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
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    Starbucks to close shops for racial bias training

    This is a much-needed PR and damage control move by Starbucks. I applaud the organization for taking such a serious stance on this issue. However, a single event will not eliminate the issue of racial bias. This continues to be a challenge for our entire society and not just the corporate world. For companies to effectively acknowledge and incorporate strategies into their culture to help drive change, it's critical that this all originates from the top of the organization. A cultural and philosophical shift takes time to resonate, but via hard work, determination and a shared sense of responsibility, it could happen.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    How will Amazon replace Whole Foods’ rewards program?

    The current Whole Foods loyalty app simply did not provide significant enough value. Too often once you submitted your app to the cashier, more often or not, the savings simply weren't there. As loyal customers, and in a post-Amazon acquisition world, one would expect that the doors will be opening at Whole Foods for Amazon Prime members to have exclusive access to members-only savings, percentages off your purchases, as well as a more personalized experience, as Amazon/Whole Foods will absolutely have much more of your personal data, and shopping preferences. In addition, one would expect a more seamless checkout process in Whole Foods's faster-paced locations. Simply submitting your Amazon app to be scanned at the register will enable consumers to pay with all their payment options within their prime account. It's also a prime opportunity for loyal Whole Foods customers to accumulate loyalty points, that translates to cash back, or free products etc.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Best Buy and Amazon expand their coopetition

    Best Buy is building momentum and has very effectively navigated some very rough seas for the past few years, as they have empowered their sales force to evolve into beacons of knowledge, and trusted advisors, providing a compelling reason for consumers to shop in their stores. The Best Buy/Amazon deal is a win/win for both organizations, as Amazon will take full advantage of Best Buy's physical locations, and at the same time, Best Buy will have the ability to expand their reach to the Amazon prime customers. Increasingly retailers are taking the bold step of strategic alliances with Amazon and their vast marketplace. It's hard to exist in today's digital-first commerce world, without directly or indirectly competing with Amazon, as their reach is far and wide. The key for Best Buy in this scenario is to drive traffic to their stores, expand their digital reach, and play well in the sandbox with one of their bigger competitors. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Does Walmart need to keep around? along with the other recent Walmart digital native acquisitions, including Bonobos, Modcloth, and others, represent the next wave of digital first, and innovation leadership for the company. While the name will most certainly dominate from a branding perspective, the innovation, fresh strategies, agility, and creativity for the company lie within Walmart's very diverse digital first portfolio of brands. While brand, does indeed have a marketplace recognition, ultimately you are engaging with the Walmart brand. Consumers will be more than happy to remain loyal to the Walmart brand, if all the seamlessness, personalization, vast assortments, endless aisle capabilities, omnichannel and innovations are embedded throughout the organization, regardless of which brand name you are engaging with.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Has Google found a formula for undercutting Amazon’s product search advantage?

    For Google, this is yet another diversification strategy to expand their already powerful solutions suite of products. The challenge for Google is to provide another option for online shopping, while also providing cost savings and value to vendors in their online marketplace. It is intriguing that Google will be employing the cost per sale model, which is truly differentiated from Amazon's click-through actions. By offering varied digital commerce options, including one-click reordering, voice-enabled commerce, and instant checkout using saved payment credentials, Google is providing yet another option for consumers, seeking a more seamless online shopping experience. However, Amazon is synonymous with online shopping and has a dominant marketplace presence. Google has an opportunity to compete on an equal ground with Amazon, with their scale, online presence, relentless innovation, and branding.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Will electric vehicles prove a bane or a boon for c-stores and energy drinks?

    What a potential paradigm shift we have ahead of us! When you have an engaged audience who are charging their vehicles, there are significant opportunities for all services, retailers and even shared office spaces/economy-based companies, well beyond c-stores, to maximize the consumer wait time. As consumers migrate to a more electric car model, what a better time for experienced-based companies to capitalize on this new segment. The old gas station concept could be remodeled to a more showroom-like experience, where folks could work, play and shop while their cars are charging. The potential here is real and, when it does scale, it will be a very interesting model.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Backstage shops star inside Macy’s

    Merging both full-price and off-price concepts within the same space may drive some additional overall traffic, however, what may result from this move is more confusion about what the real Macy's brand messaging is. Macy's has aspired to move to an experience-first, omnichannel, digital, customer-focused model with the introduction of a more curated experience, introducing pop-ups and more creativity within their stores. While the Macy's Backstage concepts shops are building momentum, positioning them within the Macy's full-price department stores may detract from the full-price, more premium retail traffic, as the targeted customer will only be seeking discounted merchandise. There may or may not be an overlap, as the bargain-seeking consumer may not be motivated to buy any impulse driven full price products.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Is Walmart building a tower of power with its expanding in-store pickup network?

    This is omnichannel magic at its best, with Walmart taking full advantage of their main competitive asset, their omnipresent stores, which could be leveraged as BOPIS fulfillment centers. The last-mile challenges could be mitigated as well, as an automated system would eliminate the need for human interaction, or additional store resources who would be dedicated to these services. As Walmart builds their scale, the question centers around what compelling strategies Walmart could employ to attract the Millennial sector, which is already loyal to their Bonobos,, Modcloth, etc. portfolio of digital-first, innovative brands. Perhaps these brands could be tied in via store-within-a-store pop-ups, special events, etc., to transform several of the strategically positioned Walmarts into destinations for younger and affluent customers. Currently, Walmart has three distinct customer groups. The loyal Walmart big box shopper, the online digital-first Walmart shopper and now the associated Walmart fashion-first brands. It will be very interesting to see how Walmart weaves these all together beyond this BOPIS strategy.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    As the lines blur between online and in-store shopping, it's absolutely imperative for retailers to double down on their data privacy standards. Regardless of whatever channel consumers ultimately shop, their data is flowing through the retailers' systems. Personal data, particularly credit card history, has to be the most protected information between the retailer and their loyal consumers. This is all a critical part of the trusted consumer and retailer relationship. Retailers are now faced with the need to be open, fully transparent about their data privacy policies, and to seek ways to eliminate future data breaches. With the onset of chip technologies, credit card encryption and mobile payment devices that do not share your credit card numbers, one would hope that these mechanisms, combined with a locked down and secure retailer ERP transaction system, will mitigate these issues in the future.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Thrive Market wants to change the world with new organic meat and seafood line

    Subscription models are the rage these days and every retailer, service provider and now organic meat and seafood companies are looking to capitalize on this opportunity. But there may be a niche in which Thrive Market can thrive, as the organic meat and seafood market offerings are at premium price levels. Health consciousness aside, there is also a degree of price consciousness that we have to consider. Thrive may have the magic sauce with their curated offerings and discounted pricing. However, with all subscription models, keeping everything fresh, new and interesting is the most significant challenge. Being prescriptive and ahead of the curve will be key for Thrive Market, as the experience may wear thin after a few months and the customer may choose other options.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Will micro-designers disrupt fast-fashion giants?

    We all see the power of micro-influencers on retail and fashion in general, however of equal importance is the emergence of the micro-designers. In our digital-first, agile, social media-driven fashion market, micro-designers are closer to the changing market landscape, trends, shifts and can respond far more aggressively as compared to traditional retailers. Fast fashion has the mechanisms, agile supply chain and the infrastructure necessary to leverage the micro-designer influencer's reach and social media presence. The micro designer approach could work extremely well with retail pop-up formats, special events and exclusive VIP offerings. Instagram is also a digital commerce playground where these micro-designers will have a more level playing field with the micro-influencers. It will be very interesting to see how everything plays out in the coming months.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Cashier-less mobile-first plays have their place, and the Amazon Go model will be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. With the convenience model, the grab and go technique will become the best practice. However, as you migrate to the fashion, luxury and specialty sides of retail, the store associates or brand ambassadors will continue to play a significant role in the overall customer experience. The combination of art, science and personal aspects of the retail experience will be essential, as the shopping experiences and expectations continue to evolve. Outside of pure technology strategies, it's the investments made with your people that will make a substantial impact.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Walmart is focused on expanding its digital brand portfolio

    It's become a real portfolio play for Walmart, as they continue to build their digital native footprint in the already competitive e-commerce space. With a coherent digital-first strategy led by the and Bonobos leadership teams, Walmart can continue to make the strategic strides necessary to shift to a more agile, scalable, consumer-first and digital-first approach. The key is to combine all of the best practices and unique qualities of each of the digital-first brands into a combined strategy. Another critical component for Walmart, as they undergo this evolution, is to leverage their brick-and-mortar stores as a natural extension of their digital platforms. From the customers' perspective, they are engaging with Walmart or one of their associated online brands. There should be a seamless experience across all platforms.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2018

    In this digital revolution, stores are media

    All brands, retailers and stores are tied to their public images, thus all stores are essentially media products in the digital age. We are entering into a unifying age where it is essential for retailers and brands to have an online digital presence, as well as a multi-sensory physical presence. The emergence of the superior in-store showrooms like the model spearheaded by companies such as Frank and Oak, Bonobos, Warby Parker and other digital-first companies demonstrates that this is clearly the future of retail. Traditional retailers and department stores have observed how successful this model is. Walmart, in particular, has made the shift and built an impressive digital-first portfolio through their acquisitions of, Bonobos, Modcloth and others. Consumers are seeking a wonderful and frictionless experience across all channels. They are engaging with a brand that will bring value into their lives and provide a physical experience that a purely online e-commerce retailer is unable to provide. The challenge for these companies is to find the right balance of personalized, customized services, which is a blend of online and in-person engagements.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2018

    Luxury brands are racing to embrace ecommerce

    With the onset of the Instagram and influencer-driven retail revolution, image is everything these days, and luxury brands are more than ready to capitalize on extending their presence online and especially on mobile. Farfetch and Net-a-Porter have provided a channel for luxury brands to connect with digitally-savvy consumers. With both digital and mobile, the seemingly out of reach luxury brands now have a method to connect with the Millennial consumers. Even the smallest purchase or experience could lead to a long-term relationship.

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