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: 12/14/2017

    San Francisco limits robots on its sidewalks

    Those entities that own the autonomous delivery vehicles will manage them so as to not interfere with society. This will not be a problem in the foreseeable future in any city. And if and when it does become a problem, sensible remediation will take place as it always does.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2017

    Will chatbots replace customer service reps?

    Chatbots already have replaced humans at some innovative retailers. When coupled with true augmented intelligence technologies, it only makes sense for automated customer service technology to promote the entire product assortment/range based upon the objectives of the retailer, rather than just pushing the best sellers. You can drive overall margin and slow-seller velocity with this technology.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    The next logical step for category management

    One of the first things to consider is your product categories themselves. Are they all still relevant today? I see retailers with no significant evolution of categories for the past two decades or more. Consumers have changed the way they think about and group products and retailers need to do the same. Whether food, apparel or whatever product lines, category management starts with the right categories.From there look at how you are merchandising your assortment, both online and offline. Are you going for maximum velocity, profit, revenue or combos of them, or even other aspects, like tonnage moved per employee, etc.? This can no longer be effectively done manually. You need today's tools, many of which are very low-cost, to look at things like intelligent sequencing of products online. That is, when do shoppers see particular products? Employ the tools that are out there and this task becomes far more manageable.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    Will late deliveries mess up Christmas?

    This is really an incredible consumer situation we're in. Shipping companies have more business than they can handle, not just during the Holidays, but all through the year, these days. I'm thinking about buying a truck and just taking some of the overflow!Will blame be placed by consumers on everyone (shippers, retailers, etc.), except the consumer themselves (for ordering too close to the holidays)? Yep! Each year, more innovative ideas come to market to deal with the shipping challenges. I suspect each year, performance will be better and better, so the best thing to do is budget staff for last-minute deliveries and do your level best to make the window!
  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Why are so many brand categories woefully bad at word-of-mouth?

    Why do people talk about tech products? Because aspirin is boring. This is all about human nature. Right now, tech is still exciting to most, so it it more prevalent in WoM advertising. Just like certain categories are slower to be adopted into online commerce, so will those be lower in WoM presence.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Retailers target ways to boost post-Cyber Week sales

    In the current economy, there is plenty of opportunity for retailers of all sizes and all kinds (including Direct-to-Consumer CPG Brands). Online presence is still a great way to impersonate the big retail giants when you don't have their market share with a compelling, easy-to-navigate shopping site. That is easier said than done, however, it is definitely possible with today's marketing tools. Technologies that employ the latest real-time personalization capabilities, leveraging true machine learning can capture the loyal shoppers' demand accurately, as well as anticipate those less frequent shoppers' needs.Additionally, there is no longer the high expense required to capture entirely new customers when your promotional campaigns are automated and your systems are able to detect struggles on your websites, anomalies in shopper journeys and other aspects of these processes, so you can compete effectively with the biggest competitors.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2017

    Get ready – there are still three shopping holidays left before Christmas

    If the offers are compelling (e.g., Black Friday-type deals, free shipping on large items, etc.) any of these ancillary shopping promo days could become successful. It's all about the promotion campaign, right? We're working on campaign effectiveness with retailers all the time. That's what pays the bills!
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Will shoppers pay services to do returns for them?

    This opportunity has a lot to do with demographics. Many affluent areas may have little demand for this service. While urban, more blue-collar neighborhoods will definitely have an interest in this, especially following the holidays. Cost to the consumer will have to be weighed, as there may need to be more incentives added to make the offer more compelling long-term.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    What can retailers do to prevent sexual harassment?

    Just because this issue isn't addressed very often in our retail industry, doesn't men it doesn't exist. I have seen it way back in the '80s as a store manager, and I'm certain it continues to this day. Ongoing reinforcement of policies, an open-door culture with store management and proactive coaching and feedback with staff helps bring this issue to light.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Subscription services are moving beyond just being surprise boxes

    At the risk of many subscription services being not much more than "me too" enterprises, all of these services must provide compelling reasons for the consumers to keep "piling up" on this stuff each month, without growing tired of the incoming products. One way to avoid this challenge is to ensure that your systems are capable of true machine learning to build a growing understanding of each subscriber and be able to adapt in real time to changing demands.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Should marketers personalize products using consumers’ DNA?

    I believe there are absolutely no limits to the personal information shoppers will provide to gain access to promotions. The challenge is that those promotions must be compelling. However, bioidentical hormone replacement has been around for years. People willingly provide their DNA today to multiple vendors of ancestry research. This is just the next evolutionary step for consumers.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Does Everlane need to open stores?

    Until further notice, virtually every product category of retailing will be augmented with an omnichannel presence. Human senses demand touching, smelling, tasting of product lines, while still enjoying the conveniences of online shopping.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2017

    What is increased mobile holiday traffic doing for sales?

    Again, this is all about true, real-time personalization to follow (or better yet, LEAD) the shopper through their journey and offer relevant options to assist them with any online struggles as they happen. This is possible, and we're seeing some great retailers achieving this nirvana state. This is a huge opportunity for smaller retailers to outpace the bigger ones with a more compelling mobile experience.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2017

    Will click & collect finally compel retailers to remodel stores?

    Retailers of most product categories will need to evolve their floor layout to accommodate this trend. However, this need not be a massive investment. Most retailers can realign the front end of their stores with relatively inexpensive fixturing to manage the processes effectively. Employee technology is not a separate issue, though. It is part of this evolution in the stores and can help augment the effectiveness of the processes. Store associate applications available today can leverage real-time personalization to respond to shoppers' in-store pick up needs and optimize the whole process.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    Will a combo of data and personal stylists drive online apparel sales?

    I think all of these apparel services have the common thread of snob appeal. And I think that continues to work well in our urbanizing society. Other product categories are gaining steam with similar appeal, however apparel may have the obvious limitation of a consumer no longer wanting to build out their wardrobe beyond a certain point. Seriously, how many shirts can I own? Still, that breaking point may be lower for me and higher for most other people, so I still think there's tons of opportunity here.

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