PROFILE

Keith Anderson

SVP, Strategy & Insight, Profitero
Keith Anderson is senior vice president, strategy & insights, for Profitero, where he leads product strategy and the analyst team. Keith’s insights on technology and retail have been featured in Financial Times, re/code, Bloomberg, Forbes Magazine, and Shopper Marketing Magazine. He has been a featured speaker at RetailNet Group, Brand Activation Association, Food Marketing Institute, Retail Council of Canada, and other retail, technology, and media events.
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  • Posted on: 04/22/2021

    Say goodbye to Walmart’s robotic towers

    The drivers of automation tests are pretty clear: pressure to maintain service levels while managing labor expenses; the unfavorable unit economics of online versus self-service retail; and, most recently, the comparative resilience and reliability of robots during a pandemic. It's perhaps unusual to see such a large, relatively capital-intensive initiative suspended or rolled back so quickly, but Walmart is clearly following its customer and continuing to invest in future-ready operations. Given its scale and leverage, perhaps Walmart is also negotiating favorable terms with some of its partners, enabling it to test and learn nimbly while sharing or shifting the risk to emerging technology providers eager to produce case studies.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2021

    Should Amazon open clearance stores?

    Amazon has played with similar concepts in both the virtual and physical realms, for example with the Warehouse Deals section of its site and the roving Treasure Truck promotions. It also owns Woot, one of the original "surprise and delight" experiences in e-commerce. But as TJX, Costco, and others have proven, there's still demand for a serendipitous "treasure hunt" that is hard to reproduce in a fully digital format. It makes sense that Amazon would continue testing and learning at the intersection of physical and digital.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2021

    King Soopers: Killed in the line of retail duty

    My first job in retail was at a King Soopers in Aurora, Colorado. Condolences to the victims of this tragedy and other gun violence. I do think front-line retail workers deserve more respect and better compensation for the service they provide and the risks they're subjected to. Customer-centricity isn't inherently in conflict with an expectation of being treated with dignity, and it's on executives and store leadership to create a culture and environment for that.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2021

    Walmart uses brutal self-assessment in omnichannel turnaround strategy

    Candor and transparency are important, and this kind of "brutal" self-assessment can drive change if it's paired with a plan. But it's equally important to be thoughtful about how and when this type of message is communicated, or it can backfire and be demotivating.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2021

    Starbucks’ meatless store pilot ran in stealth mode

    Given the explosive demand for plant-based options, I do think there's demand for a format like this. But it's also possible that Starbucks is using the format to test many different menu items and will scale the most successful ones to its core format. These types of experimental concepts can be powerful incubators of high-potential ideas, but many go nowhere. I've seen the most success when there's a hypothesis being tested and a spectrum of possible end-game outcomes, from low-effort and low-commitment ways to apply what was learned (like adding a few new menu items) to the potentially transformational (like scaling a new store format).
  • Posted on: 12/23/2020

    Will online delivery go more eco-friendly post-pandemic?

    Over the last 24 months, I've seen an explosion of innovation in retail and consumer products, from new product development to packaging to storage and handling to logistics. A lot of the innovation has an explicit sustainability angle -- typically reducing emissions and eliminating unnecessary plastic and other waste. In parallel, rising quality and lower costs have increased the appeal to shoppers, retailers, and brands. Plant-based, circular, renewable, reusable, compostable, lightweight, low-cube, electrified, and no-rush are among the retail-relevant trends that can have economic and environmental benefits. Supply chain and physical realities may mainstream some of them anyway. When I see models like Zero Grocery, I see entrepreneurs trying to build businesses from the future back. Will this one have the timing and execution to lead the industry? I am not sure, but I think there is a lot to inform and inspire.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2020

    Are endless aisles more trouble than they’re worth for retailers?

    This is a great topic -- as e-commerce has abruptly grown as a percentage of all retail, unit economics and incrementality are top of mind. On the demand side, retailers that don't have sophisticated search algorithms and personalization capabilities or a strong editorial/curatorial voice will increasingly frustrate shoppers. On the supply side, as noted, the complexity is a function of how much a retailer tries to manage itself versus offloading to 3PLs and suppliers.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2020

    Walmart goes to the dogs (and cats, too)

    These are smart moves for Walmart given the growth of pet ownership and the opportunities driven by trends within the category, like the humanization of pets. Along with the pet pharmacy and the other initiatives noted, this does seem to make Walmart a more complete provider of pet goods and services to loyal Walmart shoppers, helping some shoppers consolidate trips and positioning Walmart on better footing versus the specialists. It also gives Walmart a point of difference versus other price- and value-driven players like Chewy and Amazon. I'm curious to see how else Walmart leverages its growing omnichannel capabilities in this category too.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Will pop-up e-commerce fulfillment centers help Walmart manage demand?

    Reconfiguring existing assets to fulfill demand differently just makes sense. If you already have a network of DCs and can re-purpose and re-train in time, it's a great way to add flex capacity with minimal disruption to other channels' operations. For fulfilling national demand, this probably is more efficient than picking from stores. That said, the perennial tensions around who does what and who gets credit for what are important to consider, and there needs to be an effort to help each part of the business (channels and functions) understand the role they're playing.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2020

    Is business too busy saving itself to save the environment?

    I see a lot of mainstream commentary, especially from financiers, that the twin public health and financial crises will lead shoppers to abandon their interest in sustainable products and practices, liberating retailers and brands to relax their commitments. Given the volatility, it can be tough to draw conclusions about how attitudes and behaviors will evolve from here. Here's one data point: according to Nielsen in the U.K. for the year to date, brands with sustainability claims have outgrown conventional brands by almost 18 percentage points. It is certainly reasonable to question whether shoppers will "pay a premium" for sustainable commerce. But as the public health crisis has shown us, the "cost" of a decision -- to individuals, communities, countries, and the world -- is not always reflected in an item's price. We've spent the better part of a century operating under the premise that shoppers should expect infinite selection, immediate gratification, ever-lower prices, and a pleasant and frictionless experience. Every time, all the time. And if you're not growing -- and ideally outpacing your peers' growth -- you're basically already dead. But it's getting harder to ignore the stark physical realities pressuring traditional business and operating models. Like the spread of the pandemic, climate change is on a non-linear trajectory. We can stick to the playbooks that got us here, but the impacts on public health and quality of life will only accelerate. I think the social license to operate with such a narrow lens is rapidly diminishing. We can't compartmentalize the world the way we have for decades. Economic and environmental sustainability are co-dependent, not opposed to each other, but our current incentive structures and operating models urgently need reinvention if we are to avoid the worst-case scenarios and adapt. I think we can find inspiration among some of the entrepreneurs building companies and brands with a more holistic view, some of which are already thriving. They're founding mission-driven companies that consider profit as a key (but not the singular) consideration for operating a business. They're innovating product form to reduce weight and cube and remove materials or ingredients that harm life or the environment. They're eliminating wasteful packaging and accelerating investments in packaging that can be economically reused or composted. They're powering their offices and production or storage facilities with renewable energy. They're favoring logistics models that account for climate impacts and acknowledge trade-offs in convenience. There are examples in nearly every category. A few standouts: Bite toothpaste bits and Georganics in oral care. Care/Of in vitamins and supplements. Leaf in shaving. Blueland in cleaning. My advice is to pivot from thinking of sustainability as a branding or communications tactic and get R&D, supply chain, and operations seats at the table and incentives and runway to reinvent. The companies building businesses optimized for the likeliest future scenarios certainly are.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2020

    Will COVID-19 quicken drone delivery’s flight to retail?

    I'm not sure if or how quickly air-based drones will emerge as a significant mode of package delivery, but there is no question that the pandemic has raised interest in automation throughout the supply chain. While most arguments in favor of automation highlight long-term labor savings, there is clearly also a plausible claim related to business continuity in situations where workers can't or won't perform tasks for health, safety, or other reasons. Given some of the projected impacts exponential e-commerce growth is anticipated to have on congestion, emissions, and costs, now seems like an apt time to accelerate investments in infrastructure and automation that could yield better outcomes.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2020

    Does anybody remember Earth Day?

    The last 24 months have provided a quick education on some natural, physical realities that can't be managed long-term through denial or deferral. Thirty years ago, when I first had any consciousness of ecological issues, the framing was largely about resource scarcity in a macro sense and the nuisance of litter on an individual level. Renewable energy versus dwindling supplies of extractive fuels; personal responsibility at the last touch of a product's lifecycle. Today, we have a much better understanding of the scale and magnitude of the negative impacts of packaging waste and pollution on health, wildlife, and ecosystems. Recycling standards, infrastructure, and incentives are necessary--but so are extended producer responsibility, circularity, and a focused effort to reduce single-use products and packaging that can't biodegrade or be composted. I see progress on all of these fronts, and I hope the industry aligns and executes quickly. Perhaps even more importantly, I see promising signs of the retail and consumer products industries rising to the greater challenges presented by the climate crisis through initiatives like reducing energy requirements and directly or indirectly sourcing clean, renewable energy and forming new alliances to electrify corporate vehicle fleets. This will be the climate decade, not a day each year. If we aren't involving supply chain and operations and including a climate lens for decisions about product form, packaging, fulfillment models, last-mile logistics, etc., we will lose relevance and social license.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2020

    Will the coronavirus change how we use plastic packaging?

    A pre-print research paper from the National Institutes of Health shows that viable coronavirus could be detected in aerosols up to three hours post aerosolization, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Public opinion is influencable in many ways, only one of which is with facts. I hope that policy makers, merchants, and manufacturers look carefully at the long-term public health, environmental, and economic considerations and act responsibly and in proportion to the realities we face, as the stakes are higher than is widely discussed.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2020

    Will socially distanced shopping launch robot delivery for the masses?

    I don't think it will see anywhere near the level of trial or adoption that curbside pick-up already has during the crisis, but this situation does strike me as a ripe opportunity to continue to test and learn about applications for automation in retail. In some dense urban areas, demand for delivery has pushed delivery windows out more than a week. There will be labor shortages due to sick employees, and some workers are striking as we speak due to concerns about hazardous work environments and inequitable compensation. Of course there is investment required, but technology can often be rented as a service, and would typically offset some labor expense.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Kimberly-Clark solves some mysteries around click-and-collecting

    As traditional grocers and other retailers are getting more serious about digital commerce, they're selectively turning to leading suppliers for partnership. As with traditional disciplines like category management, there is opportunity for suppliers that bring capabilities, programs, and insight that transcend their own products and create value for shoppers and retailers.

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