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: 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.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2021

    How much HQ space will disappear as hybrid work becomes a retailing thing?

    Retail has always been a high touch sport. Building relationships. Sharing new offerings face-to-face. I've had success doing business remotely. But it's just not as full an experience. If you've ever worked only remotely with someone then finally met them in person, the relationship changes. There's a stronger connection once you meet face-to-face. More informal. More human. You cover more than the topic of the scheduled call. Definitely more information shared. In my experience, efforts should be made to safely increase face time rather than reduce it. It will be interesting to learn how this turns out at Target and elsewhere.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Are CTOs finally getting the respect they deserve?

    Being on the selling side of retail and brand technology for a very long time, the most effective technology leaders I've worked with don't focus on technology. The best focus on how their technology customers will experience the technology. Their technology customer could be a delivery driver, shopper, store manager, supplier, partner, headquarters employee, or a blend of all. Each technology customer interacts with technology in different ways due to the their work environment, role, experience and skill set. Discussions I've had with strong technical leaders focus on how to simplify or automate routine tasks, how to deliver training to remote employees, how to offer self-directed refresher videos, how to support new employee onboarding, or how to replace system elements quickly and efficiently for continuous operation. When they are comfortable that you understand the audience they serve and can help them serve that audience, the conversation moves to validate the investment. Feature set and service enhancements are part of the conversation about serving their technology customers. Yes, you better be able to deliver, but more importantly, you must be able to align with and serve the unique requirements of their technology customers. Customer-focused conversations about technology adoption used to be unique or an afterthought. It was buy tech on features and ROI and push it out. I don't miss those days. The evolution of those in technology leadership roles from evaluating technology features to serving customer segments through the right approach has a lot to do with elevating the importance of CTOs.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    Email is the new snail mail. People check their texts far more regularly and react to texts more quickly than email. This is especially true of the busy families retailers want to reach. But using text comes with caveats as noted in the article. It begins with understanding the formal rules and includes understanding the informal rules. Customers using text to click and collect do not assume you will bombard them with text messages. Text is a bit more personal than email. It is about immediacy and getting things done. Follow both formal and informal rules of texting and you will gain direct access to valuable customers.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Digital gains are changing how Best Buy puts its associates to work

    Best Buy is doing its best to adapt and follow its customers using existing resources. Retraining employees to focus on digital orders makes sense when those orders are up 100%. Re-using underutilized store square footage as fulfillment centers to help them cover their costs and not incur additional costs also makes sense. These are necessary adaptions to address a doubling of ecommerce orders over a short period of time. While the article doesn't state, the change certainly includes reduced store visits. Stores still have a role but reconfiguring real estate and employees to address ecommerce orders is essential for retailers with large brick and mortar footprints to remain competitive and profitable. With time, ecommerce order automation is the next step to ecommerce order profitability.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2021

    Poshmark’s secondhand sales platform goes to the dogs

    Terrific move by Poshmark. Massive market. Passionate shoppers. Reaches across all socio-economic strata. This should be a huge success.

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