Mark Heckman

Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting
Mark is a supermarket industry veteran with broad experience based in a mix of retail marketing, brand partnerships, category management practices and consumer research. Over his career, Mark has worked with noted organizations in the supermarket industry to include positions of Director of Marketing Research at Marsh Supermarkets, VP of Marketing for Randalls Foods, MARC Advertising, and Valassis Relationship Marketing Systems. In 1993, Mark led the analysis team at Marsh that composed and presented the Marsh Super Study, which was published by Progressive Grocer Magazine and later became a case study at the Harvard School of Business. In 2006 to 2011, Mark returned to Marsh Supermarkets to lead the marketing efforts at the Midwestern chain as Vice President of Marketing, following Sun Capital's purchase of the company. Upon completion of his duties at Marsh, Mark returned to his consulting practice where he currently works with retailers, marketing services and technology companies to develop sucessful programs and partnerships. Mark is a past member and chairman of the Food Marketing Institute's Consumer Research Committee as well participating in the recent Retail Shopper Marketing Commission founded by Coca Cola and the In-store Marketing Institute.  Mark is a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business with a BS in Marketing and was honor graduate of the Defense Language Institute, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. Mark currently resides in Bradenton, FL with his wife Karyn. Visit the Mark Heckman Consulting website and blog...
  • Posted on: 01/11/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    As many as already asserted, as far as the customer is concerned, there should be just one relationship with the retailer irrespective of shopping online or in-store. Accordingly, services and products available should be as close to identical as physically possible to provide the shopper with consistent experience. Where separation may makes some sense is on the fulfillment side of the business, where orders are picked from a warehouse and not a specific store.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    I do not believe BOPIS as it is currently is offered is a sustainable long-term proposition for either the consumer or the retailer. Despite many retailers eliminating cashiers in favor of self-checkout, retailers and their fragile P&Ls cannot be thrilled with paying people to clog the aisles of their traditional brick-and-mortar stores with long, bulky carts as they pick their BOPIS orders. For the shopper, the survey cited captures several areas where there is a disconnect for them. Anecdotally, my only two personal experiences with this process contained multiple stockouts and mis-picks. As we emerge (someday) from the pandemic, if BOPIS is to remain a viable option -- it will need to be re-thought both logistically and technologically.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2021

    Are brands about to take over the produce department?

    While I understand the "margin compression" issue, there are some distinct positives in migrating to branded, prepackaged produce. These branded products are inherently much easier and more time-efficient to stock and recondition compared to loose, fresh product. The allure of a reliable brand should also be a plus. Further and more to the ergonomic side of things, with retailers forcing more shoppers to shelf-checkout, scanning packaged product instead of dealing with weight and PLUs during that process is a time saver for shoppers. Overall, I see it as a positive.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    How should retailers communicate supply chain snafus?

    For those larger retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot, they have a slightly different story to tell their shoppers. They in fact are proactively chartering ships to circumvent the current clogged system that is often mired in governmental policies, labor shortages, and inefficiencies. Communicating this proactive approach would very likely be an appreciated message to frustrated shoppers. Furthermore, if indeed they are successful in staying in-stock on commonly affected categories when their competitors cannot, they will reap not only incremental sales but likely shopper respect and loyalty going forward.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2021

    Do new Shipt and Walmart programs signal big changes to come in the retail delivery market?

    As physical retailers continue to invest to become more like Amazon, Amazon is investing in brick-and-mortar stores to become more like them. In the end, a few big retailers will drive the majority of the last mile business, as they will be the only ones who have the scale to do so profitably.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2021

    Retailers must centralize their data to thrive

    Certainly, having one version of the shopper across all shopping channels is the gold standard and the necessary goal for cogent analysis, decision making and shopper communications. One of several reasons why this condition does not exist, as intuitive as it may be, is retailers often have external partners and these partners manage a slice of their shopper data, not all. So data and reporting comes from disparate sources. Another scenario is one in which stores or regions manage their own shopper data and marketing and merchandising decisions and they have never been made centrally, but rather locally, so there has been no urgency for centralization. Consolidating the data is easy enough from a process standpoint, but connecting and updating multiple sources of shopper data can get gnarly and expensive if done ad hoc. The solution lies in a commitment from the retailer leadership to have a plan to create a real-time updating process that collects and organizes the data centrally. As others have posited, in the omnichannel world we live in, not having a full view of the shopper across both in-store and online touchpoints is a giant swing and a miss.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2021

    UPS entry could even the same-day delivery playing field

    The more delvery service providers in the game, the better the chance for a profitable business model to emerge. For example: as physical grocery stores evolve, having the ability for a shopper to buy perishables and impulse items in person, but yet give the shopper the affordable, time-saving option by ordering in-store and receiving the bulky and "repeated use items" later that day would be a plus. As UPS ups their game and becomes a player in this space, I could see significant partnerships with retailers forming, IF innovation and technology allows them to offer the service at a reasonable price.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

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

    Depending upon how shopper-efficient and adaptive the physical store has become, basket size item count will continue to rise in the efficient stores, but likely decline in stores that expect the shopper to revert back to their pre-pandemic expectations. If food inflation continues at current pace, it will be difficult for any food retailer worth their weight not to experience increased dollar rings and positive year over year dollar comps.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2021

    Do Kroger’s chains have more to gain or lose from closing stores over ‘hero’ pay increases?

    I think this strategy is much more about the broader notion that local municipalities can dictate your labor costs and therefore your ability to operate. I also believe that it is not a coincidence that this is happening in California where the governor is being recalled, ostensibly because of onerous and in the opinion of many of his constituents, nonsensical diktats. Point being, that in California, Kroger and other retailers have good reason to believe these new rules and regulations may not be as temporary as being postured. Time will tell if Kroger is the hero or the goat with this decision but, given the current mindset in California, it is just as likely the shoppers will blame the rule makers as they do Kroger for this decision.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Keep on growing is Target’s mantra as chain announces leadership moves

    In my opinion, of the many things that Target does very well, food and beverage is not among them. I believe that moving Rick Gomez, an accomplished leader with CPG experience, to run that portion of Target's business is both telling and smart. I have high regard for Brian Cornell and his ability to place the right folks in the right seats.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2020

    What will it take to get shoppers back into stores in 2021?

    Beyond vaccines and lower case counts, stores should be proactive in the way they merchandise and lay out their stores. First, they need to better understand why shoppers prefer to shop in-store. Chief among those reasons are sensory and experiential elements, which you cannot replicate online. In-store theater is going to become more important than ever along with clear messaging that helps the shopper make quicker purchase decisions. Secondly, shoppers will need space to navigate. Packing too much inventory and displays in stores that restrict the shopper's ability to keep their distance will serve as yet another reason to stay away. Lastly, retailers should work to connect the in-store experience to the online experience, by extending access to additional inventories not carried in-store through placement of ordering kiosks and other technologies. Shoppers are not going to stop buying online and if they view the retailer as a true omnichannel resource, that retailer will have a better chance to gain their loyalty.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2020

    Why does it take a crisis for retailers to get innovative?

    For decades, shoppers (at least in the supermarket channel) provided very high marks on surveys for their favorite stores, which may indeed have fueled the notion that "nothing needs to change ... our shoppers love us!" However, shoppers are typically not very good about projecting "what else" they would like to see from their favorite retailers until someone else does it better. Then the fast-following begins. With COVID-19, along with all the supply line issues that accompanied the pandemic, shoppers immediately sent clear signals to the retail community that their priorities have changed. They included digital first, limited time and social contact in stores, and a renewed focus on top-selling, essential items. The retailer's dilemma now becomes how to affordably re-position to embrace these new priorities, knowing that some of them will have lasting "shelf life" and others will likely fade over time.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2020

    Will grocers maintain COVID share gains as restaurants reopen?

    The exaggerated sales and customer counts will fade away over time, depending upon the speed and perceived safety of restaurant re-openings. In terms of keeping "more than a fair share" of the resulting business, retailers should develop both an in-store and an online strategy, with each anticipating changing customer behaviors. In the in-store realm, elements such as managing shopper traffic flow, efficiency of finding popular items, SKU reductions, and new layouts that provide more spacing for shoppers and associates, ought to be leading priorities. On the e-commerce side, keeping existing customers and attracting new ones will largely depend upon the ease and convenience of ordering and pick-up, mitigating wait times at the curb, and out of stocks within the orders. Also, adapting technology that provides the retailer an automated opportunity to communicate to online customers through standing orders, relevant suggestions and meal planning ideas will provide competitive advantage with this group, knowing that for this part of the business to get anywhere close to break-even, the volume must grow.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2020

    COVID-19 exposes retail’s supply chain shortcomings

    In my mind, the pandemic has underscored the costs and risks of allocating valuable warehouse and retail store space to items that do not find their way into shoppers' baskets on a regular basis. Many of these infrequently purchased items are a product of projecting an image of "variety" to the consumer, which has some inherent value. But many others are the result of brand line extensions and trading deals that have nothing to do with consumer demand. For many retailers, it might be smart to re-think their approach to profitability -- focusing on the "sell" rather than the "buy"; focusing on having more inventory of what shoppers buy on hand and a bit less of what they don't.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2020

    Is business too busy saving itself to save the environment?

    I hope one thing we can all agree upon is the importance of retail commitment to operating in an increasingly eco-friendly manner. This priority also harmonizes well with personal safety that all brick-and-mortar retailers must promote as we move forward. I do believe that one of the few silver linings of these lockdowns was to see dolphins swimming in Venice, Italy, wildlife flourishing in closed national parks and clear skies in cities that are typically fogged with exhaust. I also get the sense that we are at a new inflection point for consumer awareness and appreciation of the world around us and agree with others that shoppers will reward retailers who make concerted efforts in sustainability.

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