PROFILE

Herb Sorensen

Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass; Shopper Scientist LLC

Herb Sorensen is the winner of the 2013 Charles Coolidge Parlin Award and the 2007 EXPLOR Award, both from the American Marketing Association. He was also listed among Fast Company’s 2004 Top 50 Innovators.

Herb began his career as a chemist with interests in quantum mechanics, electronic structures and metabolism. From the faculty of Colorado State University in 1971 he moved into the business world as a board certified clinical chemist, subsequently establishing his own consulting and laboratory business providing product development and other services (including consumer surveys) to the packaged goods industry.

Since the late 1970’s Dr. Sorensen’s market research has focused on shoppers at their points-of-purchase. Hence, the continuing interest of his “in-store research company” in shoppers and their relationships to the stores they shop in and the products they buy.

Herb has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, a master’s degree in biochemistry and nutrition from Nebraska and undergraduate majors in chemistry and mathematics. He has been an active member of the American Marketing Association and other associations for many years. His papers and presentations have addressed a wide range of topics, most recently his electronic shopper tracking system, PathTracker®.

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  • Posted on: 06/11/2019

    Will a credit builder program create a new legion of loyal Amazon shoppers?

    As a former associate used to advise me, "Can't hurt ... Might HELP!"
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    Amazon (online) expedites single item purchases, with their "1 ClickTM" strategy, backed by an "infinite" selection -- "The Everything Store." Their Amazon Go illustrates how this CAN be done in a bricks store. Their own bricks store, Whole Foods, has a L - O - N - G way to go before becoming anything approaching Whole Foods GO. Will another retailer get there first? Not if they stay stuck in "paste on" online sales mode. But then, Amazon doesn't have a lot of serious competition online, so "GO" may yet conquer both worlds of retailing, clicks AND bricks. But, of course, it really is only one world, to shoppers -- where we get our stuff! See: "Selling Like Amazon... in Bricks & Mortar Stores!"
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks? Who knew? Certainly not shoppers. The photo with this story gives the lie to the question. The real problem is far deeper. The item count in shoppers baskets at supermarkets is DOMINATED by the single item purchase, then two, then three - it's logarithmic. (In Walmart supercenters it is three, then two, then one!) Here's the reality for the supermarket:
    • 300 items dominate total store sales;
    • 30 items dominate total category sales;
    • Three items dominate total brand sales;
    • The typical household buys only 300 – 400 items per year!
    • Half of those, 150 – 200, they buy regularly.
    Sell them what they are buying! A major, international super-marketer protested, "But the stock-up shopper is our target demographic!" Good luck with THAT. The superficiality of understanding the shopper is quite astounding when compared to the reality of the data.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Are machine learning and AI the path to enhanced personalization?

    AI, and more specifically, Artificial GENERAL Intelligence, AGI, is going to transform society more thoroughly than did the Industrial Revolution. See: "Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI," John Brockman - editor (Author).
  • Posted on: 04/26/2019

    Will the promise of straighter smiles bring more customers to CVS?

    The logo looks like a knock-off of Amazon's.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    Absolutely agreed! The rule is, "As long as people live in bricks-and-mortar houses, they WILL be shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores." Amazon is a genius at algorithmically closing the sale (1-Click and Amazon Go.) See: Selling Like Amazon... in Bricks & Mortar Stores!. The "game" has only just begun ...
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Amazon Go doesn’t want to leave cash on the table

    I use cash without a cashier at Costco all the time. What's the big deal? It doesn't take a "cashier" to take cash -- the bank and ATMs work like this.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?

    It's a very good start. How about robotizing displays? Not even Amazon has figured this out yet. However, Amazon GO is the personification of their patented "1-Click" checkout. (The patent has expired, but NOT the continuing super-sales practice of "close the sale immediately.") This is rule #1 to real, personal, super salesmen: "Close early, and close often." Close, close, close! That is the path to every sale, whether bricks or clicks. But a concept totally strange to the super-successful SELF-service retailers, (merchant warehousemen), who are passive in selling to shoppers, but very active in selling to suppliers. I give at least 10 years for any kind of recognition of this principle to break into bricks consciousness. It doesn't even seem to have occurred to Amazon, in their own forays into bricks retailing. The SALE always occurs "Inside the Mind of the Shopper." What happens at the checkout is simply confirmation of what happened at the shelf! I published the second edition of the book 10 years ago, and am even now working on the third edition. ;-)
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    Retailers and brands become best of frenemies with Amazon

    This is the wave of the future, PERIOD! Will anyone ever catch up with Amazon? Will anyone ever catch up with Walmart? Will Amazon and Walmart go head to head with bricks-clicks convergence? (Convergence doesn't mean pasting them on each other!) Will clicks ever move intelligently INSIDE bricks, or will techies continue to see pathetic hand-helds, or even kiosks, as their entry there? This whole show has been moving forward for at least 20 years, and it seems like minds are stuck in the mud. Think the future, not the present and immediate past. Looking FAR into the past can provide helpful perspective on the future.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2019

    Okay Google, how can you help grow Walmart’s online grocery business?

    Bear in mind that Stop & Shop had a major hand held "smart device" deployed in stores, since around 2001. It was also seen here and there across Europe. It's a L - O - N - G way from technology to the shoppers' everyday, functional minds. (Also, it is the habitual, subconscious mind that must be reached.)
  • Posted on: 04/03/2019

    Okay Google, how can you help grow Walmart’s online grocery business?

    Retailers of the future -- and their suppliers -- will be seamlessly connected with shoppers through Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots (mobile and otherwise), and throughout the supply chain. As has been said, "Telling the future is hard. Particularly the part about saying what will happen!" And I might add, "and when it will happen." Retail is the nexus between production and consumption, and bricks stores will certainly be a part of that. But AI and robots are the new frontier, that links bricks and clicks! ;-)
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Will ending its price parity rule take the antitrust heat off Amazon?

    Walmart worked around this by having the "identical" item as competitors, at a slightly lower cost, although the item was not really identical. It's been a dozen years since I did a national pricing study for Sears, across a half dozen competitors across a variety of categories One of the things we found was that often "Item A" in all the competitors was identical, but in Walmart it was "Item A-2" or some such. Something of cost that Walmart had the manufacturer remove, that Walmart considered inconsequential to customers, justified them getting a lower price from the manufacturer than the competitors. Allowing some savings to be passed on to the customer in a slightly lower price. Several years later, in one of the books about Walmart, it was reported that a major lawnmower company withdrew all their merchandise from Walmart stores, choosing NOT to use Walmart as a retail outlet, for exactly this reason. Pressure, pressure, PRESSURE! It is baked into the retailer-supplier relationship, and quite properly so. So this is the context as to whether "government" should do something about this. Beyond already illegal sanctions for "lying to customers," ABSOLUTELY NOT. Intrusions by the government are a significant brake on lots of what should be legitimate "free" enterprise activities. But it is tricky, because it is the proper function of government to stop commercial cheating and lying. But just what that is, is often a function of the courts. So how effective has "government" been in stopping the massive admission "cheating and bribery" scandal, just breaking across elite higher education in America? Bear in mind, this very long corruption has survived because of the old observation that, "Error can make it's way twice around the world, while truth is getting on its boots!" Societally, there are "errors" that are centuries, if not millennia long, that society is yet struggling through. And others yet not in global prominence. For society, it has been a long ride - and it's nowhere near through. (For those historically aware.)
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores?

    I didn't review the constitution, but I do note, right on paper money, "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private." I do note that the state law makes exceptions for memberships, parking, etc. I'm sympathetic, but how is it legal for anyone to sell anything and demand non-cash payment? Checks, credit cards, or even your face make a lot of sense. But refuse cash? I think it is probably unconstitutional, even if a state authorizes it. Personally, I don't see a resolution of this very sticky wicket!
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Why is shelf management getting short shrift in supermarkets?

    All absolutely RIGHT ON! (I'm about halfway through writing a much broader perspective about what will actually happen!)
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    The "too," is too much focus on the supply chain, and not enough on the shopper, and THEIR behavior. The reality is that shoppers basically use CPG/FMG stores as neighborhood pantries. The industry absolutely refuses to face the fact for supermarkets, ONE is the dominant NUMBER of items to be purchased. Even for a Walmart SuperCenter, the dominant NUMBER of items purchased is TWO! NEIGHBORHOOD PANTRIES! Spit in the face of reality all the way to collective bankruptcy. But there ARE bricks retailers who are built on this reality, and don't play in the "Everything Store" philosophy. However, ignoring the long tail is not the ideal approach either. I favor an "ideal" approach.

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