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: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    Price is important. And so is a really fluid omnichannel experience. Costco is catching up in the online world and competitive pricing is a key factor in attracting more customers. It's important, to Ron's point here, that they keep those customers via really great omnichannel engagement including email, in-store, mobile, etc. Otherwise it's just giving away discounted product with no long-term results.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    How did mobile become the ‘glue’ in the Sephora shopping experience?

    This is a great example of technology not being used for the sake of technology, but to actually engage the customer and improve their shopping experience. Each tool works in synergy across the different touch points adding value along the way. Only parts of the Sephora implementation are specifically transferable (supermarkets probably wouldn't add value by letting customers "try on" products); however, the approach and strategy Sephora has deployed is something we can all learn from.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

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

    Just because Amazon could block content while on store Wi-Fi doesn't mean they will. And I'm with you that it would be a quick way to alienate shoppers. Blocking otherwise pubic information from customers is rarely (if ever) the right answer. However, using it as a trigger to deploy customer service or change the in-store experience could be very viable.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    So exciting! Amazon acquiring Whole Foods represents the first true melding of the online and brick & mortar shopping experience at scale. We'll be seeing Amazon leveraging Alexa’s shop-by-voice platform, its rapidly growing delivery capabilities, hyper-personalization, payment accounts and Prime membership into fuzing together the online and physical store experiences at Whole Foods in a way never before seen.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    Are consumers ready to use automated purchasing tech on a wide scale?

    I like that. Or maybe automated reorders only ship when they hit a certain spend threshold so customers can get the brand and package sizes they prefer. I can see some kind of discount/incentive encouraging people to use a shipping threshold working well.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Will Best Buy increase gadget sales with a try-before-you-buy offer?

    Very smart move and I think it'll see a lot of success. With the sometimes high price point some wearables have, combined with being a relatively new category for consumers, it lowers the barrier to entry to get people involved. Once consumers have a device in their hands, a good number of them will likely rent again or move to a full purchase.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2017

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

    There's a little company called Snap that has already brought AR to market in a significant way. Sure, Snapchat isn't a commerce vehicle (yet); however, it has familiarized many with AR and how it works. I do agree that AR doesn't have a "killer-app" for retail, but with the big players we have jumping into this race, I don't think it'll be long.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2017

    Can licensing safeguard against retail downsizing?

    Licensing is a fundamentally different business from being in retail. While it may be a financial hedge for some, the brand gives up much of the control around customer touch points and direct relationships. I'm in 100% agreement here that retailers should primarily look to transform their unified channel experience while only pursuing licensing deals in situations or verticals that make sense beyond that.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2017

    Will virtual reality become the ultimate retail training tool?

    Agreed. VR is a great addition to retail training programs and certainly a step up from slides. Given the early novelty there's probably more employee interest in VR as well. I don't think this is a tool that will replace all training; however, it can be an important and growing part.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

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

    The locations and personnel Walmart has can be an incredible resource. Getting the compensation, customer experience, etc. correct will all take some doing though. It's an idea worth piloting.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Should Amazon buy Macy’s?

    Amazon could benefit from physical distribution; however, there are far easier ways to acquire that than absorbing Macy's. Key for Amazon in the brick and mortar world is leveraging technology and unifying the online/offline experience. They're much better served continuing to create that with their proven ability to open stores. That said, everything has a price at which it makes sense.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2017

    Will Google change the game by linking clicks to in-store purchases?

    Google Attribution is a new tool in a game that has already changed. Making this kind of capability more easily accessible for more retailers is a win for retailers and a win for Google.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Will independent grocers turn it around in 2017?

    Big retail players can sell product cheaper than many independents can buy it. Regardless of resourcing, independents competing on price is a no-win situation when that's the case. SaaS models make most technologies economically feasible. And at the end of the day I'm with you Lyle, independents often have the advantage of culture and service.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will Amazon’s use of data transform how retailers operate stores?

    There's definitely a parallel of online sales optimization via algorithms and what can be done in a physical location. The difficulty of adjusting merchandising in a store is offset with the ability to have much richer data. Technologies are such today that they allow for an even more detailed view of customer interactions in-store than what can be seen online (sentiment analysis, etc.).
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    How should self-checkout be incentivized?

    Self checkout needs an overhaul. It's often more of the same with glitches and unnecessary "customer assistance" required scenarios. There's an opportunity here to make real convenience the incentive. If retailers are incentivizing customers to use self checkout beyond convenience the experience is broken. There's a whole generation of technologies -- including mobile phone based self checkout -- that can offer true convenience and create a win for both the users and the retailer.

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