Dr. Stephen Needel

Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Dr. Stephen Needel is Managing Partner of Advanced Simulations, based in Woodstock, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. He formed and now manages an international company responsible for bringing virtual reality simulations to bear on retailing, marketing, and consumption issues from a research perspective.

Prior to starting ASL, Dr. Needel was President of Simulation Research, where he brought the concept of using virtual reality technology to the everyday marketing research world. Dr. Needel held the position of Vice President for Product Development at A.C. Nielsen, where he developed new techniques for integrating and analyzing retail scanner data and household purchasing data. He has also been a Vice President of Analytical Services at Nielsen after coming from their competitor, Information Resources, where he led a team doing advanced analytical research from IRI’s BehaviorScan market testing system. Earlier jobs included analytical roles at Burke Marketing Research and Quaker Oats.

Originally a native of the Boston, Dr. Needel came to the business community with a B. A. in Psychology from The American University and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Connecticut. He is a member of the American Marketing Association.

His international experience dovetails nicely with his appreciation of English beers, South American beef, Australian football, and Mexican chiles. He hopes to pass on these fondnesses to his two sons.

  • Posted on: 09/19/2017

    Five skills every retail manager needs to succeed

    I would have liked to see something about being good with customers.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2017

    Will exclusive nutrition labels set Raley’s apart from rivals?

    It will certainly help differentiate Raley's -- I'm just not sure it will do so in a positive way. I would worry that anyone shopping for a non-labelled product would feel guilty about doing so. The response to a store making you feel guilty? Go to another store.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Survey says grocery has reached its digital tipping point

    I would expect the survey results to be overstated, probably by a lot. Seriously, how many people are spending their time researching toilet paper, toothpaste or pasta sauce, except perhaps looking for coupons? As for making decisions before going to the store, shoppers have been making lists for as long as I can remember. That doesn't mean in-store merchandising won't influence those decisions.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Will lower everyday prices boost Target’s traffic and sales?

    Mark -- I'm not sure how much Target and Walmart have "turned pricing into a science." Walmart wants to be the lowest and squeezes its vendors. Target has rarely shown they are doing anything scientific in their pricing.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Professor says price gouging is simple supply and demand at work

    While I'm a big fan of capitalism, warts and all, there are times when we, as a society, just need to say no. This is one of those times. Georgia, for all its backwardness, has anti-gouging laws that kick in once the Governor declares a state of emergency -- roughly a 10 percent cap on price increases. Neither Publix, Kroger, nor Walmart, which ran out of bottled water on Friday in our area, raised their prices -- when they easily could have. Publix had signs apologizing for the out-of-stock and promised more the next morning. They took the good corporate citizen approach.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Will lower everyday prices boost Target’s traffic and sales?

    I'm not sure that price has been the issue for Target. They've tried competing with Walmart on price (my wife was a price checker for them for a couple of years) and that effort failed. Cutting back promotions may help the bottom line, but isn't going to win them any consumer fans. Fix the website, improve the assortment and price between Walmart and traditional grocery -- Target thinks they are more upscale than Walmart, let the prices demonstrate that.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    The big question is pricing and sizing. Airports have always been a more expensive place to buy products. But the fact that I can buy two aspirin for a headache, rather than a bottle, makes it reasonable for a short-term need. It's not like they are providing a service where none existed -- at least in most airports I've ever been in. That said, the right product selection at a price better than what I can find elsewhere in the airport could make it successful. Best Buy may not be the best comparison.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2017

    Are new, exclusive toys key to Walmart’s Christmas success?

    We all seem to agree that differentiation is great. Whether those exclusive toys are going to be successful depends on how good Walmart's (and its vendors') research is. Having exclusivity is only good if people want what is exclusive -- look at the weak performance of Persil as an example.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2017

    Do grocers need to reset the center store?

    The question might not be whether the center store needs to be reset but rather, what is the center store? It's only the center store in that it's mostly not dairy, meat or bakery. That leaves most of the store. So can we design better stores? Sure we can -- there are lots of retailers doing it. Can we mix in healthy and not-so-healthy -- sure we can. What we need to remember is the shopper is in the driver's seat -- they choose what to buy. You can put all the healthy cereals you want in the cereal aisle and put a refrigerated case to store berries and milk there, but if the shopper wants Cocoa Puffs, they're buying Cocoa Puffs.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2017

    Does e-commerce need 3-D shopping?

    We've been playing with this idea for years. There are two basic problems with it. Clothing often needs to be tried on, so virtual shopping for some stuff in the mall is problematic. The bigger problem is inventory maintenance. In many mall businesses, inventory is changing rapidly. For one store, say Coach handbags, not a problem. For 100 stores, more of an issue. For grocery, nearly impossible at a reasonable cost.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Why are Target’s small stores much more productive than its big boxes?

    The answer may depend on what they mean by productivity. If it's sales or profits per space allocated (square foot, linear foot, etc.) then their tendency to overstock a small variety would be abrogated by less space.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Should all retailers offer subscription services?

    This is a tiny part of the shopping universe. It depends on a regularity of usage that many of us do not achieve, as well as systems for delivering items correctly (Walgreens take note: your system is particularly plagued by this and CVS is not far ahead of mediocre fulfillment on prescriptions). It doesn't take many misses or substitutions (like feeding my dog hamburger occasionally) to throw the timing off. Retailers have better things to do.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2017

    What do consumers want when using AR or VR to shop?

    Not in the least. We've been using VR as a marketing research tool for 25 years. Yes it's very cool, but consider that there are fewer than 15 million headsets in the world, most of them crappy Google Cardboard. This survey of early adopters is heavily biased and should be ignored for the most part. Will VR become more popular? Sure it will. But not for years to come.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    Carol nailed this pretty well. We see the same problems in marketing research, particularly the vaporware applications that don't actually exist yet and the "technology in search of a problem" approach.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    How should vendors respond to Walmart’s reluctance to raise prices?

    If a vendor needs to take a price increase, they need to take a price increase. As long as they are increasing across all chains, Walmart retains its price advantage. This is their leverage and should be a non-issue. If they are just trying to raise Walmart's wholesale price then they are in strategy mode, asking themselves whether it's worth doing business with Walmart. It may be okay to say no, it's not worth it.

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