Sterling Hawkins

Co-founder, CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology)
Sterling Hawkins is a business leader, entrepreneur and investor living at the intersection of in-store and online. Currently running operations and venture relations for CART, his legacy is that of a 5th generation retailer whose family name is synonymous with retail. From that springboard, he has worked with clients on best practices in consumer marketing, loyalty and retail technology including Mitsubishi, M&M Meat Shop, Procter & Gamble and many others. Through CART, he has also partnered with universities including Stanford, Cornell and the University of Texas to incorporate the future of retail into their curricula and provider a go-to-market channel for relevant startups.

in 2004, Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena. Since, we has been actively involved in the community speaking at business conferences around the world. He has been seen in ABC Money, Comstock, RetailWire and Forbes. Sterling lives in Los Angeles and spends his time mobilizing a network of startups, investors and retailers to bring together online and in-store for the betterment of business, communities and the human condition. 

Speaking & Investment:
  • Posted on: 12/14/2017

    Will chatbots replace customer service reps?

    It's a question of "when" not "if" chatbots will handle most customer service issues. This is where AI can play a growing role in the enterprise and only a few of the chatbot providers out there have a true AI solution. Those that do can accommodate 70 percent to 80 percent of customer service issues and that number will only grow. At the very least, a chatbot will be able to work with the customer to a point where a human customer service representative can take over simplifying the whole process, leaving humans to do what humans do best.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    Will last-minute pickup payoff for Walmart?

    It is all about the experience and it needs to be fast, smooth and accurate so there is a value add over picking items from the store yourself. Especially around holiday time, there's a lot of value in offering a service like this.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Will shoppers pay services to do returns for them?

    All part of this sharing economy. I think it's a good idea that will have to evolve to be truly valuable. Focusing on returns for a $9.99 fee is too much of a niche market. It will be interesting to watch how this business grows over time as there's a larger opportunity in the space after TaskRabbit was picked up by Ikea.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    Will mobile move the needle for J. Crew – this holiday and beyond?

    There are lots of good comments here and it all boils down to having the right product. The mobile efforts are a necessary step and certainly support demand when it's there. Mobile is the tip of the iceberg though as more and more emerging technologies are coming out from augmented reality fitting rooms to custom printed clothes. Every retailer needs to find their balance between the product and experience.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Subscription services are moving beyond just being surprise boxes

    Erik Reynolds nailed this with his stand that it’s a relationship; it’s not a transaction. Really maintaining that includes staying relevant and keeping a consistent quality that fulfills on that relationship.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2017

    Will click & collect finally compel retailers to remodel stores?

    Bob and Nikki are right on. And the balance of remodeling with employee technologies is different at different retailers and certainly by retail vertical. That balance is further adjusted when updating store designs for other technologies coming soon including autonomous delivery and robotics in-store. The best approach is to keep the store footprint as flexible as possible with an eye on what future technologies need to be considered.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    It’s good to be Home Depot

    A great customer experience should be cost of entry these days. I agree with Tom that many long-time retailers are missing that mark and it is leaving a wide open space for Amazon and countless tech and new-format-retail companies to step into. That said, Home Depot is taking it a step further and has done a really great job in creating that customer experience. It's a mountain with no top though -- there are always more improvements to be made.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Customer data is grocery’s new battleground

    Customer data is table stakes. And it's time to ask the next question: HOW can it be used more effectively to transform the shopping experience? Personalizing offers, curating store sets and optimizing the supply chain is used at many retailers today. Taking the customer experience a step further in customizing all content and even experiences will be the most notable piece.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2017

    Will Ocado’s robots help U.S. grocers solve their online delivery problems?

    There are different kinds of customers: those that want to feel their produce before purchasing and those that want the convenience of just having it delivered. Agreed that it does come down to trust. And at the same time, there's a large group of consumers that prefer the convenience of delivery if the economics are right. Ocado is definitely on the right path.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2017

    How open are consumers to AI-driven shopping?

    Consumer adoption of new things is a value exchange. As soon as the value proposition is right for a critical number of people it starts driving a culture shift. Privacy is cost of entry these days for everything and needs to be in place. Retailers should focus on the key drivers of broader adoption: usefulness, effectiveness and making sure consumers understand how it all works.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2017

    Amazon Go still plans to transform convenience in retail stores

    It is just a matter of when. Computer vision (a core technology component of Amazon Go) is dramatically improving and there are at least several other companies working on similar "just walk out" services. I'm with Mark that it's still bleeding-edge stuff. Longer beta testing periods and smaller formats are the training grounds on the way to broader adoption of this kind of tech into places like Whole Foods and elsewhere. Once the technology is perfected, it will be quickly adopted by new formats and traditional retailers alike.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2017

    Are data sharing concerns still holding back true personalization?

    Transparency, safeguards and guidelines over consent is not what's limiting personalization. I'm on the same page as Brandon in that all of that is cost of entry to being a retailer today and that has to be in place. As retailers 1. build the value proposition for which sharing data makes sense and 2. build trust and confidence with the consumer that they'll deliver on that value proposition, true personalization will continue to be more broadly accepted.
  • Posted on: 11/10/2017

    Has Google solved the problem of long lines at grocery checkouts?

    I agree that there's minimal value add here. I don't see it dramatically altering the behavior of the vast majority of shoppers (at least any time soon). Ultimately, stores need to figure out how to accommodate a volume of shoppers with additional staffing or an easier checkout process.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2017

    Big Data is done, put a fork in it

    Well said. Data and insights for the sake of data and insights doesn't net any impact on the business. It's what is done as a result that makes the difference. Having the business look at what questions to ask connected to actions they could take is definitely the best approach.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2017

    Can Kroger make a name for itself in fashion?

    I understand Kroger's strategy here, I'm just not sure they executed effectively. Kroger is today synonymous with food and stepping out into grocery stores with apparel comes out of left field for consumers (not to mention that many of their stores are purpose-built to sell food). Kroger's brand is at risk as they redefine what they stand for in the market.

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