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: 08/26/2016

    Are wearables on the way out?

    I blogged about this yesterday. MediaPost reported "U.S. Consumer Wearables Usage Drops 21%". Quite simply, compelling reasons to wear this tech today don't yet exist. As longer-term marketplace adoption occurs, retailers will naturally take a piece of that pie.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2016

    Can we finally let Webvan rest in peace?

    Webvan?! Seriously? Having worked in the company the Webvan CEO came from, I can say that it was due 100 percent to overextending growth strategies. This can happen to any company. Was it before its time? No way! I started fulfillment for Peapod literally decades ago. Is online food shopping at its peak? Not by a long stretch. It's still a tiny portion of all food sales. I believe technologies are available now to enhance the online food shopping experience and, as more retailers adopt these capabilities, market share will grow.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Is on-site childcare the key to cutting employee turnover?

    Quite simply, virtually any employee lifestyle benefits that an employer provides helps reduce attrition. The key is to determine productivity and other costs that are incurred, and if they outweigh the costs of attrition. Remember, attrition is not always a bad thing, specifically for low-skill requirement retailers. It helps keep average hourly rates in check.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will drop shipments become a major online fulfillment tool?

    The last two paragraphs articulate only a few of the potential challenges. These are challenges that the ecosystem of supply chain partners are already trying to solve ... for decades now. So, we want to add even more uncertainty to the supply chain with drop shipments? I do see the advantages via economies of scale, however, I don't see those advantages helping retailers nor consumers at this point ... at least until we get a handle on the issues.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2016

    What can retailers do to find and hire amazing people?

    Train your interviewers -- including yourself -- if needed! I shudder to think about how many people I interviewed while I was a supermarket manager in the '80s. I'm sure my interview techniques caused me to miss some great people and also caused me to hire losers. Make the investment to develop key capabilities of a quality interviewer to help ensure the hires you make tend to produce longer-tenure, more productive employees.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Have consumers accepted dynamic pricing?

    Retailers have employed dynamic pricing for decades. We called it other things, and it was manually done by old-fashioned gut feel. But it has been around for a long time. 99% of shoppers are unaware of the practice. It has become a requirement to combat competition and create compelling reasons to shop your store and/or your online site.Retailing today is a world of constant change. Businesses need to be able to quickly and intelligently react to competitors and market activity to win price-sensitive customers. With new tools available, I see dynamic pricing as a means to create a world where you can sense and respond in real-time to competitor pricing changes and market fluctuations. And, as retail channels blur, price coordination across every touchpoint becomes essential. Merchants need to use data and insight from physical stores to influence and price confidently online.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2016

    Does Millennials’ credit card wariness spell trouble for retail?

    We really need to be aware that not all Millennials are alike. The reasons for them having fewer credit cards are varied. Some are positive signs that they are learning from us Boomers that credit debt is tough to live with. The more strict financial institution lending criteria (developed primarily by us Boomers spending more than we could afford) is a challenge that is preventing Millennials from taking on more credit debt.Bottom line, I don't believe this is slowing down the growth of retail overall, especially in the U.S., where credit cards were really born. Millennials are shopping more than ever. Their shopping habits are driving significant shifts in retail evolution. However, those retailers that adapt to this evolution will secure their growth potential for the future. Easier said than done, of course!
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Are supermarkets digitally disconnected from retailing reality?

    It's not so much as how much retailers are investing in digital, as in, what they are investing. Merchants and marketers alike need to build their digital shopping experience for contextual interactions that are personalized in real time and informed via analytics. They must design these experiences for flexibility, security and availability via any channel. They also need to navigate digital and physical channel convergence while supporting corporate goals for market expansion. There are specific tools to do all of this and more, and retail executives need to identify the capabilities truly required for their particular environment.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2016

    Is brick & mortar ready to leverage in-store shopper data?

    The title of this piece says it all, "Are retailers ready?" Is effective technology in the marketplace today to attack this data? Yes, and there is some really cool stuff that can take most of the traditional "gut feel" out of merchandising and marketing decisions. However, the vast majority of physical stores are not yet taking advantage of these tools for one reason or another. Most of those reasons are not deal breakers, though. I know of very small retailers that are reaping ROI for some great shopper insights investments. These investments are around store-level order optimization, category management and real-time personalization.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2016

    Is it OK for brands to have emotions?

    This is not a bad thing to consider whether a retailer, brand manufacturer or both. Any emotional sense permeated by a merchant/brand is one more way to make that indelible connection with the consumer. Humanizing a brand differentiates, just like people's own personalities do. Regarding Millennials specifically, I am still of the opinion that they are NOT all alike. They will have differing levels of commitment to brands regardless of emotional content. And I believe this is true for every generation, not just Millennials.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Are loss leaders a losing proposition for stores?

    Competition is tougher than ever in the retail business. More and more merchants widen their assortments to include categories that they didn't have a year ago. With everyone selling everything, the effectiveness of these promos continues to be of at least some value to the retailers ... Otherwise, why would they keep on doing them? The key is to always include better-margin items on the same page online and next to the dump displays in stores. Basic stuff, however I still see many retailers missing this simple step.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2016

    Is retail being hurt by its tech gender gap?

    The retail industry has struggled to get its share of women overall, let alone in retail tech positions, specifically. The tools used to recruit women for retail tech, need to be cast in a wide net so awareness is better within universities. People tend to think of tech companies first when pursuing these careers, and don't typically check out retailers for these jobs. I think the retail industry needs to do a better job of promoting the benefits and lifestyle of tech positions, just like it need to do for retail jobs overall. I just don't see much of a difference between tech and non-IT jobs and the lack of women applying for them in retail.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2016

    Study: Overly positive reviews driving product returns

    Yes, reviews influence online sales, and therefore returns. However, there are many factors affecting returns than reviews, alone. In fact, we have found that accurate online presentation of products is the main driver to reducing returns. Sounds simple, however, as product attributes change, online information must continually be updated. If the retailer has more SKUs than they are currently able to effectively manage (which is the case for more retailers than you might think), then that's where the returns tend to increase.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2016

    Are politics a missed merchandising opportunity?

    For "mainstream" retailers this is always a great way to cause a stir among shoppers, if you have too large of a promotion/display of this stuff. A few shirts offered under the radar is fine. Edgy retailers can do this all day long. However, it's a risk that may not have that much of an upside potential.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2016

    Disney may track park visitors using shoe recognition tech

    Interesting to read everyone's comments and how opposing they are to each other. Communicating the intent of customer tracking to the customers is always a helpful component of any program like this. If the customer believes that this will be beneficial to them, the "creep" factor tends to diminish. Remember, there was a dance club in Spain several years ago that offered to implant RFID tags in patrons' shoulders in return for compelling promotions. I think tracking footwear is nowhere near as intrusive as that example, right?

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