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: 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.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    What roles will store displays play in retail’s new normal?

    As most retailers' in-store traffic is down 20-50 percent, and will likely be down at least 20 percent for the next 18 months, in-store displays will simply work less hard than they used to. Now that retailers are having to live with artificial caps on their maximum capacities, the whole strategy around the in-store experience has changed. We used to want to maximize traffic and dwell time. Now we want to maximize conversion and basket size, while minimizing visit time. This means in-store displays have to strike a tricky new balance. Increasing basket size means we want displays to drive unplanned purchases, but minimizing visit time means that we don't want experiential displays that increase dwell time. In practice, given the new in-store traffic realities, most retailers are simplifying the shopping experience. Fewer SKUs, less discovery, more efficiency.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Does Microsoft need stores?

    In 2009, Microsoft really was at a disadvantage versus Apple, as Apple had very successfully built a direct-to-consumer channel with its own Apple stores. Microsoft was trying to pivot from a B2B to a B2C company, and was mostly dependent on wholesale partners to tell its story. So opening a chain of retail stores had significant upside, and followed the successful Apple strategy. In 2020, Microsoft needs a direct-to-consumer strategy more than ever, but B2C no longer requires stores, and it certainly doesn't require stores in malls (which are experiencing rapidly eroding traffic). Also wholesalers, like Best Buy, are far more open to Microsoft stores-within-a-store in 2020 than they were in 2009. So Microsoft can deploy a Microsoft-owned experience to Best Buy's traffic, which has much better buying intent for Microsoft products than a Class B regional mall does. The majority of Microsoft stores probably had a challenging ROI pre-COVID-19, and then when you lop off 20-50 percent of their traffic thanks to COVID-19, they just don't work. So Microsoft is smart to pivot, but they still have a lot of work to do to build a great digital D2C presence on the web. Even in this new world flagship physical spaces still make sense, and Microsoft is keeping five or six flagship locations. Microsoft was actually running a great flagship experience store in the San Francisco Metreon in 1999 (two years before Apple owned its first store).
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Can Kanye West make Gap cool again?

    I admire the effort, but I'm a bit skeptical. Gap needs to define who they are and what their value proposition is to customers. I'd want to start with the answer to that question, and then develop marketing campaigns and/or sponsorships that aligned with that. Unless Gap thinks its new positioning is "we invented leather jogging pants," YEEZY may not be perfectly aligned. A lot of what works for the YEEZY brand is scarcity, so it remains to be seen if the YEEZY/Gap product will be limited edition product (which means customers have to come for YEEZY and then discover and love non-YEEZY product), or if the YEEZY/Gap product will be ubiquitously available, in which case it carries a real risk of eroding the YEEZY brand.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2020

    Will a smaller Macy’s be a better Macy’s?

    The apparel industry and the rural regional mall concept were both facing tough headwinds before COVID-19. COVID-19 dramatically increased the challenges. It's an awful time to be selling something that nobody wants (apparel) at a place no one wants to go (malls). The NYC Macy's flagship is a concept that can certainly endure as an iconic shopping destination for tourists, but it's going to be really difficult for Macy's to invent a new purpose for the non-NYC stores.

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