PROFILE

Ananda Chakravarty

Retail Thought Leader
Ananda is a retail thought leader. Currently Ananda is Director, Global Retail Lead & Software Strategy at Diebold Nixdorf, the premier firm in European retail and progenitor of the ATM. Ananda also served as Director, Retail Omnichannel Solutions Strategy at Oracle. Ananda was a senior analyst at Forrester advising c-level leaders on digital store, digital store technologies, retail enablement, digital in-store analytics and Digital Grocery. Prior to Forrester, Ananda served as Director of Enterprise Digital Strategy at The Hartford and executive and product roles at Staples, Talbots and Monster.com. Opinions reflect those of the author only. Ananda holds an MBA from Northeastern University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University.
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  • Posted on: 09/16/2021

    Online grocery shopping is pretty much all about convenience

    Convenience is important to grocers but not at the expense of profitability. Sometimes retailers forget that convenience is really about making it easy to do business with you - from shopping for weekly groceries to having the right products in your pantry. The end goal is still converting that convenience into revenue. The tech and engagements from Albertsons and Kroger to Walmart and Target have mostly been behind the scenes in the back office or at the DCs. The best conveniences are invisible. Yet they have most impact to the customer and retailer.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2021

    Will the Kroger/Instacart deal redefine grocery shopping convenience in America?

    No redefinition of convenience, which is still running to your neighborhood store (convenience and grocery). This will enhance experiences for those already using online delivery. The project lowers cost of delivery substantially and will attract some new followers, but the trend towards delivery is measured and consistent and linear, regardless of Kroger’s effort. This is a win-win only, for consumers and Kroger. Instacart will see fixed delivery profits erode as they will be unable to charge higher fees. Yet they will still have the larger costs for 30 minute turnaround and high demand for servicing customers. I’m sure Instacart will be sharing data and Kroger would never allow Instacart to own their customers. Competition has already moved down this path, but will be hard pressed to deliver consistently in 30 minute last miles. I suspect a deeper relationship between the two companies -- maybe an acquisition. Now that would be a real game changer.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2021

    Walmart says crypto press release is a fake

    This is a serious issue, but is less about retail and more about securities fraud. The appropriate place for this kind of engagement would be with the SEC. The "pump and dump scheme" may have cost investors millions and automated investing tools could easily mistake the initiative. I’m most surprised organizations like Globe Newswire would have released this without officially confirming the information. Walmart’s quick response probably saved investors (especially smaller ones) millions. The problem is classification of cryptocurrencies as securities that are traded openly on the market -- and these typically have less formal guidelines than stocks or FX. An SEC statement from a couple of years back identified this kind of fraud. Retailers may adopt some form of crypto payments in a few years, but right now there just hasn’t been enough of a mess market. For higher priced currencies, it’s unlikely these would be considered until the price value is closer to real dollars and cents with wide adoption.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Can Kroger offset its margin headwinds?

    Other factors that will impact are a bit longer term. A great study shows the grocery industry as it is at the end of 2020 -- where new entrants and competition from convenience, gas, and drug stores impact the most. See here. The current conditions are transient, and the general trend for the past few years have seen over 2% growth. For Kroger, their growth spurt from 2020 has slowed down, but they’re still pulling in similar sales (0.6% less). The importance of grocery hasn’t waned, and there is expected increased disposable income across the board this coming year. Price will not be their driver.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Can Kroger offset its margin headwinds?

    Price elasticity is there for Kroger to offset the losses from shrink, transport, and possibly inflation. Typical price adjustments can rise to ~5% and in certain cases with higher demand goods up to 10%. Kroger will easily manage this. The largest threat is actually transportation and warehousing costs, with shipping costs for parcels rising and transport costs increasing as well. The push in higher warehousing costs are unhelpful, but these might not be longer term changes. Shrink by organized crime has limited recourse, while high inflation rates have yet to materialize. Operating costs will be baked into the product prices for consumers and those who must have their special food items will pay a premium.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2021

    Will Just Walk Out tech work for Whole Foods?

    Not sure how many grocery shoppers are looking for “surprise and delight” per Mackey’s comments. Most are slogging through their weekly shopping and making sure they have beverages for the weekend and bread for their sandwiches. There is a shopping experience and a functional experience. The problem with Just Walk Out tech is that there are so many lower cost alternatives that will be more attractive to retailers and, practically speaking, by the time it’s rolled out in stores it may be outdated. No doubt retailers will move towards checkout free options, but there’s no compelling reason for most retailers to be first in this tech, especially from their largest competitor.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2021

    Nordstrom ain’t what it used to be before the pandemic

    No doubt that Nordstrom is struggling and growth in their last financials is substantially in the Nordstrom Rack side of the business. Most important was the downgrading of their credit rating recently by Moodys as the company is not recovering as fast as their peers in the market. The company is suffering from a combination of heavy debt, limited rise from customer foot traffic returning to the stores (key to their survival) and the overall drag on malls where most of their stores are located. The leadership of Blake Nordstrom before his passing prior to the pandemic was an enormous factor in its success and Nordstrom troubles began around then. Can they come back from this? Yes. Will the current team do it? Only if they return to the basics of luxury and not pull their business quality down to cut costs -- better having fewer well functioning stores than stores unable to meet the high standards they’ve set for the industry.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2021

    Can Amazon create the Prime Video of audio services?

    The development is another media channel delivered over the internet. Moreover, the service is effectively a broadcast service rather than interactive, e.g. Clubhouse. Hence, limited ability to expand voice assistant adoption. Alexa has been stagnant for 2-3 years and voice shopping hasn’t taken off as hoped. Maybe a slight bump -- initially -- but not predicting successes for voice assistant tech based on this. Think radio. Prime is already saturated in the states and we’ll begin to see stratification of Prime -- sort of like Disney+ and Disney+ Premium -- so Amazon can grow wallet share.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2021

    Is ‘groundedness’ the antidote trend to digital whiplash?

    Groundedness is just a new term for marketing segments already well used today. Marketers use psychographic marketing segmentation with specific segments arising from emotional attachments, nostalgia, and familiarity. The researchers' concept here is not new and is relatively common in the marketing space. Almost every ad you see is tied to emotional factors that make people comfortable, drive purchase or support a brand. Trends in this space have begun long before the pandemic from Buy American to “Organic” stamped on packaging. If anything, marketers are already well aware of emotional impact. No disrespect to the researchers, but they’ve built a study that only reinforces common knowledge.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2021

    Can marketers successfully shift focus from acquisition to retention?

    Market share or wallet share. Hunt or gather. Acquire or retain. The real change for retailers has been that their existing models (regardless of their combination of acquire/retain) has been scrambled. Covid-19, innovation, and CX based competition have put customers at risk with lower switching costs. The consumer is tied down even less with purchasing locally or getting that weekly deal at their local store since they have next day delivery. Hence retention has become more important than before, and customers online and off have begun exploring new avenues. Retailers with an existing customer base need to ensure they will be able to retain it against the onslaught of competition. Loyalty will become a more critical game changer, especially for established retailers.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    Ending prices that end in 99 cents

    The problem with the study is that it has two competing pricing theories involved, one with the charm pricing, one with anchoring, where a separate price point ($1.20) sets the high point and value of the product. A broader spread between price points could greatly change the outcome. Not sure of the reliability of the study in suggesting charm pricing limits upgrades.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely

    This Best Buy effort is remote customer assist with video and staffing. The challenge for Best Buy will be to scale it across their entire network of over 1,000 stores. Best Buy will leverage experts from vendors in their virtual store and I suspect video recordings combined with online chat and some AI to drive the offering. The move improves the customer experience, centralizes costs and might even be able to leverage the Geek Squad from localized stores to develop content. According to Accenture, 85 percent of customers find video chat to be helpful. As for online or offline, this is designed as an integrated solution, for Best Buy this is intended to improve on almost $19 billion in online sales as it continues to grow rapidly.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2021

    Amazon finally catches the ‘buy now, pay later’ wave

    Amazon is looking to increase average order value and push sales of higher priced items without taking on any additional risk (hence the partnership). I suspect there has been a drop or at least a slowdown of high priced goods sold through Amazon, and a boost will incentivize customers to buy the higher priced items, including luxury and appliances, through Amazon. Not that this is a major change. Customers already purchase these products, but offering BNPL satisfies a key segment that had relied primarily on credit to make their purchases. This offering also moves downstream in the wealth spectrum to those who are unable to afford high-priced products during any cycle.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2021

    Do retailers need a chief data officer?

    Jeff I love your comments. Data is not the end state, but a tool to make good decisions. The CDataO (there are chief digital and chief diversity officers as well) needs to be the one who converts data into a decision making tool that drives ROI at all levels of the organization.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2021

    Do new Shipt and Walmart programs signal big changes to come in the retail delivery market?

    Last mile delivery dynamics are just starting to get interesting. The two solutions are different. Preferred shopper offers a clienteling aspect to delivery, which is not a new concept, but it’s converting something reserved for the rich and celebrities into a readily available service. Will be exciting to see this expand and I’m curious about the costs and feasibility. The shopper programs already have challenges with availability. The GoLocal program is a new stripe in that it puts Walmart in the driver’s seat -- literally. Typically it’s been Amazon vying for the role of selling picks and shovels to other retailers, but Walmart in this place leverages their expansive logistics and delivery capabilities. This will be a small business and small retailer play. Larger retailers will shy away from it or develop their own program. Big potential changes to the delivery market. New players with substantial resources. Heavier competition for the incumbent delivery companies. The parcel delivery market will change and expect to see some consolidation if either program is successful. There will be further tightening of shipping costs. For now it’s wait and see.

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