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: 03/05/2021

    Will Tonal shops help Nordstrom strengthen its fitness cred?

    Yes, it will absolutely enhance their fitness credibility to their coveted affluent consumers. Per the press release, Tonal has 90 percent share of the intelligent fitness market and now have access to Nordstrom in key markets. They say follow the money but I think it is also important to follow the data. As consumers make the decision to invest in Tonal, it also creates an opportunity for investment in hundreds of dollars of clothing. It will be interesting to see if this partnership extends to the access for Nordstrom to advertise on Tonal or to learn collaboratively about the affluent fitness consumer for their mutual benefit.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Is Texas messing with retailers?

    Unfortunately, retail has become a theater for those who want to espouse their political views. Retailers have a right to set reasonable rules for safety and conduct and should continue to execute these rules until we reach herd immunity. This latest change in policy will certainly make it harder for retailers to enforce mask wearing and, unfortunately, will bring more chaos into the aisles. We should honor our retail front-line workers, not harass them for doing their jobs.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2021

    Target wants a bigger slice of Apple’s pie

    Apple is the powerhouse technology brand that has been at Target for 15 years and Target has drastically improved its experience in multiple departments in the past years. With all of that experience and common demographics in many of their stores, why only expand to 17 stores or less than 1% of the stores? It is an exciting store-within-a-store concept, but many of us may not see this experience where we live until 2022. Definitely a more test-and-learn approach vs. the Ulta rollout.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    The benefit of text messaging as many others have said is the fact that it will likely be the quickest to be read. I believe that consumers value the alert benefits of a text versus the ongoing drum of marketing messages. Retailers and others using text to alert their consumers of delivery or if a vehicle is ready to pick up after repair seem to work best. But as retailers gain consumer trust, they should not violate that trust and should provide options to opt out of texts at any moment. I have also heard of retailers communicating to employees via mass text and I don't believe that this is the best communication option. Mass texts and their responses can be challenging for businesses, especially if a store is relatively large. It may be worthwhile for a retailer to evaluate, purchase and implement a business texting service so messages can be managed and documented versus using basic personal texting.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2021

    Clothing retailers are trying to cut their way to higher profits

    The source of high returns has been well documented as primarily driven by poor or incomplete product descriptions and imagery. According to a Power Reviews survey, the top irritation when researching products online is Poor Product Descriptions - 43 percent of consumers. Yet too often we see clothing on some sites with maybe two pictures and limited information on materials or size. There also may be a need to have a size guide with measurements for various types of clothing on the website because sizes vary by manufacturer. We've documented at our company that better data product information can reduce returns. Retailers may also want to experiment with virtual sizings or have a promotion to invite their best customers in for sizing when it is safe to do so. This information can then be added to customers' personal profiles so they can access the information wherever they shop and potentially reduce the hassle of returns for the customer and the retailer.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2021

    Will pandemic-fatigued couples love Lowe’s and Whole Foods’ Valentine’s promos?

    Couples who are still mostly at home after more than a year together are likely interested in any romantic diversion after exhausting all of their rom-com viewing options from Netflix months ago. Sharing a meal together that you both prepared could be both entertaining and satisfying so I believe that that the Whole Foods program will be the winner this Valentine's Day. I also appreciate that they have three different "holidays" to suit the needs of their customers. White Castle has been promoting Valentine's day since 1991 and has a surprisingly strong following and I would expect another strong showing this year. The theme this year is "Slider Lover’s Point" where couples can enjoy a romantic dinner via a drive-thru in the parking lot. As you can see with White Castle, winning on Valentine's Day can be as simple as creating a fun, tasty, memorable event for your customers no matter how corny.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2021

    Who won this year’s Super Bowl ad contest?

    I will echo some of the others that the sum of the advertisements may have been not as great as in prior years, but there were some great ones in 2021. I particularly liked the vehicle ads. No Way Norway was particularly funny as well as a great way for GM to get the message out -- their EV goals. Jeep's The Middle was an inspirational piece that conveys the importance of coming together to achieve more. Interesting that the only Jeep shown in the ad was a classic. The ads that connected to the heart was the Jessica Long story by Toyota. I also appreciated the Indeed ad which highlights that everyone is trying to improve their lot in life and their career. Interestingly, the only retailers that I saw in the advertising group were Bass Pro Shops (Cabella) and Amazon (Alexa focused), and Mercari. Did retailers miss out on an opportunity this year to thank their employees, their customers and appeal to future loyalty?
  • Posted on: 02/01/2021

    Walmart sets its sights on becoming a top-10 ad platform

    Walmart has made great strides in bringing the flexibility of digital advertising into the physical space at a high scale that others will likely not be able to match. With the apparent flexibility of the platform, brands will be able to make more precise investments in this ad platform to support their brand needs and drive more sales at Walmart. I personally think that the flexibility of buying based on time, date, and geography with sound data backing it may be the most appealing aspect. Their omnichannel platform has the potential to be a top 10 ad channel considering that they are reaching 100 million shoppers every week.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2021

    Not every retailer is sold on curbside pickup

    2020 was the accelerator of trends and if you remove the health concerns out of the equations some will surely diminish in popularity. Some services are duplicative and don't add value for some retailers. For example, curbside seems to only make sense if the purchase is cumbersome or there are multiple bags. I'm still not sure of the value of curbside for a drug store that also has a drive-through. BOPIS will likely remain more popular and depending on the retailer, some may eliminate curbside if usage wanes or adds limited value to the consumer. McKinsey completed a study last year that indicated that 75% of Americans have tried a new shopping behavior in the crisis. If they weren't already there in 2020, many consumers adopted a new digital shopping behavior and have become more digitally focused across their entire hopping journey. Increased digital-first shopping is a trend much bigger than some mentioned above. Digital product discovery, research, price comparison is happening at home, in the store, and on the go and this is a new way of shopping for many consumers that will not go away. Retailers with consistent, high quality, and engaging product information across all of these touchpoints and digital channels have an opportunity to retain these shoppers and engage new ones that are evaluating different brands and retailers. It is also important to provide better digital tools for your employees in-store. This includes seamless data on product, inventory, and customer to better serve these digital-first and at times, time-sensitive customers.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2021

    7-Elevens could be destined to undergo a konbinification

    With almost 10,000 stores in the U.S., there is an opportunity to offer several different formats relevant to the local consumer tastes, lifestyle, and needs. Convenience stores in my experience can be some of the most uninspiring retail environments and, depending on the community, there is room to offer a premium experience, improved meal solutions, and offer better service. Expanding the scope of the Evolution test stores will provide a more comprehensive set of insights across different markets/consumer groups and will help 7-Eleven make the right decisions in merchandising and visual presentation for these new konbini-style stores.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2021

    What leadership lessons have retailers learned during the pandemic?

    Undoubtedly the most common theme of leadership from the pandemic was that companies were able to adapt and to act through technology. The fortunate retailers with agile technology and strong business practices were able to lead and implement new customer-facing processes such as curbside pick up in record time. But perhaps the most undermentioned leadership success stories were the retailer's ability to support and motivate their retail associates to deliver better service under more stress and in a fast-changing environment. As Ms. Barry mentions, empathy is key in these challenging times as well as grace. Using empathy and grace, a good leader is supporting that employee during an off-day because there may be some other challenges in that employee's life. Despite all of the technological advances, my experience is that industry has become more human and that is a testament to improvements of leadership at retail.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Convenience retailers aren’t letting the pandemic get them down

    Convenience stores will come out stronger at the other end of the pandemic due to their ability to meet the immediate needs of consumers that don't want to venture out to the larger big box or supermarkets. I agree with Neil and Mark on a couple of their points on this channel. Convenience stores need to continue to improve and not become complacent on their food offerings. For many that do not offer quality meal solutions, it is time to test and learn what may be a better meal, whether it is a salad or a better sandwich offering or something else. By keeping a pulse on what their customers want, and testing out solutions, the better stores will evolve with the needs of the customer.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Do retailers need to jump on the e-gift card bandwagon?

    Yes! Consumers have become more digitally enabled and capable this past year and many may prefer an e-gift card vs. a physical copy. By having both types, you are serving your customers and staying relevant as they have also likely already used e-gift cards from Starbucks/Apple/Amazon. Coincidently I was on the Sephora page last night and they have built out this capability for e-gift cards with a nice feature to be able to buy now and send the email to the recipient with the gift card at a future date with a personalized message. By offering gift cards in-store and online with both digital and physical versions, retailers can generate more interest and revenue than your basic gift card program that has been in place for years.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2020

    Starbucks sees even more stores in its future

    Starbucks is almost a 50-year-old company but has an innovative culture, strong digital abilities and an appeal to Gen Z and Millennials. With a variety of formats including kiosks and drive-thrus, Starbucks has plenty of room for store location growth internationally and in North America. I agree that after the pandemic, consumer behavior will swing away from at-home activities to connection and social behavior which will definitely drive continued growth at Starbucks and other cafes.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2020

    What will it take to get shoppers back into stores in 2021?

    The use of successful tactics is dependent on how much the retailer has learned about its shoppers over the last nine months. Are they reluctant shoppers with still some remaining concerns, promotion-driven shoppers looking for new deals, or are they experience-driven shoppers who are anticipating some interesting and fun experiences when they return? Communications and targeting efforts should be aligned with who your customers are and what they need. Regardless of the type of customer, all customers have become more digitally driven in terms of how they interact with brands and retailers. So customers are now more likely to dig deeper into product details before they make a purchase and even visit a store-specific webpage before venturing back into the physical store. Malls, mass merchants, and grocery chains have built out location-specific detail about safety, pick-up options, special section or service offerings, and promotions on their store webpages to help close the information gap for consumers. By better managing location data and sharing it on your websites, I think that this is one way to help lay the groundwork for return visits and traffic in the future.

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