PROFILE

Ananda Chakravarty

Retail Thought Leader
Ananda is a retail thought leader. 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.

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: 09/21/2018

    Nike expects sales to take off with launch on Jet.com

    People buy Nike for the brand, not the shoe. The Jet.com deal fits in with Nike's goals for online growth and Nike is a global brand. Nike is a master at co-optition, where they compete in the same markets they distribute. For them, the data provided by Amazon and Jet combined with experiences and marketing make these partnerships attractive. Nike can selectively manage products in the marketplaces. It's 30,000+ retail partners selling Nike shoes and apparel. Nike is one of the most iconic brands in the world. It is also a top retailer running almost 1,000 stores worldwide. Nike's online business was around 3 percent in 2015. Nike plans to grow this through partnerships and their own direct-to-consumer options. The risks for Nike are limited -- their marketing spend will continue driving demand. Customers will buy Nike wherever it's most convenient, and Nike will have direct access to customers -- even through the algorithms of Amazon - because their revenue is not tied to the market, but the brand itself. Read more about the Nike here.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    Would you believe older men with lower incomes are the new drivers of online sales growth?

    This is a great opportunity for retailers. Loyalty begins with first impressions, and for capturing new online shoppers in older generations that still believe in loyalty, this becomes a solid play. As for taking share from Amazon, that's a bit different and far more challenging -- this is more about growth of online shopping. The pie may be bigger, but the portions will be the same. Amazon has already reached critical mass and is mainstream, meaning that even new online shoppers will eventually be exposed to it -- so some movement, but not substantial.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    What would 3,000 AmazonGo stores do to the U.S. retail landscape?

    Most of the folks on this thread have covered this topic well, but here's another 2 cents: Costs are high per store, but that won't be the challenge. The tech will be outstripped with new, lower cost tech over time anyway. I also doubt fast food, QSRs or c-stores will be replaced by this kind of tech anytime soon. But it sets in motion something that is very much Amazon-like -- a longer-term view. For this to take hold, it will require major shifts in customer behavior -- in how people shop -- and that's where Amazon has some notches on their belt. Amazon captured customer sentiment in the past, this time they need to induce it. Novelty is not enough.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    What would 3,000 AmazonGo stores do to the U.S. retail landscape?

    Hi Lee -- I would argue checkout at c-stores lines is much faster than any grocery and usually not such a big sticking point. Mainly because basket sizes are small. Amazon will definitely be an interesting addition to the mix.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2018

    Are Aldi’s customers who you think they are?

    No surprise. For Aldi the partnership is key. The test is really testing Instacart's ability to service Aldi customers, not whether customers will buy Aldi products for home delivery. Aldi has shifted the burden and cost (and potentially profits) of home delivery to their partner, expanding their brand's convenience factor. The second key part is the fact that most if not all Aldi products are private label -- you can't get them anywhere else. Home delivery becomes much more attractive to existing Aldi customers. For Instacart, the issue of substitutions can be a concern with a much smaller assortment than most grocers -- potential out-of-stocks -- but this was probably already factored into their relationship. Aldi has strong loyalty, high quality offerings, and is known for their fresh product. I won't go so far as to say that this will be a home run hit for Aldi, but it will improve convenience for customers who already love the brand.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2018

    Tuft & Needle and Native knew their first products fell short

    I just don't buy it. Literally. I won't be buying products I know are not best efforts at whatever they're building. Companies like Apple introduced innovative new products, but the whole concept with iteration is not about creating junk and making it better. It's about making cool, effective products and then making it amazing. If it's just designed to be good enough for an investor's exit strategy, there's no real added value to the public or industry.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2018

    Retailers need seasonal workers, but do workers need retailers?

    Wage increases, bonuses, flex-time, and holiday pay, and even childcare might not cover the battleground for this holiday season. The best incentive will be a road to permanence. It will be competitive and retailers know it. The winners: temp hiring agencies who can provide the supply. We'll also begin to see technology rear its head in the form of self-service and automation, but to a far lesser degree -- stores are just not ready for it at scale. Where tech will be valuable is in HR automation software for larger retailers to manage their temp labor (and their incentives).
  • Posted on: 09/18/2018

    Will competition force all grocers to offer free store pickup?

    In-store pickup will become table stakes for grocers, but it might not be free for some time. Justifying the costs on tight margins for grocers will continue to be challenging, but demand for the service is high and customers will come to expect this option, free or at-cost. Grocers unable to build their in-house infrastructure will rely on third-party providers for support. Companies like Curbside, Instacart, Shipt, et. al. will offer partial or complete services including home delivery. Grocers must find ways to continue to make it easier for the customer or be left behind.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    Are grocers shortchanging flexitarians?

    For grocery not only is assortment limited, so is shelf space. The products have to move and there has to be turnover. Grocers can't afford waste with small profit margins, so 8 percent of the market means a proportional 8 percent of an assortment should be plant-based foods -- which few grocers have delivered on. The manufacturer's desire to keep their products competitive with meat-based products and stocking these in the same aisles is an important factor. Challenges exist -- manufacturers have powerful lobbies and deep relationships with retailers across many meat groups including beef, pork, poultry and lamb and they'll keep it in this multi-billion dollar space. See this study for an interesting view into the power of meat.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    Walmart expands test of giant automated grocery kiosk

    The Walmart kiosk is like McDonald's drive-thru or a coffee run at Dunkin Donuts. It really is for convenience of a certain niche of customers that are looking to get in and out quickly but need their item that day. Customers using this service would be less inclined to impulse-buy, will probably come back to the store for their regular buying, and will seek small basket sizes. A hefty percentage of Americans still buy on their weekend shopping trip, and online grocery shopping for 50-100 items will be slow to take, so this is focused on a narrow group of customers that complements grocery pickup and home delivery. Ricardo summed it nicely in his first sentence - it's an experiment, and Walmart is looking to see how they can corner this customer segment.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2018

    Is mobile the most disruptive force in retail since online selling began?

    Mark puts it well -- but to expand the thinking, it goes even further than consumer engagement. Mobile tech has expanded delivery to the home with every UPS driver having a device, has allowed retailers in warehouses to track packages and route to destinations efficiently and has enabled digital transactions where stores couldn't even exist before. Mobile will continue to grow as a powerful tool for retailers in the back office first and over time we'll see even more consumer adoption follow.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2018

    What will it take for consumers to take out their mobile wallets?

    Payment transactions are still the key reason people carry a wallet. They're carrying cash or cards to buy things and services, or store info like insurance cards. Today, mobile wallets need to replicate this capability efficiently first -- which still fails for consumers because:
    1. Transactions are just as efficient manually;
    2. Not all merchants accept mobile payments;
    3. Inertia -- no compelling reason to shift methods;
    4. Added value is limited, specific and impersonal;
    Security concerns also exist, but I would downplay the consumer expectations here -- it's more a brand trust issue than anything else. Assuming added value can be offered, the challenge with incentives are that they are short term and unsustainable. Organization is challenging across multiple merchants each with their own apps, and fragmented when achieved. Personalization has some potential -- but retailers are still poor at making things relevant. What consumers need is integration with functional value at the time of transaction -- e.g. scheduling pickups, store locators, payment options, availability, gift options -- enhancing usage and adoption of mobile wallets.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2018

    Gap CEO says retailers not turning in-store data into action

    Retailers struggle with in-store data but are challenged to take action on the data -- and herein lies the rub. It's clear there is value -- even more than online data capture, but:
    1. There is a ton of data -- Walmart, as an example, collects 2.5 Petabytes every hour.
    2. Data capture requires investment -- Most data is still capturing POS data and foot traffic counters. Sensors, tracking equipment and setting up stores for more than POS data across hundreds or thousands of stores can be costly. Follow-up with cleaning, sorting, and data management, and the costs can be overwhelming.
    3. Data analysis is an art -- It doesn't really matter if you collect data, using it to make decisions and making the data actionable through insights and predictive models is what matters.
    Walmart, for instance, collects and overlays data about local weather conditions, local events, social media, economic events, Nielsen ratings and more. The company still can't apply that data to meet the relevance needs of individuals. Retailers have limited data for deep personalization. Knowing four or five data points about an individual gives little to work on to determine what they plan on purchasing next. The retailers must turn to tech companies and potentially AI to help manage, collect, and gain insights from their data. It will be an interesting market shift to those who can master this trend.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2018

    Will ‘drops’ yield more fashion buzz or busts?

    This is "sale" in a new disguise, limited time and limited quantity (scarcity) will always drive sets of buyers in the market. Liz outlined it nicely. Making it specific to the product anniversaries and calling it something new ("drops") allows it to function well in the luxury markets.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2018

    7-Eleven gives football fandom an AR boost

    For 7-Eleven the effort is a football season promotion and not exclusively tied to AR -- the smart way to roll it out. Without a doubt there is experimentation on the AR piece -- with an effort to build stickiness and dependency. A side note from the article that might easily have gone unnoticed is the delivery option through Postmates of the entire party ensemble -- pizza, snacks, etc. This is a broad campaign spanning both physical store marketing and the digital AR piece to bring 7Rewards onto customer's phones as well as capture the football frenzy. The real moment of truth will come through measuring lift in 7Rewards membership and overall sales impact for the broader campaign during and after the season. The way 7-Eleven's designed the strategy, it will be difficult to dissect just the digital AR component.

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