Sterling Hawkins

Co-founder, CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology)
Sterling Hawkins runs operations and venture relations as co-founder of CART. Sterling’s legacy is that of a 5th generation retailer whose family name is synonymous with supermarket 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 provide a go-to-market channel for relevant startups.

In 2004, Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena. He’s been actively involved in the retail technology startup scene ever since, hosting monthly events, mentoring promising entrepreneurs and involved with the board of a regional investment group. Sterling lives in Los Angeles, loves to travel and gives what time he can to non-profits. He received his BS in Management from Bentley University with a Minor in International Studies and passed the Series 65.

  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    Channel should almost always be secondary to the offering. Retailers moving to pure-play online just because the economics look better are taking a step towards their own decline. Max is right that there's a core offering issue in these situations that needs to be addressed. The sweet spot for most is making online and in-store work better together.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    What do know-it-all shoppers want?

    Mark is right. Each shopper may want a different level of service and even the same shopper might be looking for a different service level different times they shop. Having tools to smooth the transaction and knowledgeable associates that know when to step in seems like a winning combination.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2017

    Using a social app to prepare for a U.S. retail launch

    There's such a low barrier to entry to bring an app to market that it's a cost effective way to drive interactions and learn about consumers before doubling down on more expensive initiatives. This makes a lot of sense, but only if the app is adding value to shoppers. If the app is poorly received by the market, it could actually have the opposite effect.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2017

    Will Google/Levi’s smart jacket finally make wearables fashionable?

    It is early days for wearables and testing the water is necessary at this stage. The jacket not only gets PR headlines, but they'll get a chance to measure actual consumer interest. Market feedback is invaluable in understanding the complex puzzle of how fashion, tech and the economics of what will make sense come together.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery?

    It is very early in the game and I suspect we'll continue to see more innovative solutions coming to market for that last-mile of delivery. I'm with Chris that there will be more than one winner to accommodate different geographies, package sizes, etc. The exciting thing is that not only are many of these technologies viable, but the the economics to deploy them are starting to make sense.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2017

    Will AI transform retail marketing?

    Retail executives are drowning in data today as big data continues to explode. New solutions and capabilities are coming into the market that use AI to automatically surface key analytics, automate processes and focus on opportunities or concerns. AI and machine learning are taking optimization solutions to new levels of accuracy and capability, which as Ms. Connell says, frees up humans to be human and build both relationships and the business.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2017

    Are retailers ‘blind’ to digital marketing’s flaws?

    Zel is 100% right; balance is key as no one channel works for all consumers. Once content is created (offers, recipes, etc.), it requires a little customization to make it appropriate for each channel (ex. a full TV commercial often isn't appropriate in a mobile environment). Meeting consumers where they are is part of a retail strategy that takes a step past omnichannel and moves towards truly unified commerce.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Do consumers want AI and AR in their mobile apps?

    The key point being that it's not about the AI or AR itself, but about what value that functionality will actually bring to the shopper. AI/AR have a cool factor that must convert to easy and useful tools that shoppers need as Patricia mentions above.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Has Walmart found a digital answer for empty store shelves?

    Iterating through new concepts is the best way to effectively innovate. I don't think this initiative is a catch-all for the OOS problem (that’s still a problem that needs to be addressed), but as you say it's definitely a step in the right direction and probably a welcome new service for customers.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2017

    Will content ever top discounts in e-mail campaigns?

    This is right on. There's no one thing that works for everyone, and what that thing is varies person to person and over time. Getting relevant content, discounts and offers in front of the customer at the right time (sometimes even in the right place) is key to how retailers look at reaching out to customers.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2017

    Will VR/AR keep consumers out of stores?

    Right! It's about how all of the channels can come together to create a better/faster/easier customer experience. Physical stores will need to change over time to be a less central part of the commerce experience, but no, they're no less important in the foreseeable future.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will the AWS outage make retailers think twice about cloud?

    There's simply not a better alternative than relying on a large hosting provider for the vast majority of companies. The cost, risks and expertise required to bring something like that totally in-house are far in excess of the rewards. And online activities are now critical for retailers and consumers. Sure, it's a moderate risk and it needs to be managed alongside all other business risks.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2017

    Will smart shelves ever be smart enough for Kroger and other retailers?

    This has been a long-talked about in-store experience and it's really exciting to see it expanding. The economics will necessitate it being leveraged for all aspects of the business -- operations, pricing and shopper engagement -- to make it work. The technology and the specific applications (customer or operations) will evolve over time as the vision is a solid one.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Is Amazon’s Alexa a threat to rival retailers?

    I think there's a bit bigger message here as well: retailers need to have their products online. Without having some kind of e-commerce capability, they won't be able to make products available to Alexa, Google or any other AI. There is certainly some loss of power here in retailers giving up the direct customer interaction; however, AI capabilities will become all but a requirement in the future and it'll be up to the retailer to partner, use a third-party solution or develop their own.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2017

    What tech tools do independent grocers need to compete with e-tailers?

    Right. This is not about technology; this is about the customer. Implementing technology for the sake of technology doesn't help anyone. Carefully curating the customer experience (online and off) with technology as the enabler opens the door to the niche the independent sector has long exploited: an overall improved experience.The key here is to not implement these enabling technologies piecemeal. A recent BRP paper summed it up really well when then said: unified commerce is the goal; "faux" omni-channel is the reality. Independents have the opportunity here to use technology to break traditional silos and really align their organization with the demands of their customers.

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