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: 01/20/2022

    What tech must restaurants put on their menu of services?

    QR code menus are generally a mess. Sometimes they open a web page. Sometimes download a PDF that you might have to find on your device. Often a challenge to read. But Toast app! Game changer. Terrific interface (admittedly based on a limited menu restaurant). Select items and quantities, order in app, pay in app. QR code unique to table so food and beverage finds you. Table of 12 friends. At least eight separate tickets each managed by an individual or couple. Fair distribution of bill as each owns own order and payment. A few runners needed to bring food and beverage to table. No hard to find waiters and waitresses. Fast service as your order goes directly to kitchen. I am a huge fan of the integration of personalized order control and in app payment that the Toast app delivers. I would choose a restaurant for a large group based on it offering Toast.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    NRF 2022: Albertsons’ CEO sees frequency driving grocery loyalty

    Frequency and nature of purchases makes supermarkets natural for fostering loyalty, however how you define and measure loyalty is critical. For example, most retailers would consider shoppers in the top 10 percent of spending highly loyal. While only 10 percent of shopper count, their spending would represent multiple times their count in percent of sales. Supermarkets would assume this high spending level translates to high loyalty. If you compare top shoppers across several supermarket chains, the overlap of top shoppers is astonishing. In the mid-90 percent. Simply put, nine of 10 of one supermarket chain's top shoppers can be the other chain's top shoppers and visa versa. Each chain would claim these top shoppers as loyal shoppers because their spending levels and visits are among the highest. But the the spending levels and visits of nine of 10 of these shoppers could be similarly high for their competitors. Big families with big lists that spend big wherever they shop. Instead of focusing on increasing sales among these top shoppers, the assumption is that the supermarket has full share of wallet of these top shoppers. The focus is on increasing sales among lower tier spenders assuming that's where the spending gaps are that can be closed. The error in this thinking is that a high percentage of spending by top shoppers is spent at competitors. Any of retailer who serves these top shoppers know the most about them of any of their shoppers thanks to their high spending levels and visit frequency. Yet these top shoppers are largely ignored as sources of potential for spending growth. Are these top shoppers loyal shoppers? Maybe. Maybe not. A closed view of spending level against other shoppers at a chain says yes. A broader view of share of wallet says no. Are these top shoppers valuable shoppers whose loyalty should be cultivated? Absolutely. The challenge is to identify them, take actions to serve more of their requirements, build true loyalty, and capture more spending. Don't assume loyalty is given based on simple metrics. Verify loyalty and work to earn greater loyalty.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    As suggested in other answers, the real question is what's important to the business. If returns are considered a necessity that can be handled conveniently through multiple third-party locations, using a third party makes sense. If e-commerce is a small portion of your business and gets minimal focus and investment, you won't be able to hire the top tier talent to execute e-commerce versus a pure play e-commerce provider who wakes up every day focused on improving their e-commerce performance. A standalone business that lives or dies on how well it competes could make more sense. If your customer service philosophy is to do just enough, you won't attract and build a world class team to support your returns, questions and customer satisfaction follow up. Maybe a third party focused and expert in servicing should be considered. Smart and skilled employees choose to work where their skills and experience will make them a contributing member of a team that furthers the objectives of the company. Add in that they are looking for some challenge to grow and improve. People needing a job where there's an opening and are willing to be trained to check off as done whatever you want to check off as done. Retailers who pride themselves on world class service are more rigorous about hiring, training, motivating and measuring customer success. It should not be surprising that this focus on service creates a magnet for the people who can help them continue to realize their vision of world class service. Start cost cutting and reducing the importance of this group and you'll see how quickly this world class level fades.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2021

    Meijer offers teachers supply discounts beyond back-to-school

    This is brilliant, kind and thoughtful on several levels. First, it acknowledges that teachers spent a lot of out-of-pocket money on supplies. Well done. And it's not without benefit to Meijer. Their best customers are families. Families have children. Children spend a lot of time with teachers.Teachers will be talking favorably about Meijer. This is a thoughtful gesture with a potential reward to Meijer for the consideration. That might not have been part of the strategy, but there is nothing wrong with benefiting from thoughtfulness.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2021

    Should Macy’s de-omnify?

    On it's surface it appears to be a terrible idea for shoppers. So without analysis I agree with the majority opinion. However, things may not be as they seem. Two items merit thoughtful consideration. 1.) The online and offline buyer profiles and 2.) the performance of online and in-store entities. If buyers are buying different items online than in-store (and most do both), perhaps a focus on e-commerce expands the items offered in a different way than an assortment that uses e-commerce to supports in-store shopping. That doesn't mean separation is the answer, but it would create the opportunity for more freedom within the e-commerce group to stretch its assortment wings and create an offering that appeals to the buying habits of online buyers. On performance indicators, as Macy's is primarily a brick-and-mortar retailer, it may treat it's online unit as second class. The results is lower quality talent and a lack of investment in new technology. If that's the case, a standalone e-commerce group where the team is motivated to improve the entirety of the e-commerce experience to generate more online sales might make sense. If you're a talented employee who is skilled in e-commerce execution, you want to work where you're a profit driver, not a cost driver. The rewards are better when you're the one bringing in the sales. A dedicated e-commerce group would offer that to talented employees. On the surface this appears like pure greed. However it is worth a thoughtful look beneath the surface to see if there might be some advantages. While still keeping the whole thing stitched together for shoppers.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2021

    Can loyalty programs ease supply chain blues this holiday season?

    I have too often found loyalty programs to be about customer loyalty to the store. The loyalty from store to retailer is often the missing link. Many of these suggestion offer ways the retailer can demonstrate it's loyalty to shoppers. It's not about points and general rewards, it's about filling out Christmas lists. That's pretty powerful. Just don't make any promises you can't keep. You don't want to say something is available and then not have it be there when the shopper comes up. A sure way to go from nice to naughty.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2021

    Is the privacy paradox being resolved?

    It comes down to value. Sites, retailers or other partners who use data to make relevant offers or share relevant information will be trusted partners. They will provide information that helps the shopper. That experience will work for both trusted partners and shopper. But those who blast endless offers based on the last search which was a one-off or gift item with no relevance to the shopper will be blocked. It's about an exchange of value. If no value is being delivered - or worse, the shopper is being annoyed - data will and should be blocked. Privacy? For some. For many others it's more an evaluation of "What's in it for me?" Exchange of personal data for value can work and does work but it takes work, not more triggered popups and email blasts.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Will retailers win now and lose later with long-term shipping contracts?

    This is a great opportunity for local hard goods manufacturers and suppliers to take a page out of the farm to table playbook. Promote their locally sourced, locally manufactured products with timely delivery. This could be the most locally sourced holiday shopping season ever. Shop local. It might be a shopper's best option, not just a marketing slogan.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Amazon asks, why wait for Black Friday when you can get Christmas deals today?

    With competitors gaining during the traditional holiday selling season, a great response is to change the rule of the game by expanding the season. As mentioned elsewhere, pantry load to take back share and play up the scarcity inevitable due to supply chain issues to create shopper urgency. Smart move. This earlier buying season may also generate incremental sales. A few shoppers on the fence for this and that may buy now then buy self gifts again later when the holidays approach and the novelty has worn off from their October "holiday" purchases. Operationally, this could smooth out demand and improve shopper perception of Amazon service levels.
  • 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.

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