PROFILE

Jason Goldberg

SVP Commerce, Publicis.Sapient
Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg leads the Commerce Practice at Publicis.Sapient. 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: 10/18/2018

    Will rising costs throw a wrench in e-commerce operations?

    No one should be surprised to see shipping rates going up. E-commerce is growing at 16 percent/year, UPS/FedEx/USPS are growing in capacity at 4 percent/year, so do the math. Shippers have a constrained supply and will try to maximize revenue. Warehouse space in the U.S. is now more expensive/constrained than retail space. As cost structures change, it changes the value equation. Maybe last year I optimized my checkout funnel for maximum conversion (instead of upselling), but now I'm willing to risk losing the single SKU order in favor of cross-selling them to a more profitable three SKU order. Maybe I'll more aggressively promote my in-store pickup service. It's why Amazon has made a huge investment in building out its own last mile infrastructure. UPS/FedEx own between 120,000 and 160,000 vans, Amazon already owns 25,000 vans, and they are not even serious yet. Amazon Flex and Amazon Delivery Service give Amazon ways to outsource the last mile that do not rely upon traditional carriers. Cowan estimates that Amazon currently fulfills 58 percent of their demand with USPS, 25 percent with UPS, 5 percent with FedEx and do 12 percent themselves. Expect to see the mix change this year.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Will the Kroger/Walgreens pilot lead to something really big?

    Digital order ahead with curbside pickup is a huge trend sweeping the U.S. So distributing that pickup experience to more convenient locations makes perfect sense for Kroger. In the U.K. (where the trend is a bit more mature) it's common to see petrol/gas stations as grocery pickup options. Walmart and Amazon are both experimenting with pickup-only locations. Adding Rx distribution is an added value (if it can be done in a low friction way). The devil will be in the details (do I have to go in the store to opt out of consulting with the pharmacist to get my prescription with my groceries?). It's also a continuation of another smart play we are seeing Kroger run, which is to evolve from private label to owned brands. Simple Truth is the #1 organic brand in America, and now Kroger is expanding it globally via Tmall (Kroger is a retailer in the U.S. but in China they are now a food brand). So adding Simple Truth to Walgreens is also a smart play for Kroger. It's less clear how big a win this is for Walgreens. The main value proposition around buying everyday essentials and food from U.S. drug retailers is that it's convenient while you're picking up a prescription. Drug doesn't win on assortment or price. So as more consumers shift to at-home or curbside pickup for prescriptions, that's bad news for the retail side of drugstores. Outsourcing the digital shopping experience to Kroger is probably not a long-term win for Walgreens.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2018

    How much do e-tail algorithms need humans?

    Humans are hard-wired to believe that we have some inherent advantage over algorithms, in the same way we were certain the sun revolved around the earth until science forced (most of) us to believe otherwise. The basic product recommendation engine on Amazon (which is not a hybrid) drives 35 percent of Amazon's revenue. Netflix and Spotify's non-human curation have won over millions of consumers. Amazon is rapidly replacing merchants with data scientists in its "hands off the wheel program" and driving greater profitability AND customer satisfaction simultaneously. Digital native vertical brands like Rockbox have already disclosed that their algorithms substantially outperform their human stylists. Conflating the pros and cons of Amazon Book retail stores with the long-term success of data-driven curation/merchandising makes no sense. Is the failure of the Amazon Fire phone also proof that data based merchandising doesn't work? I know it's not a popular opinion (and in many cases goes directly against our cognitive biases) but data-based curation and merchandising is already better than humans in some cases, and its lead is only going to get bigger. The open question is simply the timing. I certainly wouldn't turn my cancer diagnoses over to Watson today, but I'm pretty confident that my three-year-old will enjoy a lifetime of much better healthcare as a result of data-driven decisions.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2018

    Amazon rolls out Prime Now deliveries from Whole Foods

    While this isn't surprising news the devil is going to be in the details:
    1. Will Prime Now be delivering the complete inventory of the local Whole Foods, or a select subset? The Whole Foods in-store inventory isn't currently online, so this would be a meaningful infrastructure enhancement.
    2. Will pricing be the same as stores?
    3. Can Amazon profitably do this for most rural markets? A Prime Now flex driver can have five or more deliveries in their car as they leave the fulfillment center. You can't do that with perishable fresh items (especially with flex drivers using their own vehicles without refrigeration). It's much more expensive to make one delivery at a time, and hard to believe Amazon is going to subsidize those costs forever.
    4. Will curbside pickup be next? While it might not be profitable to deliver fresh milk to the whole U.S., curbside pickup can be profitable and consumers love it. Once Amazon has the infrastructure to digitally merchandise the entire Whole Foods inventory and pick the orders, why wouldn't they offer curb-side pickup? How will they differentiate the price of pickup vs. delivery?
    5. How fast can they get out of their Instacart agreement? Rumor has it that Instacart has some level of exclusivity for delivering fresh from Whole Foods in some markets. Is that limiting where/how Amazon can deploy its own Prime Now?
    I'm excited to see the answers to these questions. It's a truly disruptive time in grocery.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Will a CEO without department store experience transform Hudson’s Bay business?

    Lack of department store experience does NOT mean she is destined to be unsuccessful. Hubert Joly had no retail experience (much less consumer electronics retail) and yet he proved to be the exact right leader for Best Buy at a major inflection point in that retailer's history. Department stores are facing a lot of headwinds. Apparel has eroded as a spending category for consumers, much of the real estate portfolio is seeing significantly curtailed traffic, consumers have less enthusiasm for the department store format overall and then of course HBC has unique debt challenges. Add it all up and it's highly unlikely that bringing in an experienced department store leader to follow the traditional department store playbook would be successful. I certainly agree that CVS has its own market challenges and Ms. Foulkes didn't single-handedly solve them there, but in fairness she did run one of the most successful elements of that business. All that being said, HBC has a ton of assets and there is no reason those assets can't be leveraged to help HBC survive and thrive in the new retail world. She's taking the reigns of one of the most storied brands in retail and I, for one, wish her nothing but success.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Macy’s launches in-store pop-up concept for brands

    It's a reasonable concept for Macy's to try, but not a game changer. The model of branded shop-in-shops is basically the standard merchandising approach for department stores in Europe, and branded pop-ups are certainly not new to Macy's. What's unique here is that the brand is the seller of record rather than Macy's. Potentially that makes it easier for Macy's to bring in more interesting, emerging products which could be beneficial to Macy's traffic. B8TA is a retail marketplace concept with several stores in the U.S. They host shop-in-shops in a number of Lowe's stores which are essentially the exact same concept we are talking about here. Those pop-ups put a lot of interesting, new products to surprise and delight shoppers in Lowe's stores, and there is no reason to believe the Macy's version couldn't see similar success. The real question is, what level of support/effort is Macy's prepared to offer? How will Macy's curate the sellers? How much merchandising flexibility will each marketplace seller have? Will the brands have an opportunity to be promoted in Macy's marketing efforts?
  • Posted on: 11/20/2017

    How open are consumers to AI-driven shopping?

    These kinds of studies are silly. First of all, "stated" preference studies for shopping behaviors are almost always wrong, as most shopping decisions are made continuously. For example, Admaster does a poll of Chinese shoppers before Singles Day every year. Per the "stated" preference survey 84 percent of shoppers planned to shop on Singles Day in 2015, only 71 percent in 2016 and only 64 percent in 2017, so Singles Day should be shrinking every year. Yet Singles Day grossed $14.3 billion in 2015, $17.8 billion in 2016 and $25.4 billion in 2017. Even worse, in this case the study asks consumers to evaluate a tactic they can't even see/experience/consume. How does a consumer know if the great outfit in their latest Stitch Fix box is the result of a stylist that really knows her or an AI algorithm? Lastly, the definition of AI is constantly evolving. Aren't all the suggested products on the Amazon and Tmall PDPs actually generated by AI? AI, and more specifically deep learning, is a game-changing capability for commerce. But it's a back-of-the-house tactic, not a customer-facing experience.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Can toys raise J.C. Penney’s game?

    It all depends on how they define success. J.C. Penney is NOT going to become a meaningful player in the toy category, and they aren't going to be (price or assortment) competitive enough to drive new trips due to toys. But they can get their average order value up by adding toys to existing shoppers' basket.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Are $3.00 generics a sound grocery e-tailing model?

    Digital disruption of grocery shopping is going to necessitate all kinds of interesting new CPG business models. But in it's current form I don't see Brandless getting traction. The problem is that (unlike traditional store brand "generics") Brandless isn't for sale at a location or touchpoint where people are already shopping. You don't come to Kroger for a national brand and then discover Brandless. Rather, you have to explicitly go to their URL and buy from them. That means that they may call themselves "Brandless" but they are going to have to spend A LOT on digital advertising to get eyeballs. Think along the lines of Jet.com that was paying $50/customer in acquisition costs. Brandless acquisition costs could be even worse ... remember they can't win by getting someone to their site that needs $3 peanut butter, they need to get someone to their site that wants/needs to buy 26 items (to get free shipping). No one wants to pay shipping and they certainly aren't going to want to join a club who's only benefit is to "lower" shipping. I love the effort to disrupt a digitally immature industry and Brandless may well be able to "pivot" to a different model that is successful, but I just don't see the current model working.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2017

    Is QVC’s acquisition of HSN more about TV shopping or e-commerce?

    This is really about consolidating audiences in a declining market. It's true that both firms have seen a majority of their orders shift from phone to e-commerce, but the overwhelming majority of purchase intent for both firms is their TV content. What they sell online is what's promoted on the show, not what's in their deep catalogs. The challenge for both firms is that neither firm is very successful at acquiring new shoppers. So this acquisition helps in the short term by aggregating audiences but doesn't do much for the longer term. Millennials and Gen Z are pulling content they are interested in rather than letting TV networks push content to them.

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