Shawn Harris

N.A. Retail & Hospitality Industry Lead, Zebra Technologies
Shawn is N.A. Retail & Hospitality Industry lead for Zebra. Shawn helps Zebra’s customers and retail & hospitality sales teams navigate the ever changing retail landscape, providing thought leadership, pragmatic insights, and innovative human-centered solutions for issues pertaining to customer experience, and staff productivity.

Shawn's passion rests in brick-and-mortar and digital retail technology, operations, and experiences. Shawn has been involved with store systems, ecommerce, and order management technologies for over 15 years, having held management positions in, or consulted to, numerous Tier-1 retailers including, TJX Cos, Staples, and Uniqlo (Fast Retailing). Shawn also founded a luxury menswear brand, ECC Life&Style, which most was known for designing and making clothing for some of New England’s most regarded corporate executives and professional athletes across the country. Shawn keeps a keen eye on what’s potentially next, by staying closely involved in the Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley startup communities. Shawn recently served as the program lead for the Startup Leadership Program, and has participated in startup programs through Techstars, New York Fashion Tech Lab, MassChallenge, and New York Fashion Tech Lab.

For 8 years Shawn honorably served in the Army National Guard as an infantryman and armored personnel carrier (APC) driver. Shawn has a passion for culture and language. He speaks conversational Japanese, and has traveled extensively through Europe, Africa, and Asia for business. Shawn earned his MBA from Babson College, and a bachelor's degree in management information systems from the University of Massachusetts.

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  • Posted on: 04/03/2017

    Will mobile order and pay-only stores improve Starbucks’ operational performance?

    Having one or more dedicated mobile order and pay-only stores, near existing dine-in Starbucks locations, will allow for the load balancing of orders -- smoothing out the experience for customers and baristas. Smart idea.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2017

    Should retailers ditch five-star ratings?

    I believe that the social proof the five-star rating provides is still critical for retailers. There is credence in the ratings, which undoubtedly leads to increased conversion rates and weeds out poorer performing products.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2017

    Will a new TJX concept put more hurt on department stores?

    The key to TJX's success is their merchants. They are constantly on the hunt for high-value, on-trend, opportunistic buys. This creates the treasure hunt, and a compelling reason to shop ... frequently. I think TJX will launch a full assortment off-price furniture chain, instead of it just being a department in HomeGoods. It's not department stores that should be worried, it's full-priced traditional furniture stores who should keep their eyes wide open.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Third-party e-commerce fulfillers: Friend or foe to the grocers?

    My hypothesis is that there is a blended model that grocers need to land on. That is, in some cases use internal resources, and in others use outsourced services. I do like the suggestion of the outsourced service being provided as a white label offering. I feel that the complexity of managing arcs and nodes hasn't yet made its way from the distribution team, to store operations, and that this will be the next great awakening. Just like in distribution networks, sometimes you use your own trucks and sometimes you use partners. It's an optimization problem.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Do consumers want to follow grocers on social media?

    I think that the key reason people follow retailers and brands on social media is for reasons of lifestyle projection. Either the consumer is living, or wants to live, the brands ideals. For grocers, this would be things like healthy living and sustainability. With the brand ideals as the backdrop, consumers will become sticky if the social feed is educational, informative, entertaining, will save them time and/or money or is otherwise a utility -- very much similarly to why consumers want and keep a mobile app installed.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Will Costco, Kohl’s, Target, et al give Google Home an edge over Amazon’s Echo?

    I believe this type of "soft" consolidation via an over-the-top offering like Express by Google Home will be a key strategy for traditional retailers. It will be interesting to see how Google integrates the retailers on the visual interaction side, via an app or web. What makes Amazon a winner, in addition to their open Alexa ecosystem and first-mover advantage, is the coherency between devices and and the Amazon app. The two work rather harmoniously, and will inevitably get better. For retailers, there is a rub -- who owns the customer? For this strategy to work, retailers really have to think differently about their position in the value chain. Last January, I made a prediction, which I will see if it holds true. I said "By 2021 Apple, Facebook, and Google will own the Customer, remaining retailers will own the Product; Amazon will own Everything."
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Is Amazon the most innovative company in retailing?

    Yes; Amazon is the most innovative company in retail. It's not just about service and product introduction, but also how they have created/captured a pioneering investor base that supports their way of doing business. I'm a big believer in focusing on "how" to think, vs "what" to think. Amazon has the former down and it keeps them at the forefront of innovation, while too many traditional retailers are looking for what they should do.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2017

    Will women buy lingerie from Amazon?

    If Amazon can nail comfort (size, style, support), as price and convenience will be a given, they could absolutely make a dent in this space. I think that department and specialty store chains should take this seriously. Here comes a lingerie category price war ...
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    Should L.L.Bean ditch its legendary return policy?

    A core part of the L.L. Bean brand promise is their unquestioned lifetime guarantee, changing this fundamental ideal will undermine their brand and could gravely hurt the company's revenues. All of the products they sell are outdoor basics, which are broadly available ... even the famous duck boots. Given their premium pricing, without the lifetime guarantee they open themselves up to easy switching to alternative brands. I do believe that they should leverage improved analytics to better understand individual return behavior and possibly implement staged messaging at the point of sale and other methods of deterrence to make people simply think twice about making that return.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

    How good is ‘close enough’ when it comes to in-store inventory?

    Post year-end cycle count, which gets retailers to an effective 100 percent accuracy, many retailers' inventory accuracy quickly regresses to an average of 65 percent. This creates a large gap between what they think they have and what they actually do have, leading to an inevitable crash in expectations between retailers and shoppers. Retailers get this, and are working to increase inventory visibility by leveraging technology that integrates RFID, video, mobile locationing sensors and algorithms, to get to inventory accuracy that is near 100 percent.Also, many are realizing that the great SKU expansion that has occurred over the last five years has also increased their exposure and complexity, and are now looking to simplify the total number of SKUs available.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2017

    What will blockchain mean for retail supply chains?

    Blockchain would allow for secure, immutable, traceability throughout the supply-chain -- it's just the ledger. A retailer's supply chain would still require all of the many enabling technologies and integrations to provide the required visibility, in addition to enforced partner agreements, in order to ensure the capture and posting to the chain. The article alludes to a database, as if there were a single clearinghouse per implementation. However, what makes blockchain secure and immutable is that it is actually a number of distributed individually-owned servers, called miners, which coordinate in the validation of a transaction "block" and then write it to the ledger "chain" with a unique hash or key value. You could see a manufacturer, transportation company and retailer having their own miner servers. If you tried to alter a transaction by changing a block's contents, which has already been stored in the distributed blockchain, that block’s hash would change, invalidating it. Blockchain will also have applications for eliminating counterfeit items from trusted markets. You would be able to verify chain of custody from the manufacturer to a retailer, and then also in subsequent third-party sales.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Can retail compete for data scientists?

    The need for expert data scientists is quickly starting to wane. There are tools available that handle all of the dirty work of making sense of data -- it all starts with clarity in understanding the business problem, or area of exploration, a business wants to tackle. There is a six-phase model used in data science to turn data into business value, it's called CRISP-DM (Cross Industry Standard Process for Data Mining). The first step is business understanding, and is the most critical step ... what are we trying to figure out and in what context? The next three steps are where I believe a software tool can help. The steps are data understanding, data preparation and modeling. You may need data ops folks to ensure appropriate data access -- I guess what I'm saying is that it's not black-magic anymore. The model closes out with evaluation and deployment AKA value realization. Don't wait to find a data scientist, I'm sure you have a few smart folks internally who are willing to learn something new and can get a data science program started.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    NRF Show attendees aren’t sure how 2017 will shake out

    I believe that the window of opportunity for traditional retailers to deliver truly innovative initiatives is still open. Increasing investments to support applied innovation and not being afraid to do things that aren't necessarily aligned with the core business' profit model will be key. We are in disruptive times, innovations that are sustaining in nature may help to squeeze out a point or two from existing operations; what traditional retail needs is a step change, and the creation of net new high-growth revenue streams. I would also argue that retailers may not be able to go it alone and should consider strategic vertical and horizontal partnerships, to expand the possible.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    Will online sales redeem struggling brick and mortar retailers?

    I recently wrote a short piece on this, "Digitization and the Retail Revenue Reset." I do not believe that most traditional retailers will be able to generate equivalent revenue from online as they had from their traditional operations. Digital inherently comes with demonetization, as it increases access and lowers barriers. From an online distribution perspective Amazon is the leader by an order of magnitude. In a world centered on "how do I/we optimize everything?" you simply can't get optimal performance with too many independent variables/retailers. Some of today's largest retailers will survive this transformational period; they will be primarily an online shell of what they were.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2017

    Will Alexa become the voice of IoT?

    Alexa is shaping up to be the next great operating system (OS). They were the first to open the platform to developers and it is paying off. However, I do think that it is imperative that Amazon focuses on increasing Alexa's knowledge base and figures out a more seamless way to interact with skills. "Sorry I didn't understand the question I heard" gets old.

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