PROFILE

Jennie Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer, Retailer Web Services
Jennie Gilbert is the Chief Operating Officer of Retailer Web Services (RWS), whose mission is to serve independent retailers and help them realize their dreams through the promise of technology. She has a deep understanding and anticipates the needs—as well as the potential—of independent retailers through her personal touch in providing the RWS line of intelligent software solutions and web services. A graduate of Arizona State University, Jennie is a frequent speaker at durable goods retail conferences; her expert articles and advice for independent retailers to maximize digital marketing and increase sales have been published in various industry and business media, including TWICE, Furniture World, Furniture Today and Sleep Retailer. She is the co-author of “RE:THiNK: 11 surprising things you should do now to win retail customers in the digital age” (Retailer Web Services, 2015) and a contributor to “Recalculating: 97+ Experts on Driving Small Business Growth” (Small Business Digest, 2016). Jennie is an avid dog lover. In-between meetings, she can be found outside RWS offices, walking “Maybelline,” her Pitbull mix pup (and the inspiration for RWS book covers).
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  • Posted on: 07/28/2017

    Can indie dollar stores compete with the big chains?

    The independent retailers in this industry have a tough challenge in front of them. But if it's your passion or family legacy to be in the dollar store business I do believe it's possible to survive. Their key to success is avoiding the temptation to focus on being the lowest price in the marketplace, and instead focusing on providing a better shopping experience. There were some great suggestions in this article on how to do that -- like offering ethnic foods specific to your neighborhood. If they can find the pain their shoppers have with their competitors and address it, they can win. Perhaps it's offering more flexible financing options or home delivery services. Maybe their shoppers need a store that's open before they go to work or later in the evening. Or fun kid-friendly shopping carts or coloring pages could entertain kids while their busy parents are running their errands. I commend the brave entrepreneurs finding a way to make it work in this space!
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    Can in-store experiences save retail?

    Purchasing something is an emotional decision and I still believe that one (great) way to create positive emotional connections is through amazing experiences in a physical retail location. It's not the only way to do so, but I think it would be a mistake to assume all purchases are strictly utilitarian and data driven. Many consumers want to enjoy the process of shopping for and purchasing something in addition to the actual product they end up with. I'll buy my paper towels from Amazon Pantry, but when I'm spending the afternoon shopping for new clothes with my mom, I'd rather go to a beautiful store that lets us sip on champagne while we're browsing. If your retail business's goal is customer intimacy, the "wow" in-store experience is still essential. If your biggest strength is operational excellence than not so much -- but this purely value driven space is, in my opinion, for the Walmarts of the world to play in and not a place for small retailers to aspire to anyway.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Do consumers want to be recognized across channels?

    I suspect the data in this survey is misleading. Why? If you ask someone "do you want businesses to track your actions across different devices and platforms" it seems likely many people would object to that. "No - we value our privacy". But when a Facebook ad presents that same consumer with the perfect birthday present idea for their hard-to-buy-for spouse ... that's not seen as an invasion of privacy; instead it's helpful and delightful! Both of these scenarios are actually one and the same, but they inspire very different emotions depending on how you talk about them. Above all else successful marketing is helpful. Even if the action you're taking sounds distasteful -- like tracking and using lots of information about what consumers are looking at and doing online -- it can still result in very effective and genuinely enjoyable marketing activities when you use that information to help connect consumers with the products they really need and want.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2017

    Did Amazon just send Sears a life line with their Kenmore deal?

    This will be interesting to watch for sure. Sears has announced already this year they will be closing 265 locations. And while appliances are definitely purchased online (to the tune of over $4 billion worth each year) the purchase path still often involves a physical interaction at some point during consumers' research. Kenmore brand products can't be seen anywhere other than Sears and the number of Sears stores available to visit is shrinking rapidly. It will be interesting to see if and how online sales of Kenmore appliances are affected by the decreasing ability to physically interact with the products in retail locations before completing an online purchase.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    How much Big Data do retailers really need?

    Big data is a sexy term right now. Retailers want it. We'll even pay big bucks to get it. The problem is when we do so before deciding what *exactly* we want to learn from it. Big data is only useful when it's collected -- and presented -- in a way tailored to answer a specific question. The more you can restrict what you're gathering in the first place, and then even further restrict what you make visible, the more useful insights you can gain from it. For example, your marketing automation software should be tracking every item every prospect looks at on your retail website. But if you displayed all that information it would be overwhelming and most retailers would give up looking at it pretty quickly. Too much noise to weed through! But if you gather that information, but only *display* it for consumers that are most likely to purchase (say those that have de-anonymized themselves) then you've got a useful dashboard of information to view and use.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    Price is important. But price is not everything. If having the lowest prices was the magic bullet, Costco would already be winning according the research in this article. But ... they are not. Consumers don't buy paper towels from Amazon because it's the cheapest place to get them, they buy paper towels from Amazon because it's the most CONVENIENT place to get them! Some will always argue that "Price is King" but I have to disagree: today, user-experience is the way into consumers' hearts and wallets. Amazon gets it -- why do you think their logo is a smile?
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Will Best Buy increase gadget sales with a try-before-you-buy offer?

    This is a really smart experiment. We know that humans desire the ability to change their mind ... but they rarely execute it -- that's why all those exercise equipment infomercials include a 30 day money-back guarantee. Other retail models have been been successful building their brand around the peace-of-mind that comes with the welcoming of returns and exchanges. I love Road Runner Sports's VIP Club. You can use any shoes you purchase there -- as much as you want -- and exchange them any time, no questions asked, for 90 days. I know I could probably get my sneakers cheaper elsewhere, but I never would because of how much I value the ability to test to my heart's content so I never have to settle for a show that doesn't quite fit me right. And another reason I love this model is it's built around the best of people. So many businesses stop short of enacting programs like this because they worry about the few bad eggs that will abuse their policies. But businesses win when they insist on making policies for their BEST customers -- and accept that a few of their worst may take advantage. Those losses will be far outweighed by the positivity of giving your best customers the best you have to offer. For more on that particular subject I recommend checking out the work of Shep Hyken -- I learned this golden rule from his awesome customer service newsletter.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2017

    Is Walmart’s innovation leader right that the AR revolution is a sure thing?

    There's no doubt that AR and VR technology hold a lot of promise in retail; it could help solve some real challenges consumers face today, like picturing what certain furniture would look like in their living room. But while everyone's focusing on the AR technology itself, and what type of device we'll consume it on, we're missing a huge roadblock standing in the way: product data. The best AR technology in the world isn't going to be useful if manufacturers don't also invest in creating new product data that meets the new and much more demanding needs of this technology. Our firm currently aggregates and normalizes product data for over 1,200 brands of major appliances, furniture and mattresses and today it's difficult to get a -- as in one -- picture of everything they produce ... let alone enough to see each item in 360 degrees, in every color or fabric it comes in, with every door open or with every option customized. There's already a huge gap in quality of product data and I believe we'll see it widen as the most forward thinking manufacturers prepare for the coming AR technology and the rest fall further behind.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    What does it take for retailers to thrive amid shifting consumer preferences?

    I may not agree with all 5 points (I'm looking at you #2 -- "experience") but I do whole heartedly agree with the overall theme. Amazon and other digital retail pioneers have successfully moved the target for all retailers. Today every shopper expects maximum convenience and absolute delight when spending their hard-earned money for products, whether they're buying them from a top 100 retailer or the local mom and pop. It can sound daunting to keep up with, but this shift is fueled by a purpose that's easy to get excited about. No one wants to innovate for innovation's sake alone -- but to pursue excellence through change that meaningfully improves your customers' lives? Now that's something we can get passionate about!
  • Posted on: 05/12/2017

    Has Fabletics bridged the digital/physical divide with its omnicart tech?

    I can definitely see where you are coming from. They do have a great opportunity, however, to iterate on their approach if they find it successful but too hard to scale. Advances in their technology could make the scanning process something consumers do themselves while in the dressing room. Iterate again and remove even more friction if sensors in the dressing room can automatically add pieces to the omnichannel cart. Maybe one day the mirror will record what you're trying on and, when you're done, all you have to do is tap to save the information or send it to yourself. You have to start somewhere! I see lots of ways to continue improving the omnicart if the concept shows promise along the way.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2017

    Has Fabletics bridged the digital/physical divide with its omnicart tech?

    I find that taken out of context, many people are quick to describe marketing technology of this nature (designed to re-market to you when you abandon items in your cart for example) as annoying. But in real life, it's actually super helpful to consumers! And that is the key. Because Fabletics' omnicart strategy is useful, I believe it will be successful. We already know that abandoned cart emails work. They've found a way to create more of them. Way to go Fabletics!
  • Posted on: 05/02/2017

    Will giving associates mobile devices enhance the shopping experience?

    There are some amazing things that can happen when sales associates are (1) equipped with mobile devices that (2) have really great software applications on them and (3) are well trained on how to use those applications to ease consumer pain. The most important part? Whatever the sales associate does with that mobile device must provide real value to the customer they are helping. Here are 5 great ways I've seen our customers -- independently owned appliance stores -- use tablets and our app, made specifically for this niche, to make shopping with them a better experience: 1. They look up more information about products without ever leaving the customer's side, like exactly how many cubic ft of freezer capacity this refrigerator has compared to another. 2. They help customers ease FOMO (fear of missing out) by providing time context. For example, the $800 rebate on this kitchen package may only be valid for two more days. 3. They forecast how long it will take to have something delivered or special ordered by viewing their warehouse's inventory in real time. 4. They search for all product options that can meet the customer's most important needs, like every available dryer with a steam feature, so they don't miss a good fit. 5. They save the customer time and build confidence in the value of their pricing by sharing competitive data, like what this dishwasher costs at all the big-box stores today. There's no need for the consumer to compare or look elsewhere because they have already done that hard work for them. While these examples are very specific to the industry I'm most familiar with, there are pains consumers experience in every type of retail store. And where this is pain, there is opportunity for retailers to ease it by using good technology on mobile devices right where and when it occurs.
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