PROFILE

Chuck Ehredt

CEO, Currency Alliance

Charles (Chuck) Ehredt is a seasoned entrepreneur and problem solver who built a career on turning business challenges into opportunities by aligning people with the right technologies. Now the CEO and co-founder of Currency Alliance, Chuck oversees a new way for international brands to collaborate through loyalty initiatives, so they can affordably capture a spectrum of customer insights that ensure better personalization and maximum lifetime value. As a serial entrepreneur, Chuck has launched 12 companies across multiple sectors and has helped fund 23 as an angel investor.

Chuck has also invested in 23 companies as a business angel investor and remains active as a mentor and coach for early stage companies or mature businesses trying to find their new product-market fit.

More information can be found at www.currencyalliance.com or linkedin.com/in/charles-ehredt

Serial entrepreneur at the convergence of FinTech and Marketing.
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  • Posted on: 03/05/2021

    Regional retail chains have the highest rated loyalty programs

    I am not familiar with all these programs personally, but it is no surprise that regional stores outscore national programs in some categories. It is most likely that the store mission remains close to the founder's intent and the closer-knit team can ensure that program rules and benefits align with the overall brand purpose. Larger chains often change their strategy every time a new CEO comes in, but they forget to tell the loyalty department to update the program design - so it often becomes out-of-step with the new company focus. Loyalty is about building relationships with customers. Their loyalty rarely comes from the points, but rather their cumulative experience with the brand and overall perception of value. Points are just a tool or excuse to engage the customer. They can of course be very effective in adding gamification and driving desired customer behavior, but increasingly they are only relevant when a brand collaborates with complementary brands so customers can earn more often and redeem with more choice. In fact, the excessive fragmentation of so many loyalty programs today means that it is hard for customers to earn enough points with one brand to redeem for something of emotional interest - because they just can´t spend enough with one brand. Collaboration in broader ecosystems is becoming the key.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

    Will a third-party marketplace step up and give Amazon a run for its money?

    This question should not be about whether retailers should create their own marketplaces, but how they must prepare to compete in marketplaces. The growth of super apps and marketplaces is unstoppable - and there will certainly be many alternatives to Amazon. In fact outside North America, Amazon is often a small player. Marketplaces are important because that is where customers find the greatest convenience and value - so they will continue to spend much of their time in marketplaces. Of course, each marketplace is different and provides the brand with different tools to differentiate itself. Learning how to stand out in many marketplaces at the same time, and collaborate with other marketplace stakeholders must be a top priority. Of course, this is where headless commerce and headless loyalty platforms come in. In an API economy, brands need the agility to engage customers based on the parameters enabled by each marketplace - and legacy systems simply don´t allow rapid innovation or adaptation to many scenarios.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2021

    What’s so funny about authenticity, integrity and transparency?

    Think about the brands that people are loyal to (not necessarily you, but some cohort of customers). They have two things in common; 1.) a personality and 2.) no points-based loyalty program. Farmgirl Flowers among a handful of other brands stand for something(s) and have developed a personality that resonates with people, while most other brands seem to think a Teflon coating around their business is the way to go to market. It is simply difficult for real people to relate to corporate corporations. Furthermore, once a company becomes too corporate, it is hard for people to distinguish between one company and the next - so they need to introduce loyalty programs or other gimmicks to try and stand out. However their Teflon-ness ends up driving the gimmicks and loyalty programs to also be undifferentiated. This is about leadership and values. Each entity that wants to build affinity with customers and partners has to be on a worthwhile mission that people are willing to get behind in a consistent way. That is possible for a Big Box retailer or clothing store, but few leaders seem to want to get their hands dirty at work (even if they would at home). Others don´t want to get their hands dirty at home either - which means they have no chance to differentiate their company's brand.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2021

    Are huge marketplace seller aggregators a good thing for Amazon and retail?

    Every brand needs to learn how to operate effectively in marketplaces and super apps. This trend has been mounting for years and will accelerate as customers spend more time fulfilling their needs in the most convenient and efficient "space" available. I hope the marketplace operators don´t create any unfair trading practices that penalize the aggregators of the brands that choose to stay independent - but it is perfectly healthy and natural in any type of ecosystem to optimize the environment around you for your own self interest.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2021

    Is Kroger justified in closing stores over a hero pay ordinance?

    I´m sure there is a bigger story here and Kroger's decision may be convenient to stem losses at those stores, but more importantly is a signal that they will act if similar legislation gets implemented (unfairly) in other regions. This decision may lead to bad PR in the short-term, but has huge ramifications over many years across the entire business. It is hard to speculate on what is the right information without knowing the details, but I chalk this up to playing out a longer and bigger poker game.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2021

    Where does the chief digital officer fit into retail’s executive team?

    I wrote a thesis on "The Organizational Maverick" nearly 40 years ago - about the person who floated freely across an organization to put teams together to solve problems or pursue opportunities - kind of like the hero cowboy in mythical stories. The CDO is part this and part CX but, now that most digital channels embrace best practices, there is diminishing return on further digital CX improvements. For that reason, the CX function now should be pushed out into every customer-facing department to ensure all functions deliver a consistent customer experience based on the overall business strategy. It is kind of for this reason that the role is immensely important and needs to be given the mandate to break down traditional silos and fiefdoms that are holding companies back from enhancing the value customers receive across every customer journey.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2021

    Is a labor storm developing at retail?

    I was raised in a small farming community where the general philosophy was that a worker had to earn their right every day to come back to work tomorrow. This probably biases my opinion, but overall, I recognize that many workers have taken risks this year and might feel they have not been properly compensated. On the other hand, those people continued to receive paychecks. What is clear to me is that brands have responded very differently in how they treated their employees in 2020 -- with those that value their team members and share values overall seem to be avoiding problems, whereas those brands that have treated their human resources as a resource (and not people) are probably in for a tough time. If we look across industries over 5-8 decades, those companies that frequently had labor disputes have mostly disappeared, or tend to have very cyclical EBITDA, while those businesses without major labor issues (and often unions) tend to be less cyclical. At the end of the day, a fish rots from the head and if the company culture is not based on sustainable values, they will always be swimming upstream.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2021

    Will retail and brand CMOs play it safe in 2021?

    More marketing to existing customers increases the noise level that all these time-starved people have to deal with. Clever marketing could break through. However, brands have often over-invested in new customer acquisition, rather than developing deeper relationships with mid-tail and longer-tail (less frequent) customers. There is a goldmine of incremental revenue from those households that spread their spending around if CMOs choose to target them. Unfortunately, many of these less frequent customers never identify themselves when shopping, so communicating to them cost-effectively is a challenge. Of course, if the brands can make their loyalty programs relevant to less frequent customers, then they will win the opportunity to engage them and increase share of wallet. One easy trick is to offer the customer whatever loyalty points/miles they really want to collect. This does not mean a brand should not have its own loyalty currency, but rather offer alternatives to appeal to different segments. The cost is far lower than the value of incremental data and the ability to engage.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2021

    NRF 2021: What did it take for consumer-direct startups to get through the pandemic?

    Values are essential in a disaster because most of the people involved are confused about what to do. A business, as well as individuals with deep-seated values, will always shine as honest because people will react based on what they value. That doesn´t always mean the values are good. In the airline industry, most brands became very flexible in extending benefits for loyalty program members, while others tightened the screws to avoid cash leaving the business. This has really resonated. Disaster planning is often a good exercise so a playbook is in the drawer when disaster strikes, but perhaps more importantly because the planning process forces the organization to take inventory of their values and see how they play out in various scenarios. Kudos to those brands that rose to the occasion. They had invested in establishing values long before COVID-19, but that paid off when their brand image remained consistent through their actions.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Convenience retailers aren’t letting the pandemic get them down

    Convenience stores adopted this name because they can be convenient. Since customers are time-starved, I envision those groups that can best tailor their offerings to the needs of customers will definitely come out of the COVID-19 situation stronger and grow revenue from customers that appreciate their products and services. Of course given the footprint of most convenience stores, they cannot be everything to every customer, but since 70 percent to 80 percent of monthly consumption could be made up from a narrow selection of items, there are opportunities for such stores to take marketshare from supermarkets - at least for customers who are a bit less price-sensitive. Online, however, convenience stores can sell with nearly infinite virtual shelf space. Whether they have the talent for extended e-commerce is a separate question - but definitely an opportunity.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Will becoming a fintech powerhouse make Walmart an even more formidable retailer?

    The payment experience is critical to building preference among customers, so investing in payment innovation is a wise move for a retailer with the scale of Walmart. Given their loyal following among certain customer segments, there will also be plenty of additional fintech opportunities to grow total customer share-of-wallet. Additional value-added services could include insurance products, investment products, savings products, etc. The more touchpoints a brand has with customers the better they are likely to understand customer needs and have the opportunity to meet them. It will be interesting to see if Walmart and Ribbit try to deliver their own solutions or aggregate best-in-class solutions from third parties.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2020

    Are retailers set up to scale the value of AI investments?

    AI deserves the attention it is getting but, for the algorithms to work, they need clean data - and too few organizations are dedicating the effort to clean up their data and generating single customer profiles. Without those foundations in place, a great deal of money will be wasted on AI as the ROI will be depressed by poor data management practices.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2020

    Which 2020 returns options will stick?

    This whole topic upsets me to no end. After the early 2000s recession, retailers started making it much easier for customers to return just about everything. They put most of the cost on the suppliers/manufacturers, so there was insufficient friction for consumers. This has led to mountains of perfectly good merchandise getting destroyed. What people don´t see is the supply chain cost involved in producing and distributing an enormous amount of goods that people with lower ethics return on a whim. I believe in such a pandemic, retailers need to provide the flexibility for their front-line staff to use their judgement in accepting returns but, overall, I really think some responsible retailers need to put more restrictions in place. Reducing the air conditioning in stores and reducing returns would have more impact on the environment than tweaking things around the edges.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    How is Nike excelling at driving loyalty with digital?

    Nike has been engaging their customers around passion and values for decades. These new digital channels are simply (great) examples of what brands can accomplish when they personalize around topics that are important to customers. Of course Nike invests heavily in the talent, apps, and campaigns - but this allows them to create a community of advocates that end up not being very price-sensitive. All marketers should follow Nike closely and piggy-back on the elements of marketing that could work in their own businesses.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2020

    It’s time for innovation or stagnation

    There are certainly companies that have stagnated during the past eight months - those that have plenty of excuses for not proceeding with plans. However I have to say that I've seen much more innovation in the past eight months than during any other period during the past 30 years. Much of that was driven by the adverse business climate caused by COVID-19, but I also believe leaders have been much more efficient with their time and used that not only to solve short-term problems, but also plan for the future. As for questions, I think the key ones are related to "What must my business know in three to five years' time to ensure we can keep customers engaged and feeling a high level of perceived value?" The answer to this question is almost always having a comprehensive view of the customer and the technology to serve them when they have needs. Innovating around this problem involves systems, but mostly it involves collaboration - among colleagues, but also among complementary brands, that together can deliver much more value to customers. I could go on for hours about the value of data, but the key is making sure you are not relying only on your own data to interpret the lifestyle interests of customers. Loyalty programs are the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to data sharing to enable each partner to better personalize engagement - enabled simply by issuing/redeeming each other´s loyalty currency.

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