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: 07/13/2021

    Will ‘Scan & Ship’ give Sam’s a leg up on club competition?

    The test will no doubt “work” because a diversity of customers have various needs. Some will try and enjoy this option, especially those who don’t want to lug heavy/bulky purchases around while they shop various retail venues during the day. But because Sam’s Club is most often a destination shop and few shoppers arrive by bus, I think the majority of shoppers would prefer the store be in-stock and they take their purchases home same day. Scan & Go seems like a solution to a root problem called poor inventory availability; basically it’s a return to showroom shopping. Who really needs or wants to travel to a store location to scan and order when it’s easier to shop online and get rapid delivery at home?
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Will stock ownership work as a loyalty program perk?

    I’m not a big fan of paying for member enrollment in a loyalty program where every inactive membership involves some level of cost for the program operator, but when transaction rewards are a fraction of the value created by then transaction, then the math can work. The question quickly evolves to how low can the reward value be and still motivate loyal shopping behaviors or better yet incentivized a favorable changed behavior. In concept I like the idea of using fractional shares in the company as the reward, but I’m skeptical the average consumer would prefer it to other common alternatives (cash back, free stuff, discounts on future purchase, etc.). Most consumers are notoriously short-term oriented and long-term investing in stock is a long term play. In my opinion effective loyalty programs must have a decent level of attainability, meaning valuable rewards can be earned by most shoppers within a reasonable time AND the value received can be redeemed easily and at any time the consumer desires. If someone gave you one share of BrandX big box retailer, what could you do with it? Even if you had a brokerage account and knew how to “cash in” it could be an expensive headache. I’m certainly interested in watching this idea, but I’m not especially optimistic!
  • Posted on: 01/18/2021

    Does a Staples/Office Depot merger now make more sense?

    The FTC was wrong about a proposed merger of these two back in 1997 and I don't see them changing their mind this time either.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    Can a box of pancake mix be racist?

    It's all too common for consumer product names and logos to accidentally offend a particular gender, race, religion, or age because the ISMs are a plenty. When a single consumer complains, we have to assume they are the tip of the iceberg and many more feel similarly offended. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are easy examples of unintended racism, and the potential list is long. Does the Eskimo Pie logo offend Arctic aboriginal people?
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    The pandemic has changed retailing, maybe forever

    One of the unexpected windfall gains for many chain store retailers with ecommerce and BOPIS capabilities is their acquisition of CRM data acquisition has surged. Traditional retail in-store shoppers who never previously self-identified or opted into digital marketing opportunities are now having to do so in order to complete their purchases. The future marketing value of these customer names and addresses is yet to be determined, but if managed well it will be substantial!
  • Posted on: 04/02/2020

    How will this change us?

    Retirees working part-time for essential retail business are declining to work. Those in the older ages range with underlying issues like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease don't want to work face-to-face with the public if it puts them at greater risk of Covid-19.
  • Posted on: 12/09/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    The only technology idea I can suggest is to expand the customer reviews model and facilitate more online discussion by customers about sizing and fit. For clothing apparel it’s just too difficult to predict how the size fits and retailers don’t seem to want their customers discussing this for fear of too much chatter about poor fit, poor construction, poor materials (sheer, scratchy, or actual colors not matching the display photos), etc. When I buy hard goods it’s often difficult when shopping online to obtain basic facts about products like the size, weight, construction material, and various other specs that should be available depending on the item. Many retailer’s web sites are capable of disclosing this information, but it’s very inconsistent and often unavailable. I’m pleased to see more online grocery retailers are showing more images of the product, including the nutrition facts table.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    It's never been more true, successful retailers must thing globally and act locally. In IT, think about scale, but deliver the solution optimized for for each one!
  • Posted on: 06/19/2019

    Can Sam’s Club’s new app really cut tire shopping down to 5 minutes?

    I fully believe an app can help consumers make the best decision quickly on what tires to buy, but the problem will be is that tire retailers actually make more money by selling you more expensive tires than you need plus additional cost services (tire re-balancing any time during life of tire), warranties (puncture & blowout), etc. Upselling the customer takes time and requires skill, the app likely won’t do that as well as skilled humans without it being obvious the app is padding the retailer’s wallet.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    The answer to these questions has always been about what does the customer want! An increasing number of consumers prefer to do it themselves; I am one of them. For a big shop, it’s not convenient because the space to scan and continue isn’t adequate, but for a half basket or less merchandise, it’s preferable.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Walmart’s checkout pilot puts shoppers in the fast lane

    I learned many years ago, every bottle has a neck! Everyone's definition of "fast" is different, hopefully they can fulfill their customers' expectations.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    Petco opens in-store kitchen for pets

    I admire the creativity and think it's an idea well worth trialing in a market like NYC. $6-12 will be fine as an occasional experience, but not likely to become recurring dining. What I'm really curious about is if the kitchen is human food grade; will pet owner and pet order and eat their meals? Perhaps there are many pet owners cooking for the pets at home already and I just don't know it?
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

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

    If they are wise they will accept cash at their “retail” locations, save the cash balance on account for the customer and then allow in-store and online shopping for those without digital payment accounts.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

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

    When you imagine the Amazon Go store is just a giant vending machine it becomes easy to understand why accepting only digital payments is a non-starter, even without the regulations It's just too easy to accept cash in a machine and save the cash balance on account for the customer. Kiosks are already doing this in micro markets all over the country. Kiosk and smartphone based micro markets are appearing in more locations replacing traditional vending machines. Most of these micro markets accept cash and manage the customer's balance on account.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores?

    The problem addressed by this legislation is easy to solve with a kiosk device accepting dollar bills and loading value on a customer’s personal account. The stored value can reviewed, consumed, or supplemented using only a barcode paired with private PIN, unique fingerprint, or an UID identified smartphone as customer credentials. The popular kiosk equipped micro-markets found in the break rooms used by many employees working in many office buildings, factories, and warehouses are examples of cashier-less retail stores that have been in operation for many years. Accepting cash is easy enough, returning change is a bigger headache. I don’t see this legislation being a significant deterrent to the industry trend towards self-service checkout and growing use of electronic payments, but I can understand why Amazon might lean in with political pressure to help curb any legal requirement for a device costing $5-10K each location.
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