PROFILE

Jason Goldberg

Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Publicis
Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg is the chief commerce strategy officer for Publicis. Jason is a 4th generation retailer, who launched his first e-commerce site for Blockbuster Entertainment in 1995. In the subsequent 20 years, he has served as a principal customer experience architect for top retailers including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. With a focus on e-commerce and digital marketing for omni-channel retailers, he has worked with over 100 clients on the Internet Top 500 and has been responsible for billions of dollars in on-line revenues.
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  • Posted on: 06/24/2021

    Marc Lore says Walmart can’t connect to customers like Allbirds and Warby Parker do

    I saw that quote and it honestly made me a bit sad for Marc. He worked at Walmart for five years and made a notable impact but it now seems clear he didn't meet Walmart's customer or completely understand Walmart. I've literally interviewed more than 10,000 Walmart shoppers in my career, and I can assure you that Walmart has connected with some of them much more strongly than Warby Parker or Allbirds. 190M households shop Walmart every week. Many of them feel their lives are meaningful improved because of their access to Walmart. Does Walmart or Warby connect that way with every customer? No. Do many Warby customers simply view them as a cheaper Luxotica? Yes. When Warby's IPO filling becomes public, we'll finally see how strong a business they actually are. I admire them, but they are likely not world beater. And it's just objectively not true that a product invented by a mass wholesaler can't connect with consumers in the same way a DTC brand can. I can assure you there are Cat & Jack (Target) parents that are far more loyal to the brand than anyone is to Warby Parker. Cat & Jack, Simple Truth, Kirkland, Good & Gather, Alexa, and many others are all wildly more economically successfully than Warby or Allbirds. For whatever reason, Marc was not as successful building brands at Walmart as Target is. But I don't think we can conclude that it's not possible.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    Do retailers have to catch up to Amazon’s logistics powerhouse?

    Warren Buffett famously said, "You do not want to give Jeff Bezos a seven-year head start." He was referring to Amazon's cloud business AWS, but it's even more true for retail fulfillment. Amazon has more than 185 massive e-commerce fulfillment centers operating across the world (and hundreds more smaller sortation centers, and other smaller concepts). They added 33 new ones in 2020, during a pandemic. Walmart, the second largest fulfillment capability in the U.S., has 32 e-commerce fulfillment centers worldwide. Think about that. Amazon added more fulfillment capability last year, than Walmart owns! No one else even comes close to Walmart, much less to Amazon. Any retailer who wants to compete with Amazon on fulfillment capability is going to need a 12-digit capital investment, which is unlikely. A far better strategy is to compete in areas where that infrastructure is at a disadvantage. Inventory staged closer to the customer (e.g. stores), personalized/customized products, exclusive products, etc.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2021

    What will the post-pandemic growth slowdown do to grocers?

    Grocers in 2021 are going to have a hard time comping against their extraordinary 2020 sales, but that doesn't mean they aren't long term winners due to the pandemic. Pre-COVID-19, restaurants and grocery stores shared a 50/50 split of consumers calorie dollars. During COVID-19 grocers received as much as 75 percent of that budget, and for the entire year averaged better than 60 percent. As restaurants open back up, grocery stores will lose some of those gains, but I don't think they are going to lose them all. Many new cohorts of consumers learned to cook, took cooking lessons, discovered recipes, bought cookware, discovered that cooking was a better value, more healthy, etc. Some of that will stick. Furthermore those grocers will be competing against a weakened restaurant industry that will take many years to recover. The other factor is that all grocery stores did not fare equally. Grocers that had invested in digital and omnichannel before the pandemic had a distinct advantage over those that didn't, and grocery stores with a full assortment had a significant advantage over smaller assortment and specialty grocers as consumers consolidated trips. Most notably, large well-funded grocers took share from independent and regional grocers. Walmart/Kroger/Albertsons owned approximately 40 percent of the grocery market before COVID-19, they may end up with better than 60 percent share by the end of COVID-19.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2021

    Does Saks.com make sense as a separate business?

    It's very short sighted. They are taking advantage of a short-term opportunity to maximize the market value of their digital business by decoupling it from their slower (negative) growth legacy business. The problem is they are NOT two separate businesses. Customers have clearly demonstrated that they want seamless omnichannel experiences (i.e., use my mobile phone to see if my local Saks has those new shoes in my size). Most retailers, and certainly Saks, stink at delivering seamless omnichannel experiences because of major silos between the digital and store teams. Those silos are only going to get worse when the businesses are separate legal P&Ls that have conflicting obligations to their respective shareholders. Saks.com when never have an incentive to forgo a pure digital sale to better serve an omnichannel customer with a higher customer lifetime value. Imagine you were a factory in 1890 that has just successfully transitioned your first factory from steam power to electricity. Would you keep electrifying the rest of your factories and focus on producing goods at the best price and the least power consumption possible? Or would you spin off the "electricity department" lead by your newly minted Chief Electricity Officer as a new business that you buy your power from? The new electricity department may well become successful and/or valuable, but your legacy steam powered factories are doomed. You're guaranteeing that your steam factories will never have electrical expertise and will forever be dependent on third parties looking to monetize your dependency, while your competitors' factories will rapidly be acquiring organic expertise in electricity.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Amazon acquires Shopify rival

    I'm not so sure this acquisition is a big deal. I doubt Amazon is going to relaunch an "Amazon Webstore 2.0" service globally and, even if they do, they probably didn't decide that 45 person company in Australia had any IP or tech capabilities that Amazon didn't have internally. More likely, this acquisition was a local move to help Amazon in the Australian market. Did Amazon feel that potential third-party sellers in Australia would also insist on a native e-commerce site, and didn't want to abdicate the Australian market to Shopify (as they did the U.S. market in 2015)? Does Selz have a customer base that Amazon wants to market to (to convert to third-party Amazon sellers)? Did Amazon need some help accelerating the third-party seller ecosystem in Australia?
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Should retailers just say ‘no’ to Instacart?

    Retailers should absolutely use Instacart if they are digitally behind and unable to meet the (COVID-19 accelerated) expectations of their shoppers. It's better to outsource a service to Instacart and keep the customer, than to lose the customer to a more digitally savvy grocer. But retailers should be very careful about outsourcing digital as a long term solution. For most retailers Instacart isn't a service provider who is simply filling in capability gaps with a white-labeled solution for the retailer. They are a marketplace trying to earn their own consumers/customers and trying to extract as much profit from the grocery shopping experience as they can. If you believe that digital shopping is going to be a core part of the grocery experience moving forward, it would be inadvisable to outsource that experience to Instacart. When/if you ever do decide to bring that digital expertise in-house, you won't be able to bring those Instacart customers with you. Instacart will certainly take all those customers they acquired (under your brand banner) and try to sell them groceries from a new provider. Being a turn-key provider of services when those services are hard to develop and when demand is high makes a lot of sense. I often think of Instacart as the grocery equivalent of GSI Commerce, which sold turn-key e-commerce businesses to Toys "R" Us, Dicks Sporting Goods, and many others in the early days of e-commerce (and allowed GSI founder Micheal Rubin to buy the 76ers). As the industry matured and those big retailers realized they had to bring e-commerce in-house, GSI pivoted to providing more white label a la carte services (today known as Radial). It remains to be seen if in the long term Instacart finds success as a marketplace, acquiring it's own consumers and renting them to sellers (i.e. the Amazon/Alibaba model). Or if it's forced to go the GSI/Radial route and sell white label services.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2021

    The retail apocalypse didn’t happen last year, despite the coverage

    No definition of retail apocalypse should be based on store counts. The U.S. has 24.5 square feet of retail space per capita compared with 16 in Canada and four in most of Europe. The U.S. could close 25 percent of all our retail space and STILL have more per person than anywhere else, and sales could go up. The number of stores does not directly correlate with retail sales much less retail health, unless you believe that 7-Eleven Inc. is twice as healthy as Walmart. Even so, Coresight has never been a reliable indicator of store closures. At best they publish a random list of chain closures with no particular criteria for inclusion. 25 percent of U.S. retailers are independent stores, which certainly aren't covered in the Coresight numbers. In 2019 IHL published a more academically rigorous study of store closures that wildly disagreed with Coresight, but even IHL admitted an accurate count of store closures is near impossible. E-commerce is also not an indicator of a "retail apocalypse." Is it an apocalypse if e-commerce comes up or down? E-commerce is still retail. It's near impossible to track e-commerce. Per U.S. Department of Commerce figures, e-commerce was 13 percent of retail before COVID-19, peaked at 19 percent, and settled to 16 percent by the end of the year. But that data is based on self reported surveys returned to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Walmart, Target, and Amazon all have a different definition of e-commerce. COVID-19 did not impact different sectors of retail equally. I don't know what the definition of a retail apocalypse is, but I do know that it was a very hard year for retail. Per the U.S. Department of Commerce data, full service restaurants, jewelry stores, department stores (non discount) and men's apparel were all down by more than 50 percent last year. I'll bet it felt like an apocalypse in those categories. At the same time, customers that weren't going to restaurants spent $19 billion per month more at grocery stores, and those that didn't spend on vacation spent $4 billion per month extra at home stores. What we do know is that retail was going through a transformation BEFORE COVID-19. Digital disruption is not about stores vs. e-commerce, it's about fundamentally changing how people discover products, make purchase decisions, and what they buy. That disruption was wildly accelerated in 2020 due to COVID-19. Evolution isn't an "apocalypse" but it probably felt like it to the neanderthals.
  • Posted on: 12/22/2020

    Is free at-home pick-up of online returns practicable?

    Customers definitely want low-friction returns. When Amazon, Walmart, Happy Returns, etc. reduce the friction for returns, they increase confidence which drives more sales. Reducing friction for returns absolutely has to happen as more sales shift online. Currently the economics of returns for online purchases don't work and are not sustainable. We tend to see 30 percent returns for online apparel versus 5 percent for in-store. So the cost of those returns is huge, even more so when we add the extra costs for these no-box, no label options (to say nothing of the ecological disaster). The solution here is NOT to make it harder to return stuff. We absolutely need to continue to focus on reducing friction. The solution is to get better at selling consumers the right stuff that they won't want to return. We're still in the first inning of digital commerce, and we're frankly not very good at it yet. But it's easy to imagine many solutions to the "selling stuff that consumers want to keep" problem: better product content, 3-D product images, lidar-based body measurements, virtual mannequin try-ons, and most importantly Big Data/machine learning to match browsers to products with the right variants, etc.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Were record Cyber Monday/Week sales enough to help retailers salvage 2020?

    The overall retail metrics are going to look decent for holidays but that will obfuscate the fact that there are clear winners and losers. If you're in electronics/toys retail, high e-commerce sales will offset slow in-store sales to yield modest growth for the season. If you're a grocery or DIY/home retailer, you're going to benefit from a lack of spending on restaurants and travel and have a great holiday. If you're an apparel retailer, a mall-based chain, or a department store, it's going to be a very difficult year. One problem with digital forecasts this holiday is that we have $9 billion a month in spending that used to happen in restaurants and that now is happening in grocery stores, and an unprecedented portion of that is online grocery. So when we look at overall e-commerce activity leading into holiday it looks very high, but it's actually not holiday spending. So it inadvertently elevated the holiday forecast.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Are garages optimal delivery drop-off points?

    Amazon Key in-garage delivery is a cool amenity, but it's a niche use case. Porch piracy is a real (and growing) problem for e-commerce, but in-garage delivery only solves it for a small portion of the population. Porch piracy in single family residences best suited for in-garage delivery is probably the category of delivery destination most in need of a porch piracy solution. In most cases, more specific delivery instructions (leave boxes on the side of the house) can be just as effective as in-garage delivery for single-family residences.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Will pop-up e-commerce fulfillment centers help Walmart manage demand?

    Pop-up e-DCs for Walmart make a lot of sense. Seasonal e-DCs/FCs are not a new idea, Amazon used to rent the 3.8 million square foot parking area under Millennium Park to use as a holiday FC in Chicago. What's interesting about the Walmart announcement is that they have "productized" the pop-ups into their RDCs. As COVID-19 shifts more shoppers to digital, and digital becomes even more important to Walmart, they are going to need to rapidly expand their e-DC capacity. One of the best ways to do that is to leverage Walmart's enormous existing RDC network.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2020

    Are Chewy and PetSmart better off apart?

    I don't think it will work out optimally for either entity, but the writing has been on the wall since the Chewy IPO. Chewy and PetSmart needed to be a fully integrated entity. PetSmart was a digital laggard before the acquisition, and any progress they were trying/hoping to make in digital got quickly waylaid by Chewy's digital team. When they IPOed Chewy, they were left with two siloed organizations that couldn't leverage each other. The pet category is now digital-first. 1.6 million new pet owners were created by COVID-19 and all started their experience getting their food/supplies online. Digital share in pets went up over 10 percent as a direct result of COVID-19. So to compete in pet moving forward, you need a robust digital experience. PetSmart is further behind digitally than they were pre-Chewy acquisition, and now saddled with a ton of debt, so it's going to be hard for them to play digital catch-up. Chewy is going to need to complete with strong omnichannel offerings from Walmart and Target that have significant cost structure advantages by fulfilling from stores. It's a missed opportunity for both.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    How can retailers differentiate curbside delivery?

    Retailers have done an amazing job offering curbside pickup at all, often deploying the experience in a fraction of the time it would have taken them pre-pandemic. However there is still huge room to improve all those experiences. The following strategies can help:
    1. Geo-fencing to know in advance when the customer is arriving, can make the pickup experience much more seamless for shoppers, but it's much harder than it sounds (many customers drive in close proximity to the retailers parking lot many times during the day, when they don't intend to visit).
    2. Express traffic routes to pickup areas (don't make customers wait behind shoppers trying to park).
    3. Clear visual indicators of if/when a customer's order is available for pickup, and progress indicators if it's not ready.
    4. Opportunities for impulse purchases at curb-side. Do I want a cold drink for the drive home?
    5. Put my groceries in the trunk for me, but let me inspect the produce you selected at my window side before I accept it.
    With in-store traffic likely throttled for the next 18 months, curbside will be a critical component of shopping experiences. Retailers have a real opportunity to win new customers with a differentiated curbside pickup experience.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    No, retail employment is going to trend down for the foreseeable future. We were already over stored pre-pandemic (24 square feet of shopping center space per person in the US vs. 4 square feet in most of Europe). Economic pressures of Covid are accelerating the right-sizing of our retail footprint. We'll probably see 25% of all retail stores in the US close over next 2 years. On top of that, the trend in stores is to have fewer, higher skilled employees. The lowest value jobs (inventory, floor cleaning, and even checkout) are being replaced by automation. Retail wages are going up, but they expect those more expensive employees to be more customer facing. So we have a perfect storm of fewer stores every year, and fewer employees per store. Given that retail is the largest private employer in the US, this will result in a significant economic shock.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    I love this move. The entire ecosystem is under a lot of stress right now, and associates in particular have a lot of emotional stress on their shoulders. They deserve to be home on Thanksgiving. It's a particularly easy year to make this decision as associates interests are in vogue and comparative sales vs last year are going to be be less relevant anyway, but I still imagine it was a tough decision to make. Walmart is going to give cover to a lot of other retailers to follow suite. Given everything going in the world, we could all be a little nicer to each other this holiday season.

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