PROFILE

Stefan Weitz

Executive Vice President, Technology, Radial
Stefan is the EVP for Technology at Radial. In his additional role as Chief Product Officer he leads Radial's overall technology efforts to enable retailers and brands across the world to fully embrace the opportunities afforded to those who excel in eCommerce. Stefan came from Microsoft where he was one the founding members of the Bing search engine. While focused on Microsoft's product line, he worked across the industry to understand searcher behavior, academic developments, and innovations from all over and, in his role as an evangelist for Search, drove key product innovations millions of people see every day. 

Prior to Search, Stefan led the strategy and partnerships to develop the next generation MSN portal platform and developed Microsoft's muni WiFi strategy and implementation, leading the charge to blanket free internet access across metropolitan areas.  Stefan has been writing code since he was 8 years old and got his start at Microsoft in eCommerce with the acquisition of eShop in 1997.  Across his 17 years at Microsoft, his focus was always on whitespace problems that required massive cultural and technical transformations, including applying open-source practices in Windows Server, designing and implementing Microsoft’s Informatics Security, or building entirely new models to support advanced search and discovery across the web.

Stefan holds a half-dozen patents in various disciplines and is a frequent lecturer to industry and academic groups on the future of data, information storage, retrieval, and usage.  He recently published his thoughts in the international best-selling book, “Search: How the Data Explosion Makes us Smarter”.

Stefan is a huge gadget 'junkie' and can often be found in electronics shops across the world looking for the elusive perfect piece of tech.  Stefan also serves on advisory boards for many startups ranging from biometrics to advertising to virtualization and is an active Angel investor.  In his spare time, he is working with national educational reinvention groups to reboot K-12 education in this country and is actively advising startups that are focusing on boosting student achievement through technology and big data.  He sits on the GenCon board of Conservation International and two other technology companies, and is a mentor and advisor for Endeavor Global where he helps cultivate high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.  Finally, Stefan is working on a book with the nation’s youngest VC to promote entrepreneurism to the high-school audience and is actively working on disrupting mobile networks in southern Africa.  He lives in Seattle.
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  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    How much did Amazon’s Prime Day hurt rival retailers?

    While in-store sales and share declined, we actually saw increases in online sales. Online sales for companies we analyzed roughly doubled on Prime Day vs. an average Tuesday, and GNC (one of our customers) experienced a five-fold increase on Prime Day vs. a typical Tuesday. So it's important to not look at this solely as Amazon's gain being everyone else's loss -- we are seeing the tides raise many boats.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2017

    Will customers use an Amazon app to chat?

    Amazon's recent moves remind me a lot of the old MSN, AOL and even Google days whereby there was a tremendous focus on retaining the user within your ecosystem so you could a.) build a large data profile about the user to further target, b.) cross-sell services since the more services they use, the higher their LTV, and c.) try new products and services in small segments of the engaged population.Amazon chat and Spark are both examples of services to keep people within their app (note Amazon often launches separate apps only to fold them into the main app when the services take off). Since 50 percent of U.S. consumers already have the Amazon app installed, adding something like chat to a platform where you are likely to find your friends and family makes good sense.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    How much Big Data do retailers really need?

    Retailers need to collect everything they can even if they don't have a plan to use it today. There are a number of companies, such as Uptake, who will help retailers and brands make more effective use of the data even if they can't do it themselves. While you can always build machine learning and rules to examine past transactions, you can never go back and get the data if you didn't collect it initially.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2017

    Will Dick’s price match keep it on top of the sporting goods category?

    Price is certainly a major factor in purchase decisions, but what these companies are competing against is friction in the buying process. Amazon makes it so simple for me to give them my money and have a predictable experience -- including when things go wrong -- that price isn't often my #1 purchase consideration. While it may factor more into other people's process more heavily, the amount of time people may have to spend dealing with a fickle price match program could ultimately make this more a PR stunt than a major boost to earnings (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). That all said, it would be great if more retailers tried aggressive programs such as this as long as they balance them with a relatively simple way to engage in the experience.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Is e-commerce a job builder or killer?

    E-commerce is a job changer, not really a job creator. We are seeing shifts from brick-and-mortar staffing to warehouse jobs -- not really an even trade since most of the warehouses of any scale (and that offer benefits, etc.) are tightly concentrated in certain parts of the U.S. whereas the brick-and-mortar jobs they are replacing in this analysis are scattered across the U.S. If we are talking about non-brick-and-mortar, then we are talking about a fundamental skills mismatch between retail workers today and the skills required to launch and run an e-commerce operation. And that is even before we talk about the far fewer people required to actually run an e-commerce operation than a traditional retailer.So overall we are seeing a shift in the mix but I would be hard-pressed to say that we are going to see dramatic increases in overall employment stemming from the shift to e-commerce.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2017

    Will an AR try-on app cut down on online clothing returns?

    I've always loved the promise of this technology, but until manufacturing operates at a higher level of precision than is standard today, people will always be returning clothes purchased online. The fact remains that fit can vary from one run to the next even within a particular SKU, so no matter how good you make the tech, the physical realities get in the way.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2017

    Will more customer rewards lift J.C. Penney’s sales?

    Is it just me or are even the rules of this program tiring to read? What retailers need now is fewer games and less friction in their shopping process. There's a reason grocery chains began to pull away from loyalty programs a few years ago -- customers want transparency and ease in their shopping experiences and these programs and cards provide the opposite. Even the graphic at the top of the page is byzantine. At a time when Amazon can separate you from your money in 15 seconds, other retailers and brands need to look to ways to engender repeat buying and loyalty without unnecessarily complicating the consumer experience.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    This move will hopefully ignite the creativity and inspiration of retailers and brands to embrace ship from store and ISPU technologies where they can leverage their inventory more effectively and utilize USPS and regional carriers to move product at a more cost-effective price point. Consumers are tired of paying a lot for shipping for sub-standard service now that Amazon has set the bar for free 2-day. One retailer I just visited asked me to pay $19 to ship a shirt in 2-3 days -- clearly not competitive.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Did Amazon just patent tech that could end showrooming in its stores?

    This is just a patent -- when I was at Microsoft we filed many of these without ever ultimately commercializing them. This one in particular is interesting because a.) it requires the person to be on the store Wi-Fi network and b.) it actually has a number of outcomes including alerting an associate to come and save the sale (not just blocking as many of the headlines initially reported).Despite the fact that the store would have to have some pretty egregious terms of service to allow for inspection of all your internet traffic when using their network, it could actually be an interesting piece of technology that would allow the retailer lots of flexibility to save the sale (even such things as real-time discounting of items in their store if someone is comparison shopping).
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    Two things: Instacart is hosed -- so that $2 billion company is having a bad Friday. Second, I can't imagine this makes financial sense on a unit economics basis but as far as making Amazon a daily habit, it is an excellent move.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    Will new payment options make Amazon Prime memberships even more popular?

    While Amazon’s decision to offer discounted Prime memberships to consumers receiving government assistance has been touted by some as a smart way to bolster the finances of low-income individuals, I think there could be unintended consequences.Offering such an incentive for those purchasing online, Amazon is potentially taking away from the revenue of retail stores, many of which employ individuals who are one paycheck away from government assistance. Lower revenue for these stores can lead to reduced hours for employees and cuts to staff. With retail already having cut more jobs this year than any other industry, this new move by Amazon will only cause further disruption. By contrast, while Amazon continues to upset the market other organizations are implementing programs that benefit the consumer. For instance Walmart recently began piloting a service allowing store employees to deliver packages on their way home from work to earn extra money. This process creates cheaper shipping prices for the consumer AND allows store employees to increase their earnings, generating mutual benefit for both store employees and buyers alike. In addition, Walmart already offers discounted prices for consumers who purchase online but pick up in-store. With 95 percent of the country within 10 miles of a Walmart location, such incentives benefit everyone and don’t require a premium up front in order to receive reduced prices later. I’m a fan of expanding access to both consumers and workers which is why I am a fan of ways to redeploy resources within the commercial sector using technologies such as ship-from-store and buy online, pick up in-store which can utilize fixed assets like stores more effectively while providing FREE access to great selection to anyone who wants or needs it. I applaud retailers and brands who expand access in this way.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2017

    Is Walmart’s innovation leader right that the AR revolution is a sure thing?

    While I appreciate the sentiment and techno-optimism of Mr. Ansani, we should expect our mobile devices to be with us for years to come. There are too many fundamental breakthroughs required to mainstream AR in any very-near future, including better battery tech, breakthroughs in optics that require bending the laws of physics, higher speed networks (although 5G should be widely available by 2020) and of course the killer app without which most of this tech is just for tech's sake.That said, once the requisite pieces of technology exist the shopping experience will be vastly different. I'm reminded of the game Second Life from the early '00s where brands would purchase and set up virtual storefronts for the 1 million inhabitants of the gamespace. Once AR is mainstream, you can imagine an entire Gold Rush of companies and brands clamoring for the hottest virtual real estate to appeal to the users. Or even if there is no virtual simulacrum of the physical world that exists in the space, using AR to make physical shopping more like the Amazon-like experience we expect today will become commonplace.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Is UNTUCKit the next big thing in apparel retailing?

    It's not a just a trend in apparel but in most startups that I work with. Start with one or two products to gain traction, build a loyal fanbase while gaining valuable product feedback (see how Allbirds have been very transparent about how they've improved their shoes), work on unit economics and supply chain and experiment with customer acquisition methods to establish your fully-burdened economic model. Staying agile early lets people fail without blowing the business.It is smart that UNTUCKit is now getting into stores and it will be interesting to see how they use technology to support the seamless omnichannel experience that their customers expect.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

    Can Walmart workers deliver better last mile results on their way home from work?

    I think this is a genius move. It isn't highly replicable by other retailers since it will require associate density for the technology to make sense, but for Walmart this won't be a problem. For a retailer that has smaller shops where only one or two associates work in a mall outlet, it likely isn't worth the hassle.Figure Walmart pays the associates their hourly wage to deliver and the average delivery run is three to four packages, the shipping cost just got cut by at least one-third AND they have higher satisfaction with customers (heck, humanizing Walmart through associates delivering packages to people's homes isn't a terrible idea).Not to mention that Walmart has potentially written code that partially solved the traveling salesperson computer science problem that vexes all of CS. :)
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Will personalized pricing only lead to more discounting?

    I think it's less about an expectation of discounts and more about breaking the antiquated notion of MSRP. Why should producers set prices months or years in advance when in actuality the act of making and distributing a product often has unpredictable and variable costs? Having dynamic pricing, whether in response to market conditions, cost of goods or consumers willingness to pay given history or capability, simply makes much more sense.

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