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.

To learn more about Pilot and our brands please see below.


  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    NRF 2022: Nordstrom finds freedom in alternative wholesale pacts

    With over 50% of sales online, Nordstrom's definitely has more options to play with in 2022 when courting and curating brands and digitally native retailers. With Nordstrom's understanding of their customers and ability to attract premium focused/affluent customers, they have an advantage over other retailers in attracting fashionable brands that want to explore new partnerships. One of the themes at NRF was collaboration and I would expect more of these in the coming years.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2022

    Can the metaverse solve retail’s returns challenges?

    High returns are some of the most nagging problems for retail. An article in CNN recently cited that returns will be $120B in the recently completed holiday season vs. sales of $789B -- accounting for 15.2% of sales. Now that we have the 2021 holiday season behind us, what can retailers learn and improve? It falls in measures for prevention and partnerships and I think that metaverse is low on the list. 1) Prevention: Its's time to dig into some data. What categories are performing the worst? Is there an 80/20 rule in categories, items, or even markets? What can you do from a data perspective to increase the number of images, add sizing guidelines, use review feedback to bolster your product data, and share downstream to your PDPs and on-shelf? AI customized sizing solutions, as well as international size standards, will also play a role in prevention. 2) Partner: As you dig into the data above, there may be some suppliers that have a unique sizing for their products in a category. Which suppliers are having the most returns and how can you partner to reduce? Retail can also partner with a community of consumers to share the impact of returns on the business and on the environment and have ongoing dialog to identify strategies and tactics to address. Most retailers have made sustainability commitments with more efficient stores, circular product programs but unfortunately, the rising rate of returns could be an obstacle to meeting net-zero or other goals.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2022

    Are in-person trade shows safe (enough)?

    We will be at NRF this year with a large contingency. They have instituted many precautions including the Clever app which gives me more confidence. If any of the other BrainTrust folks are attending, I would welcome the opportunity to meet up.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    Returning products can be some of the most painful experiences at retail. Customers don't care who handles the return as long it is done fairly, efficiently and they are treated well. We've been talking about omnichannel in retail for 10+ years now and with all of the digital acceleration in the past two years, customers have come to expect a seamless experience and flexibility. Moving to distinct brick-and-mortar vs. online experiences and processes will be a step back and a competitive disadvantage.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2021

    Why did Nike buy a crypto collectables studio?

    It's about share of mind, share of voice, and ultimately share of wallet of digitally-minded consumers. Nike wants to be where people are spending their time and paying attention. If that forum is the metaverse, then they have a good start. Consumers may get digital NFT versions to show off in the digital world. Nike can also do new product testing via the metaverse to see which ones are trending which can inform their physical new product development plans. Lots of applications here, but it seems like it will be experimental for a while.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2021

    Aldi fans can’t wait to shop its ‘Aisle of Shame’

    What a gift to have this following as a value-focused retailer. Aldi should continue to do what they are doing while also continuing to mine what customers most like about the treasure aisle. This can't be directly replicated, each retailer will need to find its own way and approach to creating a treasure aisle or area of engagement.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2021

    What will it take to build a better shopping cart?

    Look how many times the back of the seat at the airlines has changed. They have moved from overhead displays to back of the seat displays to app-based access via your own device with the better back of seat display holders and multiple types of power access. Could a more appropriate question be how can we improve the customer experience vs. is it broke?
  • Posted on: 12/06/2021

    What will it take to build a better shopping cart?

    Yes, shopping carts do sometimes feel like a relic from the past because there have been no meaningful changes to them in decades. One of the biggest challenges of grocery shopping is finding an efficient route to the store when you are in a time crunch. Therefore a navigation system/store mapping system that you can voice activate or search on screen would be an improvement. Taking it to the next level, it would be interesting if you could upload your digital list through the app when you arrive, sync it to the grocery cart and then have several routes available to you that could be mapped. This would require solid location data and AI to map the customer list to the store location for all of the categories/items but I think that would solve one of the biggest frustrations navigating a store with over 25,000 items. Having the opted-in data of the shopping intentions of the customers could be a treasure trove of data and provide key insights about what items are popping up in the list that are not carried and much more.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2021

    Is physical retail entering a new age?

    Brick-and-mortar stores will always be a cornerstone for retailers that want to provide a complete and engaging experience. The key is to be able to take the lessons from the last year and understand what customer expectations are and aim to exceed this with a blend of improved customer relations, enticing merchandising, and more digital tools for sales associates and customers in the physical space. The new era will be won by retailers that are constantly testing, learning and innovating, and catering to their customers regardless of channel.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2021

    Should Apple join the crowd in lifting mask requirements?

    Collectively we are now entering a new phase in the pandemic with many people receiving their third shot and younger children becoming eligible for a vaccine. Retailers should be aware of the CDC guidelines, the local situation, and even the traffic density of the store and make decisions from there. I was at the Apple Store in UTC mall in San Diego over the weekend and yes many customers were maskless but there were well over 100 people in the store. Down the way, at Rodd & Gunn, I believe everyone was maskless but it was a much more quiet experience. The variance of policies between stores 10 feet apart can still make it frustrating for the customer. A question remains on if there will be a specific benchmark to say when we will no longer need masks?
  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Can 24/7 supply chain operations save Christmas?

    Expanding hours and access to the ports will be part of the solution to ease some of the back-ups at the ports. It is also welcomed that the government is encouraging collaboration among major companies that contribute a large amount of the containers moved in the US. Improved infrastructure through investment will help too but not likely before Christmas. Just like the front line workers at hospitals, the truckers, and the trucking industry has undergone considerable pressure and many hours of overtime in the past 2 years. The problem is that Canada and the US are short -- over 85,000 truckers short -- which impacts the ability to move containers from the ports and goods across the country. Something significant needs to be done to attract more people to trucking as a career or part-time job. The last key that is needed is data transparency, namely inventory transparency across all retail. No one's Christmas should be ruined if there was better data about what is in stock or in local warehouses and if that information could be transparently shared with customers at the point of purchase. Consumers should see the risk of some of their purchases and not be let down with a last-minute shipping delay. Better data and real-time updates could drive better decisions and potentially ease the demand on hard to get items.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2021

    Just how casual will wardrobes become?

    Yes, 18 months working at home for individuals who never worked at home before definitely accelerated the casualization of wardrobes. However we already had casual clothing infiltrating business attire as early as the '80s with the t-shirt and suit look similar to Miami Vice. I believe that suits and formal wear still have a place in business and in other formal settings. Individualism and standing out still matters and if everyone is wearing shorts and a gray t-shirt, how individualized is it? Smart professionals with higher career aspirations still have an opportunity to dress up and look the part of their aspired role and stand out. Mass casualization is here but many things will change like they always do, and we may see areas where business casual or formal wear becomes popularized a bit more.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2021

    Stores? Kroger don’t need no stinking stores

    I was fortunate to hear the CEO of Kroger (Rodney McMullen) at Groceryshop several weeks ago. It's obvious that they are not thinking "build it and they will come" with the stores anymore. They are looking at the grocery business as an ecosystem and physical stores are only one component of the ecosystem. By coming in digitally, they will be able to gain an understanding of the market and then determine key areas that need brick-and-mortar stores in the future. Ocado and its other technologies, solid private brands, and partnerships give them some advantages in some markets in digital search, assortment depth, digital marketing, and quick fulfillment. At Groceryshop, Mr. McMullen said that they have an advantage in assortment with 25,000 items to be shipped quickly while some of the other retailers/delivery services only have 2,000 to 3,000. More than 75 percent of U.S. shoppers have done some type of e-commerce for grocery in the past year, but the penetration is actually higher among young and affluent shoppers. Retailers will need to continue to monitor trip types and share of the market by their customer segments and specific delivery geographies. Comparison shops and interviews will help them understand if their website, app, and delivery offerings are competitive and if they need to reinvest to meet the new benchmarks set by Kroger.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2021

    Is Home Depot’s deal with Walmart a sign of bigger things to come?

    Simply put, this partnership solves problems for both retailers while also serving the needs of consumers. For Home Depot, delivery of a large couch or appliance may take well over a week depending on if there is even inventory nearby. By reducing this time frame considerably and winning both on speed and convenience of scheduling deliveries, Home Depot will be able to generate more loyalty with customers. For Walmart, this rapidly expands the scale of their GoLocal service and immediately increases their share of the $83 billion parcel delivery market. Consumers win because they will have more options to have same- or two-day delivery of their DIY materials, furniture or appliances across a larger portion of the country.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2021

    Is consumer-direct less profitable for brands than selling wholesale?

    DTC is not like other sales channels where you can simply compare volume and profit and promotional performance. DTC has additional costs such as new data needs, new shipping costs, and likely more talent resources to get the DTC up and running. But on the other side, there are benefits of insight, collaboration, and customer loyalty that is different than traditional wholesale benefits. DTC can offer multiple unique use cases including new product testing and collaboration with customers, being able to communicate and market in an unfiltered way to consumers, and lastly, gain a first-hand view of digital shopping behaviors. By taking this data about customer preferences and shopping behaviors and arriving at insights that are supportable, brands can go to their wholesale partners and share these purchase behavior insights or test results to drive their business forward. Without DTC, many manufacturers may not have the window of insight into digital shopping because many retailers don't share it. With DTC, they can come to the table as a more valuable partner and encourage data transparency so all sides can have the insights and win together.

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