PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Retail Excellence Leader, Tulip Retail
An accomplished strategy and operations executive, thought leader, trusted advisor and partner with significant experience in both the retail and consulting industries, who has led global digital supply chain transformations with Fortune 500 retailers including, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Saks Fifth Avenue. Extensive experience in leading and delivering complex innovation focused, digital merchandising programs, to meet strategic business objectives, in a very dynamic retail industry. Throughout his career, he has performed as the essential business liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, marketing, creative, digital and consulting teams.

He is passionate about driving retail thought leadership, developing global teams, defining best practices and innovations to meet the challenges of a very dynamic retail industry. Most recently, he has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community of thought leaders.

His core areas of expertise include:

• Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships
• Digital innovations and transformations
• Retail merchandising, assortment planning, & inventory optimization
• Strategic planning and operational improvements
• Operational and business transformations
• Customer experience strategies
• Global cross functional delivery leadership
• Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management
• Unified commerce, omni channel digital business & technology transformations
• Consumer insights and predictive analytics
• Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise
• Organizational Change Management
• Business solution planning and delivery
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  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Microsoft exploring checkout-less technologies

    The move to automated checkout experiences is gaining momentum, however the business case for Amazon Go and Microsoft's latest innovation really will resonate in certain segments, such as convenience and grocery. Any high touch or service segment requires the human connection, and consumers by nature still want to have that advisory experience. It’s amazing how fast technology and innovations are changing how we live and shop. What better example of innovation and automation than Amazon Go? Yet despite all this disruption, store associates will remain as important as ever. There’s no question in my mind that the physical retail store is really where brands come to life, where stories are told and where a closer connection to the local communities are built.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Is Amazon killing Barnes & Noble’s chances for a turnaround?

    Unfortunately for Barnes & Noble, the once dominant figure in and conqueror of the book segment, the company lost its way. This was partly due to the Amazon impact, but more importantly due to the fact that their stores just aren't compelling destinations any longer. The assortments are too deep and the big box bookstore model simply doesn't resonate with the experiential and digital-first customer. For Barnes & Noble to survive and thrive in the new retail paradigm, they should focus on their internal strategies rather than seeking to compete with Amazon on assortments, pricing and promotions. This is clearly a losing battle. The three Cs are critical for Barnes & Noble to get right as they shift and evolve. They need to focus on the local "communities," "curate" their assortments (as less is more) and "create" experiences that will drive their customers back for more. Customers still crave in-store experiences, and this is not going away any time soon.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Retailers stand out by vetoing the ‘pink tax’

    Thank you for sharing Jasmine, and for raising the awareness around this socially unacceptable issue. There is a very clear opportunity for retailers to right the ship and fast, as this is a pricing issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. As we move to an increasingly relationship and experienced based retail model, trust and transparency are key and eliminating the Pink Tax is a step in the right direction. The additional margin and revenue retailers may have earned on similar women's products is not worth the negative PR, and will impact the relationships that retailers are working so hard to build. Retailers have a better chance to surivve and thrive, address the needs of each and every customer, regardless of gender, age and all demographics. This culture change stems from the top of the retail organization, and if executed the right way, it will resonate in longer-term customer relationships.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Macy’s takes stake in retail-as-a-service tech firm

    It's both fascinating and encouraging to see an iconic retailer such as Macy's taking such bold steps with their investments in STORY and b8ta, which will help enhance both their experiential and community-based retail strategies. We were having far different discussions about Macy's a year ago. However, these are strategic steps that the company has to make to stay top-of-mind, relevant, new and fresh to the customer. The challenge as we all know is the ability to scale and operationalize these experiences beyond the 34th Street Herald Square store.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Fundamentally it has become about the "why" for today's retailers. The continuous evolution of customer expectations has led to retailers having to re-evaluate their objectives, purpose and how seamlessly they fit in with their target audience's lifestyle, in a channel-agnostic way. The move to experiential and personalized retail experience is top-of-mind as one of the main differentiators that will draw customers to your brand. Retailers that are getting this mix right are positioning the retail store as a brand and platform -- to build relationships and drive closer attachments to their local communities. Retailers such as Apple, Gucci, Farfetch, and Restoration Hardware, are not only focusing on experiential retail but also empowering their sales associates as brand ambassadors, to drive and enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    In concert with all of the other members, I believe that high return rates are simply part of doing business in a direct-to-consumer model. There is no way around offering free shipping, as that is the industry expectation. The returns process remains one of the highest potential points of friction for online shoppers. Yet the majority of consumers should not be penalized for a small number of folks who overuse this process. Until virtual reality and AR technologies mature, right-sizing customers via online and mobile channels will remain challenging, and there will be high return rates associated with these areas. This is still several years away, but regardless a seamless and frictionless returns policy has to be the norm.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?


    Taking all the digital transformation and omnichannel complexities out of the picture, from the perspective of the store associate, they are under tremendous pressure to perform on the job and are on the front lines representing the brand. It is absolutely critical for retailers to evolve, support and develop their front-line store associates into brand ambassadors who have the right training, tools and capabilities, in order to stay on an even playing field with the digitally-empowered consumer. Change management, training and incentivization programs are important to helping the store associates evolve. Yet these are often the most overlooked areas of any transformation. On too many occasions, companies focus on the technology solution without considering the impacts to the employee journey, which has a direct impact on the customer experience. Any digital transformation requires significant support, sponsorship and buy-in from the retail executives on down to the store associates. The true incentivization comes with the retailers prioritizing and understanding the importance of the store associates as they evolve in true brand ambassadors. With the right solutions in place, the store associates will be empowered knowing that their efforts will pay off, as the customer may ultimately buy online rather than in-store. The store is essentially becoming a media center, an extension of the brand, with store associates in the starring role.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

    Who better to represent the Macy's brand than their own sales associates? It's high time for the sales associates to evolve and transform into brand ambassadors. Social media influencers are an extremely powerful force, and we should not underestimate the impact of employed brand ambassadors, who could effectively become micro-influencers within their communities. This also could lead to career growth opportunities, as the sales associates become advocates and experts of the brand Today's customer is increasingly spending their time browsing Instagram, and studies have shown that the see now/buy now model is gaining momentum. The report also noted the influence that Instagram has on purchase decisions, with 72% saying they have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Mental health is a retail management issue

    There's no easy answer to this question, and yesterday's tragic Kate Spade news raises all of our awareness. As professionals, we are guarded against showing our true selves and perhaps sharing too many personal details about our lives. What we need more in the workplace is empathy, and showing true concern for people as individuals, who have personal lives to balance with their professional lives. Empathy is an overused term, but is honestly missing in most organizations. Organizations could help take steps to help with the work-life balance by providing wellness incentives, and other incentives, as individuals are spending more time at work and the office as compared to their own families.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Does it pay for retailers to price-match their own websites?

    From the customer's perspective, they are engaging with one brand, one retailer and seeking a consistent experience that extends across all shopping channels. The fact that retailers have price differentials between their online and in-store offerings is concerning, to say the least. This was more understandable 10 years or so ago, perhaps 5 years ago, when the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels were run by different merchandising teams. However, in today's shopping universe, where relationships between brands and customers are built around trust and transparency, why would a retailer have different pricing structures across different channels?
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    Experimentation in the department store space is the key component to staying relevant in today’s experiential-first model. What better cost containing and low-risk strategy than to deploy experiential and local pop-ups? Storytelling, connecting with your local communities and building an experience that extends well beyond the retail transaction, are the main ingredients as to why the brick-and-mortar shopping model is far from over. It’s fascinating to see the emergence and significance of the retail pop-up model. With Macy’s acquisition of STORY, we should expect many other department stores and traditional retailers to jump on this moving pop-up train.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2018

    Are podcasts the next big ad opportunity for brands?


    Just as retailers are driving curated assortments and experiences, the same principles should apply to podcasts. There are simply too many out there in the market. Yet with the right mix, storytelling via podcasts has its place for luxury, lifestyle, fashion and the beauty segments. Podcasts may not have such a significant impact on conversions and other KPIs as compared to an in-person interaction with a knowledgeable sales associate. However, the right story and podcast can help to sustain and build a closer connection between the consumer and the brand.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2018

    Walmart’s newest service brings texting and personal shopping together

    This is a potentially brilliant strategy being deployed by Walmart's innovation team, of merging text messaging powered by AI with intuitive commerce. Walmart has continued to impress with their relentless investments in digital native brands (jet.com, Bonobos, ModCloth, etc.), as well as with their drive towards creating a distinct branding strategy which will resonate extremely well with Generation Z, Millennials or any generation that simply wants to leverage texting to buy everyday staples and convenience items. Along with this innovation, of course, has to be an element of trust, transparency around data privacy, pricing, etc. As we have witnessed with AI-backed voice commerce, there are price differentials between mobile/desktop shopping. As far as concern for consumers goes -- with too much seamlessness, perhaps we lose the element of choice, and the ability to use our discretion regarding which products and at what pricing we ultimately choose. Regardless, I am very interested to see how this plays out.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2018

    Amazon plans to become the fresh food safety leader

    Trust and transparency have become the minimum customer expectation these days. Especially as it relates to food -- where it is sourced from and the all-important health and safety regulations. Amazon is wise to stay ahead of this curve, as consumers have raised their concerns and, in general, the level of health consciousness has risen. Other retailers will be very wise to follow Amazon's lead.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2018

    Can retailers find riches at sea?

    What better experiential playground for retailers and brands to capitalize on than the cruise industry? With its combination of a captivate, excited and engaged customer base, the luxury space is a prime opportunity for Starboard and LVMH. Compared to airports and hotels, cruise bound consumers are always looking for an emotional and experiential connection to their cruise journeys that extend beyond the products. Additionally, the Starboard and LVMH team has a virtual monopoly over the non-Disney cruise lines. So there is a prime opportunity for the combined Starboard/LVMH team to drive their experiential focused storefronts, push the nostalgia merchandising and add a luxury flair to the mix, as the cruise customer is ready to add to their travel experience.

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