PROFILE

Brian Cluster

Director of Industry Strategy - CPG & Retail, Stibo Systems

Brian Cluster has over 20 years’ experience in consumer-packaged goods and the retail industry. He is the Director, Industry Strategy – CPG & Retail for Stibo Systems. In this role he supports the overall growth of MDM sales in CPG and Retail channel by understanding customer needs and by being the voice of the customer to product teams and throughout the organization.

Brian has a broad perspective across the consumer-packaged goods industry having worked for retailers, a food broker, a market research company and several manufacturers and now a software company. He has a strong track record of collaborating on strategy, building and delivering analytics to drive successful execution of category and marketing plans and business value.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Iowa, and an MBA in International Marketing & Finance from DePaul University.

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  • Posted on: 09/02/2021

    Can marketers successfully shift focus from acquisition to retention?

    Investing in retention is typical and can drive a better ROI than finding new customers can. The key is having the existing customer become more than a regular but a fan of your brand: an advocate of what you stand for, the value you provide, and the service you deliver. I echo Jeff's sentiment that retention is just an ongoing branding and operational effort. It's just what is supposed to be done for any well-run marketing team and business. While retention is part of the ongoing marketing organization activity, analysis is needed to improve retention. Fresh data and analytics are needed to understand what is happening now to inform marketing tactics. From my Nielsen days, using panel data, we ran the New-Lost-Retained study for retailers to see what type of consumers were coming in and which were leaving. These groups of customers were typically very different. It is important to understand the demographics of the lost customer, where they went, what categories they purchased so you get a more complete perspective of the lost customers. From this current data-driven view, you can create strategies to mitigate further losses. If you are losing discount/promo-driven shoppers vs. frequent core shoppers, that will lead to creating and executing different marketing and operational strategies.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2021

    Should retailers and brands pay for user-generated content?

    I agree with Dave Bruno and really think twice before paying for user-generated content. Consumers are picking brands not only on the visual appeal of the Instagram posts, but also on their authenticity. Brands and retailers may want to find another way to recognize them such as a super fan day or other engagement activities that they may value. This way keeps it real and not tied to a payment scheme.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2021

    Have cross-selling and upselling become lost retail arts?

    Cross-selling and upselling is not a completely lost art. Unfortunately, it seems like most of the focus lately has been online. In-store has to catch up because upselling and cross-selling not only benefit the bottom line for the retailer but can actually benefit the customer many times by eliminating a return trip back to the store for the associated item or preventing a return of a product that did not have all of the features that they needed. Cross-sell and upsell opportunities are especially important for specialty retailers. In the case of office or pet retailers, there are only a few trip types that are most common and by using training and specific store-level data about those trip types store managers and associates can understand how they are doing and home in on those opportunities.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Lagging distributors send restaurants grocery shopping

    The supply chain issues persist across industries. I am afraid the model of low cost and lean operations (JIT) strategies made the supply chains longer and more prone to disruption. It is interesting to see this play out. My local bagel shop depends on a large distributor for some of the basic commodities such as milk, straws, sugar packets, napkins. On several occasions this Spring the shop ran out of sugar packets because they were on backorder. This should never happen as there are multiple suppliers. In an age of an increasingly fickle customer where one bad experience may cause a valuable customer to leave, there is no excuse for not building redundancy in some of your must-have suppliers. With more sophisticated data management tools such as Supplier Master Data Management, retailers/restaurants can build out data models and references and rules for secondary and other backup suppliers to minimize supply chain disruption. Data relationships between regions, suppliers, and store locations can also be developed to create a more regional approach to the supply chain as well.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2021

    Should grocery stores retire the ethnic aisle?

    As the recent census survey reports, the US is more diverse than ever before. It's a blending pot where more shoppers are trying foods from different areas of the world and different ethnicities. The question about ethnic aisles is not a clear yes or no, but it depends. It depends on the data and the local market and your customers. In my local Ralphs in San Diego, there is an ethnic aisle with considerable focus on Asian foods and Hispanic ethnicities, but there is a separate multiple aisle section including a separate part of the bakery that is Kosher catering to the local Jewish clientele. The diverse store customer base is loyal and everyone is happy. It's difficult to remove the ethnic aisle entirely across all stores in the chain. I think that customer data, local demography, basket analysis, and eCommerce search analytics can all support decisions at the local level. If Ralph's removed the Kosher and Asian sections, that would definitely be a risky proposition in my neighborhood.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2021

    Are over-attentive associates creeping shoppers out?

    The most important starting point is the greeting when a customer enters the door or passes by the associate. This can set the tone for the rest of the interaction. I'm surprised how frequently that I am not greeted at retail. Secondly, the associate needs to make some human connection, not a sales connection with the customer. This could be a comment based on the familiarity of the customer or what area of the store they are shopping. It has to be authentic. Checking back too many times, dwelling nearby, and constantly watching customers can creep customers out and I think it is an indicator of lack of training. Fortunately, this is easily reachable online and can be modeled in person to do it the right way. It takes great store leadership.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2021

    Will a new digital platform create a must-join safe space for Athleta’s customers?

    It's a must for a brand like Athleta. The online fitness market, according to Allied Market Research, is projected to grow at 33% per year. Athleta consumers that are aligned to fitness and wellness goals are increasingly using fitness apps, youtube, or other fitness websites as sole sources for their workout content. By building out an online wellness hub, Athleta can be a valuable coach for wellness that extends beyond fitness. Additionally, these types of engagements are invaluable for capturing feedback, data, and innovative ideas for new product lines and services.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Should retailers continue the chatbot deception?

    Now that chatbots have been around for several years, most customers likely know how to work with them to get their points across. It is important to let customers know if they are dealing with a chatbot because then the customer can modify, then simplify their communication to get a better-desired result. Or, they may elect to postpone a sensitive or emotional conversation until a live person is ready. Best to make it fully transparent!
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    7-Eleven expands mobile checkout to thousands of U.S. stores

    When consumers think of convenience stores, the words that resonate are quick, fast, and easy. This combination and unique value proposition of the channel drove higher non-fuel c-store sales growth during the past year across the world when consumers avoided other outlets for small purchases. To continue to win, c-stores must aspire to and deliver faster commerce whether it is delivery or mobile checkout.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2021

    Are independent grocers thriving?

    Independents have several advantages over the larger chains that have improved over the last few years. While many larger retailers are building out localization strategies for assortment, independents have already been doing this. Independents know the local producers, breweries, etc. and are part of the community and will support local start-ups. Consumers feel good about supporting local producers, and independents have the advantage. Many independents, at least in San Diego, have the best options for healthy products across the store and frequently have better sections and options than Whole Foods which builds loyalty. A winning combination of local products, healthy options, and great experience will help independents continue to thrive in the coming years.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2021

    Will in-person conferences make a comeback after a year of virtual shows?

    Physical conferences will come back. Virtual is great for content sharing and thought leadership and marketing messaging, but the magic happens in the interactions. I've been to too many virtual conferences where questions are ignored, never followed up on or there is not enough time for the panelist to answer a single question. I don't think conferences were supposed to be monologues, but opportunities for a rich dialog of industry learning. Furthermore, virtual hasn't figured out ways to enable random connections and to foster real networking. Both will co-exist but physical conferences going forward have to be more than just a show and tell, but to really enable the human connection, collaboration, and learning to be successful.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2021

    Has Lego built an unforgettable retail experience for kids and adults?

    Yes, experiential toy retail is a great fit for children and families as it brings the toys alive and the families together. The last time I was in NYC, I visited the retailer Camp in Hudson Yards. This retailer has expanded from one store to six stores including one in Dallas and created a slightly different but engaging experience for each of its stores. Experiential strategies will work in this category as they deliver something that you can't do online. The key is to continue to have measured growth, keep the high experiential standard and find locations that are best suited to attract families and kids that love Camp.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2021

    Pinterest says it’s all about body positivity as it bans weight loss ads

    I agree with Neil Saunders that Pinterest as a private company can make its own decisions in what type of advertisements to run. But that leaves more opportunity for other companies to swoop in and help consumers in this very important health issue. The fact is that over 4 of every 10 adults are obese in the US and it is now the highest rate recorded. Per the TFAH, USA has the highest prevalence of obesity among all OECD countries. There has to be a middle ground -- a more open and transparent way to advertise on these issues that help people that are trying to learn and improve their health. My take: More data and facts need to be used responsibly for society but brands will have to see how they fit with this issue, like any social issue.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2021

    Help Wanted: Authentic leaders to drive sustainable business success

    Leaders are in their place to solve problems and enable their teams to solve problems as well. When those problems occur, it is important for the leaders to fully listen to their teams and the individuals that worked on the problem and understand their point of view. Through this process, the leader can share authentically where they made the same mistake, what they learned, and how they overcame it. This can be a powerful experience and most likely will stick with the team member in the future. In summary, two key authentic attributes are understanding and sharing.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2021

    Retailers must centralize their data to thrive

    It's an absolute necessity now. The pace of business in retail accelerated in the past year, by having one single consolidated view of suppliers, products, locations, and even employees; retailers have everyone running on the same version of the data -- making it a more efficient organization. Product data and customer data are the most common types of data that need to be centralized but other types of data such as supplier and location data are also important. From a supplier perspective, different departments need to be on the same page to understand contact information, terms, ownership relations, and much more. Having one single source of supplier data can aid in approving and onboarding new suppliers and eliminating any delays in going to market. From a location/site perspective, there is a lot of changes that have happened in the marketplace in terms of delivery options (BOPIS/BORIS/Curbside) and fulfillment capabilities as more store locations are used for local eCommerce fulfillment. As these changes have been tested and implemented in the past year, it is absolutely critical that teams across the enterprise have the same and current version of the truth to ensure analytics are optimized and decisions can be made with the best possible information. Once you have multiple data types centralized, mastered, and of high quality then you can start linking and referencing data between data types creating opportunities for enhanced analytics and new insights.

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