John Hennessy

Sr. Director Sales & Marketing, Alert Innovation

John has been helping retailers and brands see the business value of adopting innovative technologies for over 25 years.  John’s work evangelizing a better future through technology began with big data, business intelligence software and analytics at IRI.  Then several startups and a few global firms: personalized offers from loyalty card data using AI at Concept Shopping; Internet of Things (IoT) wireless perishable shipment monitoring systems at Locus Traxx; mobile loyalty, payment and offers at Silicon Valley based Mobeam; retail Virtual Reality and VR shopper research at Kantar Consulting; and now using robotics to automate ecommerce order picking, storage and dispensing at Alert Innovation.

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  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely

    Absolutely a win. First, reduces fear, uncertainty and doubt among users for technology products that a lot of potential buyers fear. Improves the eventual ownership experience through personal guidance. Opens potential to upsell as part of that better ownership experience to make sure everything needed -- the right cables, connectors, batteries, accessories, etc -- are included in the order for immediate enjoyment. Finally, can leverage store locations for rapid delivery or customer pickup. Could reduce Best Buy store footprints over time. I've noted less and less inventory on shelf in Best Buy stores and more stored exclusively for pickup. Looks out of stock in store, but open the app and it's ready for pickup in minutes.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    How should big box chain retailers deal with disaster response?

    As noted by Al in the article, big box retailers offer several unique advantages that can greatly help with disaster recovery. They have existing inventory plus the relationships and buying leverage to prioritize access to additional inventory of critical supplies like water, generators and building supplies. They have the transportation and supply chain infrastructure to stage and then quickly move that inventory to where it's needed. And at this point, as Al suggests, they've had enough experience that they have practices and procedures in place to leverage and stage their inventory, distribution and employee assets. This not only gets relief to where it's needed quickly and efficiently, their ability to be prepared and respond so quickly reduces scarcity and thus discourages price gouging of disaster victims. The level of support these companies provide is impressive.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Will a Prime-style subscription service take Albertsons business to a new level?

    In favor of a pay for member program as a way to lock in loyalty. However, connecting the fee to home delivery drives shoppers to more expensive behavior. BOPIS is a much more compelling economic model for a supermarket than a model which encourages home delivery as an entitlement of membership. Maybe it's inevitable and U.S. consumers will adopt the delivery as primary model of UK consumers but I don't see the benefit in rushing to the more expensive delivery approach when shoppers seem willing to assume the delivery cost by picking up orders at store. There's also the erosion of store trips inherent in moving to a higher reliance on delivery. That's a second economic blow to a supermarket. Time will tell.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2021

    Will voice shopping ever take off without screens?

    The Open Voice Network is developing standards and ethical use guidelines for voice. Their work should improve adoption of voice technology. With the now common use of voice for Siri, Alexa, Apple TV and control of other appliances, it makes sense there will be improvements that make voice commerce preferred for certain situations. Maybe not voice shopping as the act of shopping suggests an activity that includes making decisions. But if I know what I want, I should be able to ask for it and get it. I shouldn't have to open a browser or app, search through pages of an ecommerce site, dodge pop-ups, select, order, pay ... suddenly a visual interface is a detriment.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2021

    Should grocers welcome Instacart’s warehouses?

    Since I work for a provider of automated micro-fulfillment centers, automated darks stores and other fulfillment automation capabilities to supermarkets, I had to think hard about an unbiased comment. Instacart's business is taking shoppers and their business from its supermarket partners. It is not creating new shoppers or new meal occasions. Now Instacart can take more. That succinct viewpoint seems consistent with other BrainTrust comments.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2021

    Amazon still playing COVID catch-up on fulfillment centers and staff

    I don't like research based on samples of one, but I have experienced a dramatic increase in late or delayed deliveries from Amazon. Using my numbers of deliveries as the sample, it's been a race downward in expectation meeting. Promises of next-day delivery at time of order extend to two or more days. Two-day deliveries are becoming rare. Apology emails - that I have never seen before - for delivery delays appear instead of the items ordered. I've switched to brick-and-mortar buying for a number of items because the tried and true two-day delivery promise of Amazon was unavailable for certain items I needed. It seems indicative of labor shortages and supply chain issues. Can anyone expand on this sample with a larger data set? Amazon has always been good at making and keeping promises for what you ordered arriving when they said it would. That appears broken.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2021

    Should food be an afterthought for Target?

    I agree with the other comments that food isn't a priority for Target. When asked by someone outside the industry why Target wasn't as good at food I offered that food stores have produce managers with years of produce experience. Target has a manager of the produce category who may have come from sporting goods. I still think that's fair way to look at it.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

    Voice assistant takes orders from McDonald’s drive-thru customers

    Voice assistants at drive throughs is a terrific way to extend the consistency of QSRs to the drive-thru. Today, your drive-thru experience depends on who is manning the headset. That introduces a lot of room for variance. Not all of it good. And as noted elsewhere, people have been trained to speak to devices. Take advantage of that training and deliver a high quality experience every time.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

    How fast can stores fill curbside pickup orders?

    Speed is an obvious advantage as no one wants to wait, but exceeding expectations is even more important. Put the processes in place to consistently deliver in 10 minutes or less and promise 15. That's when customers will start singing your praises. If you can't do it that fast, then, as with CVS, make a delivery time promise you know you can keep and always beat it. But understand that shoppers shop for delivery time just as they do price. Pay more but get it in an hour versus next day ... many will choose to pay more. Store operations, take a bow.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

    Will grocery basket sizes be cut down to their former size?

    Shoppers have learned that retailers will do their shopping for them, without a premium. And they've had time to build online shopping profiles, to make re-ordering easier, and a make online shopping a habit. Why would a shopper volunteer to trudge through a store when they're getting exactly what they want delivered to their door? It would be like giving up online banking for teller lines. A little less supermarket spending from more restaurant visits. But still more online than ever before.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2021

    Amazon has mad upskills

    This is a good move in a tight labor market. It gives potential employees a reason to choose you. Also helps Amazon as the trained employees are probably working at lower rates than it would take to hire for those roles. Retailers with MFCs and other robotic systems can train in robotic skills and make themselves more attractive employers. Look at the many leaders in retail who started out in store. There is a long history of retail rewarding initiative with career opportunities.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2021

    Are you ready for the retailer-as-service revolution?

    The explosion of e-commerce has shown shoppers that where they purchase their favorite soup, cereal or spaghetti doesn't matter. It will be identical. What won't be identical and what makes a trip to the store worth the effort are the added services. Historically those services have been the bakery, the deli, the meat counter, and the produce department. After that came in-store clinics or ready-to-eat meals. Extending services to cover other areas gives shoppers more compelling reasons to visit the store. The local flavor a store can add could be a key service differentiator.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2021

    Can omnichannel be as profitable for retailers as in-store sales?

    Two direct costs make fulfilling e-commerce orders at the store unprofitable: the labor to pick, pack and deliver to orders to car and the last-mile delivery to home costs. Labor costs can be reduced dramatically through automation. As a bonus, customer service improves due to the trackable "closed" inventory of an automated system that eliminates out-of-stocks and substitutions. Automation also lets retailers exceed the natural maximum orders of manual picking and fulfill many more e-commerce orders. Automation eliminates the costs to hire and re-hire 80 or so employees a year. And you can become a more attractive employer by offering associates the opportunity to pick up robotics skills. The cost of last-mile delivery is addressed, as Target has mentioned, through pickup at store. As stores have put the labor cost of shopping and in many cases checking out onto their shoppers, pickup at store transfers last-mile delivery costs to shoppers.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2021

    Kroger says it will transform grocery e-commerce with ‘first of its kind’ fulfillment tech

    High points for automating order fulfillment to increase the profitability of e-commerce orders. Miss on this automation happening away from stores and still requiring delivery to store. Locations and pickup at store are the advantages a supermarket has over Amazon. Store-located MFCs with customer pickup both improves e-commerce fulfillment profitability and eliminates last mile costs. This will be interesting to watch.
  • Posted on: 03/17/2021

    Why is gaining meaningful insights from data still so hard?

    Lack of a plan is what I run into. RFPs for analytics tech seek to boil the ocean. When you seek everything, you end up with nothing. Instead, start with a plan. The plan dictates the data, resources and expertise. If the plan fails to deliver, learn from it and build a better plan. If the plan succeeds, learn from it and establish a new plan to expand what you can learn and do. It's not the lack of data or lack or resources or lack of spending, it's lack of a clear objective that I've seen prevent successful use of data and analytics.

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