PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Strategy & Operations Leader | Retail Strategist | Trusted Advisor |
An accomplished, passionate, and inspiring leader who partners with global retail companies to solve complex business challenges. Brandon is an experienced retail strategy and operations expert who operates as a senior liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, technology, digital, and marketing worlds. Having worked for and in partnership with fortune 100 retailers, Brandon has held diverse leadership roles spanning across the Consulting Delivery, Business Development, Pre-Sales, Strategy Advisory, Marketing, Branding, Digital, Omnichannel, and Merchandising organizations. With an innate understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset, Brandon is a key partner for companies, as they evolve, adapt and grow more effectively. Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in delivering significant business improvements, driving meaningful return on investments, inspiring organizational change, all with a holistic view of the changing business landscape. Most recently, Brandon has driven retail industry thought leadership, white papers, social media blogging, content marketing, led retail conference speaking engagements and has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community His core areas of expertise include: • Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships • Digital innovations and transformations • Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management • Retail merchandising, assortment planning, personalization & inventory optimization • Strategic planning and operational improvements • Operational and business transformations • Customer experience strategies • Global cross-functional delivery leadership • Unified commerce, omnichannel digital business & technology transformations • Consumer insights and predictive analytics • Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise • Organizational Change Management
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  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Are holiday shoppers getting more ‘appy’?

    We are living in a world where everyone is connected 24/7, so getting the digital commerce experience right and optimized is beyond critical for retailers and brands. With this continuous connectivity, retailers and brands have a unique opportunity to connect with consumers beyond the actual transaction and products. Digital is the connective tissue that enables relationships to be built that span across not only the apps, but the commerce- and influencer-dominated landscape that is Instagram. Yet we all must acknowledge the statistics that more than 90 percent of sales still occur in the store. While we should expect some slight incremental increases, as folks become more comfortable with mobile commerce, the store has and will remain the place to connect, engage, entertain, and drive meaningful relationships with customers.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Will the maker movement inspire a new creative direction for malls?

    Reimagining malls and the old department store physical locations into town centers -- a place for the community to connect, full of smaller, curated, creative experiential spaces, and a place of media for both brands and retailers -- is the wave of the future. The future is now with the creative incubation economy, as everyone loves a good story. Customers need a compelling reason to go to the mall, and the maker economy is one of the many that will bring the traffic to the mall in the wake of the disappearing anchor department store tenants. Combine this with the increase of shared workspaces, experiential-focused curated retail footprints, brands opening DTC showrooms, restaurants, cafes, lifestyle-focused retailers; the mall as we know it is evolving -- and it's a very welcome change.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Where will Amazon go with its cashier-free concept?

    Convenience is what the Amazon Go playbook is all about. This model could scale significantly across big cities, airports, train stations, and anywhere where kiosks and other convenience stores dominate. Another gold mine for Amazon could potentially be the co-working universe, where WeWork is establishing a global empire. Theoretically, at a typical WeWork, you have a very captive audience where both pop-up retail experiences and convenience formats such as Amazon Go could dominate. In addition, the repurposed department store and mall spaces could be yet another strategic opportunity as they evolve into shared workspaces and experiential centers.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Kraft Heinz ‘embraced failure’ in digital transformation

    It is imperative for large global CPG companies such as Kraft Heinz to challenge the status quo, and take calculated strategic risks to innovate quicker. The customer preferences, especially when it comes to food and health are transforming and evolving significantly faster than most CPG companies are able to keep up with. The time to keep things consistent and steady are long over. Consumers have shown a propensity to try, experience and experiment with new grocery products. In its three-year history as a combined company, the Kraft Heinz company has the strongest innovation pipeline they've ever had in place. Kraft Heinz has joined companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and General Mills in setting up incubators to foster the growth of disruptive products.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2018

    Walmart wants your walls

    What truly makes an outstanding customer experience unique is extremely powerful customer insights. Insights and data are the new fuel that ignite a powerful customer experience. As a global retailer, Walmart certainly has plenty of customer insights at their disposal however, as they have demonstrated with their past digital native acquisitions (Jet.com, Bonobos etc), to make a bold move into a new category the fastest entryway is via an acquisition. As we enter 2019, the experiential, lifestyle, beauty, and fitness/health segments will continue to drive the retail economy. Walmart is taking a very wise strategic step with their Art.com acquisition. The challenge will be for Walmart to truly take full advantage of these insights, and a potentially new customer segment that wouldn't normally shop in their big box stores.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2018

    Will Dollar General’s DGX concept be a hit with urban Millennials?

    The Dollar General brand is not a well-known commodity in cosmopolitan cities and with Millennials. However this the DGX brand extension, with this customer-obsessed smaller scaled stores, mobile apps, and with the right value proposition may just start to attract new customers. But a smaller concept store isn't always the solutions retailers believe it could be. It has to be a unique combination of the right experience, assortments, pricing, promotions and efficiency for DGX to compete in a sea of smaller concept stores; CVS, Walgreens, Amazon Go, etc. that has already emerged in big cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, etc. Let's not forget the well-established neighborhood bodegas that are open 24/7 in NYC. The challenge for Dollar General is to find a way to connect with the city professionals on the go. Why do you deserve the Millennials' business, and what makes you unique?
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Walmart gives associates a tool to deal with out-of-stocks

    There has been an emergence of storefront mobile/pad device solutions, yet as we all could agree upon, these devices do not solve the fundamental retail challenges such as inventory management, customer service issue, etc. From what I could see, the app provides access to the Walmart.com site and enables mobile checkout. However, there are solutions out there that offer robust clienteling, assisted selling, and access to the omnichannel inventory availability in a native app. A mobile device with such light functionality will not be a game changer. The fundamental challenge with any store associate's mobile solutions are the adoption rates. Especially since with the new functionality, there has to be a degree of change management and redefining what the store associate's roles actually will be. There are incentivization and compensations discussions that have to be had if Walmart and other retailers want to drive their customer service levels up.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Are subscriptions an untapped gifting opportunity for retailers?

    We have seen the rise of the shared economy with the emergence and dominance of Uber, Lyft, and WeWork and we should see a similar trend in the subscription space. The concept of ownership has evolved, as consumers have shown an increased preference to try, experiment, and experience new beauty products, food, and fashion, along with other categories, without actually having to own the items. So without a doubt, the value of subscription services is increasing and brands should most certainly own this relationship. There was once a misnomer that e-commerce businesses could potentially cannibalize the retail brick-and-mortar business, however as we know that was a severe misconception. The same applies to subscription services. They serve as another potential channel for retailers and manufacturers to connect and offer new assortments with your existing and new customers. The challenge will be for retailers and manufacturers to keep the subscription offerings unique, personalized and spark enough interest that the customers will remain loyal, and perhaps they might even buy the actual products.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    Are Millennials taking advantage of retailers’ goodwill?

    This is such a broad generalization. It is not just Millennials who are not satisfied with the level of customer service. Yes, even Generation X customers aren't interested in interacting with a customer service agent, due to long wait times and antiquated policies/procedures. A big part of the shared economy is the fact that you have to pay your way for space, to rent something, or for a service. So its such a big stretch to think that Millennials go out of their way to take advantage of retailers' goodwill. Customers across all generations are simply fed up with the level of customer service. The last few times I had a positive outcome is when I took my case to the social media battleground known as Twitter. Once I posted and tagged the company in question, the response was almost immediate. We should turn our attention to the company's customer service organizations and see if their process is even working before blaming the Millennials again.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Target vs. Walmart

    Both ads are very catchy and have just the right amount of impressionable content for a 30-second ad. It's remarkable that the almost endless shipping and fulfillment options now have become front and center with retailers' holiday messaging. However my vote goes to the Target team, as they were far more original and had their own song, had the right amount of holiday magic and clearly articulated their shipping options without overwhelming the customer.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2018

    Does Amazon’s record performance point to the growing importance of Cyber Monday?

    Black Friday was certainly a notable shopping event and the day that retailers are traditionally positioned to move from the red to the black. However, Cyber Monday is a recent phenomenon. Cyber Monday was fueled not only by outstanding deals and flexible fulfillment options but the overall online experience. This absolutely speaks to how well retailers have optimized the mobile shopping experience with enhanced content, removing friction, and offering more payment options. While worldwide mobile conversion rates are around 2 percent and over 4 percent for laptops etc., we should expect some increases over the next few months. We should expect the momentum to continue throughout the holiday shopping seasons. Retailers have responded, and their more curated experiential-focused stores will draw plenty of traffic in the stores and digital channels. Additionally, the omnichannel BOPIS offering is a key differentiator to draw customers to your stores, where the real retail magic begins.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2018

    Can online unboxing videos turn Walmart into ‘America’s Best Toy Shop?’

    What going to our local Toys "R" Us, or making the special family trip to the original FAO Schwarz was to our generation, interactive unboxing experiences are what resonates with kids today. The opportunity to interact, experience, and experiment with the toys via an interactive app is the best way for Walmart to leverage the latest technologies. It's remarkable to see my own kids remake unboxing videos on their own, and then demonstrate how the toys work to the entire family. The unboxing videos and influencers on YouTube are becoming omnipresent. There is an infinite amount of white space in the toy sector with the absence of Toys "R" Us. Walmart is wise to jump on this opportunity, gain some new young influential fans, and find a way to use technology to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Are Black Friday results a sign of Christmas 2018 things to come?

    Store traffic aside, the most encouraging part of how successful Black Friday was is that the conversion rates appear to be up as well. Store traffic remains a significant statistic to track, yet in our commerce-anytime, any-channel 24/7 world, the customer journey and the path to purchase is as dynamic and fluid as ever thanks to this.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Millennial brand loyalty comes into question

    In an age where brands are being diluted on giant e-commerce platforms, the concept of brands has taken a hit. However, both the Millennial and Gen Z generations enjoy shopping in the store and seeking an experience that extends beyond the brands themselves. These groups, in particular, are also attracted to brands that have a sense of purpose, a social stance, are environmentally conscious, yet most of all offer an outstanding customer experience across all possible shopping channels. Prior generations may have made their brand choices based simply on price and quality, yet today's customers want to connect with a brand that "gets them," knows what they need, and just naturally fits with their lifestyle. Retailers who get it right know that the physical retail showroom is evolving into the theater that is our lives. Build it and they will come. Millennial customers are no different than all generations, as they will stay loyal to brands that meet their needs.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Are Black Friday results a sign of Christmas 2018 things to come?

    Black Friday has been outstanding, and it's very encouraging to hear the positive news. Overall we are experiencing a bump in retail sales, both in-store and online or a combination of the two due to an increased consumer confidence thanks to some positive economic indicators. However, the Black Friday event as a single day phenomenon is evolving as consumers enjoy the experience from shopping on a mobile device rather than fighting all the crowds and chaos in the stores. Perhaps Cyber Monday will not have the significance it used to. With that said, we should expect the momentum to continue throughout the holiday shopping seasons. Retailers have responded, and their more curated experiential-focused stores will draw plenty of traffic over the next few weeks. Additionally, the omnichannel BOPIS offering is a key differentiator to draw customers to your stores, where incremental purchases and full price sales could happen. Going into December, we should expect retailers that have made the necessary strategic changes to benefit by offering the consumers a very fluid mobile/digital-first way to shop and engage with their brands.

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