James Ray

LoyaltyCIO, Client Service Associates
Retail omni-channel and CRM systems guru, interim IT executive & management consultant; husband; father; boomer; championship winning club racer & pro driving coach!
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Will smart shelves work for Hannaford and its customers?

    Data empowered IOT devices like the smart shelf are the future of retail. Consumers will accept them as a convenience and the retailers will utilize them as part of their loss prevention solution when selling in vending micro markets and cashier-less environments.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Can Barnes & Noble’s in-store experts beat algorithms?

    One of my previous clients in the outdoor sporting goods business segment struggled to hire/retain retail associates with authentic experience. The desire for store personnel who actually used their products and engaged in one or more running, hiking, mountain climbing, skiing, bicycling, camping , hunting, you-name-it activities often conflicted with the reality that retail sales staff compensation doesn't afford most an adequate income to be passionate aficionados of these various activities.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Can Barnes & Noble’s in-store experts beat algorithms?

    In spite of many physical store-based retailers’ desire to survive by providing superior customer services and an excellent shopping experience, I fear commodity products like the book are ultimately doomed as a mass market retail business. There will be instances, for example Barnes & Noble can survive in selected geographic areas serving large populations. A small slice of a big pie is still satisfactory dessert for some retail operators, but the hand writing is still on the wall! If you don’t believe me, type in “camera store near me” or "office supplies near me" and see if you can find any recognizable chain store brands nearby. If you’re successful, my guess there are over a million people living in your local geography.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Will 7-Eleven’s cashier-less store take hold?

    In the new trust economy, many if not most consumers now have a uniquely identifiable and trackable device (smartphone) accompanied by financial payment credentials (cell phone linked to a credit card or DDA/debit account). The proposed 7-Eleven change is essentially the same metamorphosis that began forty-ish years ago when bank tellers began to be replaced by ATMs. I see cashier-less convenience stores as nothing more than a giant-sized vending machines with a digital identification and payment interface. Cashier-less convenience stores will work in many locations, but just like all bank tellers’ jobs were not eliminated, neither will cashiers disappear from all c-stores. This is especially true in stores locations prone to high-shrink (theft) and/or with the large population of cash and credit challenged customers lacking internet enabled cell phones and/or financial payment accounts (dr/cr cards).
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Will ‘Practice’ make for perfectly loyal customers at Lululemon?

    I like the sounds of it, but I don’t see this being a loyalty program as much as it is paid admission to their VIP club. For a store-based retailer, this approach would fail to capture the shopping masses’ contact details most retailers want about their loyalty program membership. For an online retailer who already has those contact details, it’s a great way of letting customers segment themselves into the “prime” customer cohort. It sounds like the program is self-funding and therefore should be a no-lose proposition for identifying the really elite class of Lululemon customers.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Retailers fail to reward long-time customers at their own risk

    Telco’s (landline and cellular) have a long history of buying customers in acquisition and then taking loyal customers for granted afterwards. In the long run, constantly refilling a leaky bucket is a losing strategy compared with patching the bucket and focusing on customer retention (loyalty).
  • Posted on: 02/20/2018

    Will parents and kids go for healthier Happy Meals?

    My kids are adults now, so maybe I’m not qualified to respond, but in my opinion the Happy Meal is about two things: convenience for the adult and hunger satisfaction for the child. I haven’t done an in depth study, but I’m predicting the population of Happy Meal eating children will rebel if the food isn’t desirable. Their parent won’t buy the new and improved Happy Meal more than once if their kids won’t eat. No one wants to waste money on healthy food no one eats! I am encouraged however about McDonald’s approach to portion control (less fries and nuggets) and substitution (water instead of milk, juice or soda). Just encouraging kids to drink water at many meals would be a healthy step forward and potentially large cost savings for the consumer, depending on how McDonald's prices their water option.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2018

    Will a co-branded credit card boost Starbucks’ sales?

    Less than a third of Millennials say they have a credit card, while more than half of people age 30-49 own one and nearly 70% of people over 65 do, according to 2016 Bankrate survey. A fee-based credit card loyalty program isn't going to appeal to a younger audience IMHO.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2018

    Will a co-branded credit card boost Starbucks’ sales?

    Meh is my first reaction; just another been there, done that, co-branded credit card loyalty marketing play. But then again, any retailer with as large a footprint as Starbucks might as try it and no doubt Chase is happy to help exploit the Starbuck customer base. The seemingly expensive and complicated program will appeal to a predictably small customer segment of avid coffee drinking credit card using customers. Only time will tell if the applicant cohort is credit-worthy and sizable enough to make it worthwhile for bank and retailer.
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