potential market may be large enough to sustain itself, across multiple entities, including CPG direct-to-consumer, restaurants, physical supermarkets and others.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2016

    White lies, sales fibs and the customer experience

    What goes around comes around, and being less than completely open and honest with customers and staff is simply asking for trouble. BTW, this works pretty well in life, too. That way you don't have to "cover your tracks" and the people with whom you interact know exactly what is happening and where they stand at all times.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2016

    Has social advertising broken through as a purchase driver?

    Social ads can have relevance to younger consumers, however, they aren't all that willing to click on ads as much as one may think, as detailed in this study. The response rates for these ads are not all that impressive. Will social ads surpass TV ads soon in response rates? Perhaps, however, innovators continue to evolve their tactics in social channels to capture the shortening attention of the shoppers ... of all ages.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2016

    How can retailers gain something useful from employee surveys?

    As long as actionable questions are asked in an anonymous environment, I think there is great value to be captured from surveys. Keep the surveys concise and laser-focused. Don't try to solve world hunger with only one survey. Do surveys each quarter of the year on different topics. That way the staff learns to expect them and participation tends to grow.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2016

    Do wine and beer make for a better shopping experience?

    Anytime you can "relax" the shopper, it's a good thing for the merchant. They sell beer at car auctions. They offer champagne at luxury boutiques. Why not loosen up the crowd a bit while shopping for food? Fill up that basket with all kinds of goodies (that I may not have purchased if I wasn't enjoying libations).
  • Posted on: 07/19/2016

    Are wearables just for the kids?

    Fashion has a short lifespan. Function will drive lasting adoption. Currently, if I have to have a phone to fully utilize my watch, why do I need the watch? Just gimme the darn phone. For the young or the old, function rules the game.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2016

    Pokémon Go showcases potential of augmented reality in retail

    This may not respond to the questions posed about this article, however as my wife and I walked through a park at the beach, we saw a huge group of people looking very similar to this picture and we both thought about how so many people can gather together and not even say a word to each other. Is the lively art of conversation dying? I must be getting too old for this society.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2016

    What’s creating the pricing disconnects between retailers and vendors?

    These two trading partners, retailers and manufacturers, obviously are looking at the market through very different lenses and they have very different objectives to meet. Further, for those in the ecosystem that are both retailers and manufacturers, private label provides an even more complex pricing issue to effectively manage. One can easily see why there are disconnects to a degree in the collaboration of these entities. That's right, "collaboration" is not fully optimized, by any stretch. This is an age-old challenge and getting the pricing strategy aligned takes an intentional effort by all involved parties. Because this has been going on for so long it's time to get serious and lay out a plan, perhaps even a template that could be leveraged throughout the industries.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2016

    Will Fanatics win with #LoveNeverLoses spots?

    When the videos are genuine in appearance, whether or not they're actually genuine, I believe they create a compelling brand message. The connection is real and I think it's effective for the brand.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2016

    Are retailers ready for the next wave of cyber scams?

    I cannot think of many aspects of running a retail business these days that are more critical to the success of it than security. New risks will continue to arise as other threats are mitigated. Technologies available today are extremely effective at securing retail businesses, especially since the past six months or so. Advances via cognitive capabilities can actually think and learn as more data is ingested. I believe retailers of all sizes and types can afford to take steps to secure their businesses better than ever.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2016

    Do robots make sense for online delivery?

    I'm actually a bit surprised at the pilot program's success to date. I would think vehicular accidents, pedestrian injuries and outright theft would be just a few of the potential issues. The benefits are many, including labor cost extraction, variable delivery times, etc. If the track record is accurate, this may have "legs."
  • Posted on: 07/11/2016

    Are self-checkouts dooming impulse purchases?

    I think some folks are using self-checkout as an excuse for why their impulse merchandising is failing. Checking out is the focus of all shoppers at the POS, whether it's self-checkout or not. Yet, innovative retailers have partnered with their CPG suppliers to create compelling merchandising for all types of POS. If you provide promotions that are attractive to your audience, millennials or otherwise, you will see a marked improvement of turns for product merchandised at the POS, including at the self-checkout lanes.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2016

    Are in-store personalization tactics becoming less creepy?

    Personalization is an evolution. When retailers first started texting offers, many shoppers opted out. Now people want as many relevant offers as they can get. In-store, certain newer technologies may seem creepy at first blush. However, I can tell you that automated dressing rooms have been around for a decade in at least one retailer that I can think of, and they are now catching on better than ever. Facial recognition? Yes, that's creepy, however it too will be presented in "softer" manners as time goes on, and will become far less intimidating. Time, retailer adoption and shopper acceptance will determine which technologies will last.

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