Ken Morris

Principal, Boston Retail Partners

Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.

  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    What will it take to dramatically reduce risk in the retail supply chains?

    Supply chain tracing and transparency won’t be widely adopted unless supply chain vendors and retailers are forced to comply. While the technology exists and is getting more cost effective (e.g. RFID tags), it is a challenge to get all supply chain vendors to participate. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act’s (DSCSA) new global mandate, requiring any company wishing to sell a pharmaceutical product in the U.S. to facilitate product “traceability” by 2023 is a good start, but we need to see mandates that cover other product categories. Once more mandates are in place, it will become a standard process from almost all goods. Another opportunity for retailers across all retail categories is the adoption of "realtime retail." This concept has the potential to eliminate safety stock within the retail supply chain because you eliminate the inherent latency of the current decentralized retail supply chain model with stores and distribution centers synchronizing inventory once per day at best. This eliminates the need to carry 10%-20% more inventory than a retailer can sell at full price and essentially lowers the risk. As with all new processes, it takes time....
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Tech lets shoppers say ‘Optimize Me’ when ordering groceries

    Customizing the shopping experience for consumers is a smart strategy, however the options are starting to become a little confusing. I like the idea of adding items to your shopping list app as you identify products you need. Splitting the pick-up of groceries into two segments -- some items pre-picked by store associates and shopping for other items yourself –- seems cumbersome. The options are getting daunting. That said, I like the idea of giving customers option, but it has to be simple and convenient. Regarding the driverless vehicle that makes the Amazon Go concept mobile, it is probably a concept that won’t be ubiquitous for many years.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2019

    NRF: Attendees show performance anxiety for 2019

    I don't share the pessimism for 2019. This is a very strong retail tech market, the strongest ever in my last 30 years of attending the show. There will certainly be a slowdown at some point but I'm feeling 2019 will not be that year based on the metrics I track.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2019

    NRF: Will grocers be ready for 2030’s smart future?

    There is no doubt that grocery, and retail in general, is changing at warp speed – driven by rapid increases in customer expectations and extremely creative technology innovations. In addition, aggressive retailers, like Amazon, are pushing the envelope on technology and what customer expect from the shopping journey. While some of the technology identified from Kantar will become widely adopted, some of it may not be pervasive 11 years from now. It is expensive and it takes a long time for technologies to become ubiquitous. For example, the Shopping Buddy consumer self-scanning technology was piloted by Stop & Shop Supermarkets 14 years ago and it still hasn’t been adopted across the grocery industry. Thin margins make it difficult for grocers to adopt bleeding-edge technology. A more subtle innovation transformation is a more likely scenario.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2019

    Will content help Publix and Whole Foods cook up online engagement?

    What resonates most with customers depends on the customer. Online cooking classes and digital product catalogs are both great ways to engage with customers and premium grocers should consider offering both. Consumers are accustomed to using YouTube to learn how to do anything and bringing cooking classes right to your home (for free) and streaming them as well, is a convenient way for consumers to learn how to cook new meals. This is a great value add for Publix customers and when they enjoy the delicious meal, they will think of Publix – elevating the brand perception and increasing loyalty. Whole Foods digital product catalog will appeal to customers that are very conscious of ingredients from a health, dietary or allergy perspective. This will make it easier to create their shopping list of product that meet their requirements. I believe both approaches should be offered.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Sephora adds choices and personalization to rewards program

    Consumers like choices, especially if it involves free gifts and special perks. While there are a lot of variables in the rewards program, customers should be able to figure it out. When it comes to rewards, consumers pay attention. Sephora continues to surprise and delight its reward members with new ways to earn and redeem points, which keeps customer engaged. With significantly better rewards for members that reach higher spending thresholds, it encourages shoppers that are close to reaching a more premium status to spend more at Sephora. The objective is engagement and it is like a form of gamification without a game. Kudos to Sephora.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    What’s holding back in-store mobile engagement?

    Mobile technology is ready to support in-store offers and suggestions. The obstacle is retailers IT infrastructure that is saddled with legacy systems that can't support real-time retail. Optimizing mobile capabilities in the store for consumer-facing and associate-facing apps requires visibility to real-time inventory and customer information. Consumers are definitely interested in in-store mobile capabilities. According to a recent BRP consumer survey, 63% of consumers use their mobile phone while shopping in a store to compare prices, look for offers/coupons, check inventory availability, etc. Additionally, 67% of consumers are likely to shop with a retailer that offers mobile coupons, discounts and promotions over a retailer who doesn’t offer these services.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2019

    What can IoT really do for retailers?

    IoT will be a huge benefit to retailers from both an inventory accuracy and visibility perspective. From the study's findings, it was interesting that retail “winners” were much more concerned with addressing inventory visibility than accuracy. Maybe they feel that their inventory accuracy is fairly good today. However, for omni-channel fulfilment, it is imperative that the inventory available to promise is accurate, otherwise you will have some very unhappy customers. Inventory accuracy also helps eliminate the need for safety stock on the inventory available to promise. Safety stock is a really big issue for many retailers.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2019

    Will PepsiCo’s robots replace the pizza delivery guy on college campuses?

    Colleges campuses are an ideal environment to test and perfect delivery robots. The reduced traffic issues and tech savvy consumers (students) that will enjoy the entertainment of having their snacks delivered by robots will help make it more successful. There will surely be some challenges, as noted by others above (mischievous students and theft), but it is still probably the best environment for research and development testing. As consumers get accustomed to ordering products from robot delivery services and the systems get perfected, both CPG and retailers will expand the use of these services. However, it will likely be a long time before we see delivery robots as a ubiquitous delivery method.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Will smart shelves work for Hannaford and its customers?

    For products that are complex or those that commonly call for customers to read their package labels, the smart shelf/touch screen technology will be helpful. A good example is for medicine, which notoriously has print on packages that is too small to read. This technology won’t be needed for basic items like produce, meats, dairy, and other staples like flour, sugar, etc. as consumers don’t need more details on these products. The pricing opportunity may have the biggest benefit to both customers and retailers as individualized pricing and promotions will drive both acceptance and sales. The key will to be to focus the technology on the most relevant products and make sure it is easy and works flawlessly. Test, test, and test. The biggest problem with gaining consumer acceptance with new technology is ease of use. If it makes my shopping experience complex and cumbersome, I won’t use the technology and neither will most consumers.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Whole Foods to expand nationwide to drive Prime Now growth

    Aggressive expansion of Whole Foods, which has high brand awareness is a good way to establish a physical presence across the U.S. However, there are some drawbacks. Whole Foods primarily appeals to affluent and health conscious shoppers and many consumers have a preconceived perception that they are too expensive. This is a difficult perception to change and I doubt their discount for some items for Prime members and claims of lower prices have done much to change consumers perceptions. Another approach, which is faster than building new Whole Food stores across the nation, would be to acquire another chain that has a physical presence in markets where there are no Whole Foods and develop a new Amazon brand that has a perception of quality and value – similar to the online Amazon brand. I believe this two-pronged strategy is a better way to take advantage of the opportunity. Whole Foods did this originally when they started the company and it's now back to the future for them. This expansion is absolutely the right approach as innovation in this segment will evolve rapidly over the next 12 to 24 months.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2018

    Camp brings a playground to retail

    This is a fantastic idea and plays right into consumers' love for the theater of shopping. It will be a huge draw for children that experience this adventure. They will remember it and ask their parents to go back. It is great for customer loyalty. Changing the theme every 12 weeks is smart, as they can send announcements to "fans" when a new theme is launched -- driving more store traffic and sales.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    Kroger’s private label hits get their own store-within-a-store

    This is a great strategy for Kroger. I suspect they are modeling much of this after Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's has curated a loyal fan base for their stores and their products and their Fearless Flyer newsletter is highly anticipated by customers and it drives store traffic and product-specific sales. The store-within-a-store concept is being tested by many retail categories and it makes perfect sense for grocery. We will continue to see this trend for quite some time.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2018

    Nike sees online eclipsing offline sales

    It is all about convenience and product assortment. For products like athletic shoes, there are an enormous breadth of product options and physical stores can only carry a fraction of the options. If you are very selective in what you want, it is often difficult to find it at your local store. By ordering online, you can select the perfect color, size and style for the entire inventory of products. Online ordering also saves a trip to the store and battling traffic at a mall. The product categories that are over-indexed today or will be in the future are commodity products that are easy to select online, hard to find products, and products that consumers don’t need to touch, feel, or try.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2018

    Is Amazon Prime not what it’s cracked up to be?

    While many people got hooked on Amazon for its free two-day shipping, Amazon has become an amalgamation of abundant services that keep customers hooked. Amazon has its issues and missteps, but consumers forgive and forget. Consumers still start more than 50% of their product searches on Amazon and many feel that it is the best place to compare prices and find the best deal. The convenience of Amazon has changed shopping and will continue to change the future of retail. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay.

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