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: 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.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2021

    Walgreens inks a deal with Uber Eats to expand same-day deliveries

    Yes absolutely important. Being able to deliver an RX in an hour is or soon will be the standard and needed to compete against Amazon and CVS. HBA is also a critical category for them to deliver quickly. From the food and beverage and Bev-Al departments, particular categories will vary in importance. Competition could be from grocery and c-stores. A few have local coverage like Walgreens. 7-Eleven has 10,000 stores and boldly states that they can deliver locally within 30 minutes. Walgreens is doing a little bit of catch-up in the Bev-Al department because many other third-party delivery companies are already executing on the one-hour delivery.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2021

    How do retailers and brands overcome consumers’ ‘green’ skepticism?

    Sustainability has to be part of the fabric of conversations internally, with customers, and on Wall Street. The vision and few simple strategic goals in the annual report on sustainability should be visible in the store, on the website, and in the communications with customers. Retailers then need to align the teams and build out the data framework and responsibility to be able to measure progress. Lastly, communication on the performance of the sustainability measures should be transparent and data-driven and reach the same constituents and communication channels on a consistent basis. This level of commitment, data management/evidence will prevent much of the skepticism of greenwashing claims.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2021

    How fast can stores fill curbside pickup orders?

    Based on my experience, the expectations right now are under two hours but there are retailers doing it consistently in one hour. The challenge is managing the in-store customer demands while trying to fulfill these orders efficiently. Some customers can talk in-store for some time and require more attention while at the same time the clock is ticking on the curbside order. It can be stressful for the in-store associates. The biggest challenges for consistent success in quick turnarounds are data, technology, and training. I have seen many situations where there may be only one item in inventory but it is a demo item that all customers may not want. The retailer has to decide whether the display item can be sold or not and how it should be reflected in the inventory. This is data governance and establishing rules. Also, retailers can have short staff on a particular day due to no-shows or sickness so most everyone should be trained on how to pick an order so there is flexibility in who can do the picking. Lastly, technology is key. Handheld devices must be readily available to complete the order on the fly and provide all of the paperwork in the proper workflow will help the team meet the curbside timing requirements.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2021

    Will other retailers follow Costco and bring back food sampling?

    Food sampling is already back on a more limited basis. Several months ago when I saw the first sampling event in a local Ralphs store, I was excited and relieved to see another sign of a return to pre-COVID-19 retail. Brands can take advantage of being a first-mover in sampling in a particular category. I think that it is a great way to re-introduce your brand to consumers and tout some of the new innovations/flavors that have been introduced in the past year. A coconut water brand was featured in my local store and it definitely made an impression. Sampling remains a key way to enhance the customer experience in-store. But I would challenge that retailers and brands take some of their digital learnings from the last year and engage with the consumer online or ask for feedback via QR code survey to keep the conversation going.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2021

    Is Foot Locker throwing in the towel on key consumers by closing Footaction?

    The decision to close Footaction will likely prove to be right. It is wise to focus efforts on the main brand as Foot Locker needs to retain and grow mindshare in the digital channels, including social influencers. There may have been too much duplication of effort without enough incremental revenue from this market niche.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2021

    Will store-hailing revolutionize grocery delivery?

    Another great innovation. With the right context and use case this may be successful. For example, I could see this being helpful in beach communities with a lot of tourists that would require a more focused set of products. It may also be useful in a district with many businesses with similar convenience needs. However I echo the concerns of others on this store-hailing model about having enough assortment depth and attaining profitability in a neighborhood setting.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2021

    Will a new subscription program make Circle K a daily stop for members?

    Yes! As the price of gas continues to creep up across the U.S., this is one way to combat the potential loss of customers looking for the lowest price per gallon. The subscription model will help increase the frequency of their light customers and potentially bring in new customers. What I like about this program is the fact that they made it a little different by going beyond coffee to include slushies and other soft drinks. With the right execution and merchandising geared to generate incremental product sales, this can be a successful program.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2021

    Will a virtual quick serve restaurant drive Pepsi’s cola sales?

    After just coming off some really solid marketing and product training, I was reminded of the centrality of solving problems. The obvious question that a brand should ask is what problem are they trying to solve? Is it an awareness problem, a distribution problem, product taste, or product delivery problem? In this age of disruption, everyone wants to disrupt vs. being disrupted. That makes sense but if it is a disruption to solve a very minor problem, it can be a waste of resources and talent. Pepsi and other brands have had success with DTC initiatives in the past year. Time will tell if these and other new approaches will gain traction in a quickly evolving digital marketplace.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    What goes into standout Mother’s Day marketing campaigns?

    Kids have gone through a great deal of strain this past year. The Dick's sporting goods ad taps into what kids are going through after not being in sports for a while or not trying things out. It is an encouraging message for our kids and for everyone right now trying out new things. I think that this ad is relevant for where we are as parents and athletes and effectively gets their name out in the market in a positve way.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Vaccinated Americans like getting retail thank you freebies

    It is a smart move by retailers, especially if they can provide something tangible beyond a typical promotion and bring new customers in the door. One of my favorite promotions that is less well known than the Krispy Kreme promotion is the Staples program to laminate your vaccine card for free. This is a great promotion because it provides pandemic-related services and also introduces customers to print and marketing services. In general, retailers trying new marketing ideas should consult internally with various age groups, genders, and their diverse workforce to ensure that it will resonate and be true to the brand and not have a potential negative impact. Creative COVID-19 related marketing ideas are no exception to this rule.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2021

    Family Dollar joins a crowded retail media marketplace

    Yes, I see these platforms growing as Point of Search becomes the de facto starting point for more and more consumers in their digital purchase journey. With 14 million and growing consumers in the Family Dollar chain, I see that it can be an appealing marketing medium for many brands. As all of these come on board, CPGs will likely do many trials in 2021 to see the payout across each of these ad networks and adjust strategies based on performance across goals of customer acquisition, awareness, new product launches, sales promotion, etc. It will be interesting to see if these retailer ad networks start to pull share away from the larger tech companies.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Will climate action become less of a priority for retail post-pandemic?

    Yes, the pandemic will accelerate retail's initiatives in sustainability. I was recently in a meeting with 20 of our customers across industries and asked: Has the focus on sustainability increased, decreased, or stayed the same this year? Every single customer said increased. While this is a small data set, from my vantage point there has been a collective transition to more sustainable activities by consumers and society as a whole since early 2020. A potential next question may be, how will retailers establish climate action and sustainability goals and measure those goals? Consumers are resourceful and intelligent and will see through platitudes. Retailers that really want to be distinct and accomplished in sustainability will have to realign their values, establish and publicize their goals and build a foundation to reach them. This requires a development of metrics for their goals, and a map on how the retailer will be able to use product, supplier and operational data to measure their success and ultimately share it with their consumers in a transparent way.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2021

    Amazon goes shopping at the mall

    Yes, absolutely. As e-commerce continues to grow post-pandemic, we will see a continuation of the expansion of hundreds of millions of square feet of distribution space. These second and third tier locations may be hard to come by in denser suburbs or urban settings and therefore are very attractive to the major e-commerce and third-party logistics companies and retailers. According to a study by CBRE research on the top markets in the U.S. and with properties of over 200,000 in space, e-commerce only players contributed to 27.1 percent of the transactions while general retail and warehouse was third, contributing to 24.7 percent share in 2020. Demand for super quick delivery times and challenges in the extended global supply chain will likely also require higher safety stock and therefore more inventory space demanded as global shipping challenges and trade-related shocks don't seem to wane anytime soon. It is safe to expect a tremendous shift in usage from large properties, malls, and/or office buildings into distribution centers over the coming years.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2021

    Associates are starring in retailer ad campaigns

    While I do believe that employees can provide some authenticity to a brand when used appropriately, it has to fit the goals of the brand and the positioning of the brand. This type of campaign may also be helpful for smaller retailers that want to demonstrate their local roots and outstanding employees and create a greater sense of trust with their communities. Celebrity endorsements can also have long-term benefits if it is a good fit for the brand strategy. The breakfast of champions campaign from Wheaties, has had decades of success with celebrity endorsements which through association insinuates that Wheaties can make you a champion. From Lou Gehrig to Bruce Jenner to Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods that brand has been built through celebrity endorsement. Where would Wheaties be if they used Joe, the cashier at Jewel in Cicero, Illinois, or Barbara at the deli counter from Kroger in Dayton, Ohio? Neither approach is always right but in the current age of distrust by consumers for brands, it may be the time to feature employees and retailer's value and heritage over starting a new campaign with celebrity endorsements.

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