PROFILE

Mark Ryski

Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Mark Ryski is the author of two books on retail analytics, Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric and When Retail Customers Count – books that are widely considered the definitive reference guides for the retail industry. He is also the Founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation – the leading authority on retail traffic and conversion analysis. Founded in 1994, today Mark and his dedicated team work with retailers across virtually all categories and sizes from independents to large chains.
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  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    Starbucks to close shops for racial bias training

    Sadly, I don’t believe you will ever completely eliminate racial bias – the Starbucks incident is just another example of the deeper societal issues that remain. I applaud Starbucks for their response to the incident, however, this cannot be a once-and-done event. Recruitment and training are both required, but ultimately it comes down to the culture of the company itself. The values that Schultz and his leaders express about the issue seem heart-felt and authentic, but I think the retail industry and society in general still have a long way to go.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Who will fill the retailing void left by Toys ‘R’ Us?

    Toys "R" Us's demise leaves a gaping hole in the toy market. All retailers who currently sell toys will likely see some incremental pick-up as a result, but there is no obvious leader. As the article suggests, struggling retailers like Barnes & Noble could try to expand into toys opportunistically, but I’d be skeptical about this move – this is not a category they know well. What we don’t know yet is whether some entirely new player will enter the market and start to re-build the category. And while the category is large enough to be attractive, I doubt that we will see a major brick-and-mortar pure-play toy retailer of the size and scope of Toys "R" Us for many years, if ever.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Does Walmart need to keep Jet.com around?

    It’s not surprising that Jet.com is taking a back seat to Walmart.com. Part of what Walmart acquired in Jet.com was a team with knowledge and knowhow that Walmart did not possess, and I expect that the Jet.com team will continue to do just that. However, it was never a forgone conclusion that Jet.com would be leading Walmart’s online efforts in the long-term. While the Walmart.com name may not have the cool cachet as Jet.com may with some consumers, ultimately consumer acceptance will come down to the user experience, product mix and service features it offers.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Dyson believes in showroom stores

    Dyson seems to be the Apple of premium vacuums and their high-touch retail concept suits their brand well. I think this strategy works especially well for premium brands, but it could also work for items with lower price points. I believe that we will see more of these concepts in the future, however, I suspect that some of the trepidation regarding this approach is simply related to cost and ROI.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Backstage shops star inside Macy’s

    Macy’s is hooked on the financial lift that Backstage provides – even at the risk of cannibalizing their full-line offerings. Shoppers love discounts, so I would hesitate to call Backstage a wild success – anyone can give product away. That said, there’s no question that Backstage is providing a much needed traffic and revenue bump to Macy’s, but the long-term implications are very uncertain. Given the struggle Macy’s (and department stores) have had it’s not surprising that management is running with the strategy that has delivered a glimmer of success.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Will a mobile game and free pizza combo deliver sales for Domino’s?

    There are so many loyalty programs, just breaking through the clutter is a challenge. Earning points and free products by playing games is an interesting approach that will resonate with some customers -- whether it helps drive new, additional customers is hard to say. I doubt it will be a big win. Simple to understand and meaningful loyalty programs can be an important strategy for virtually any retailer -- complex, meaningless and poorly conceived loyalty programs are distracting and expensive.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    What makes a successful retail CEO?

    Today successful retail CEOs need to be visionaries who embrace change, but can also execute. Having a vision without being able to connect it to operational realities and business results is pointless. While there are many excellent retail CEOs, I submit Brian Cornell, CEO of Target. I think Brian’s approach to people, ability to adapt and innovate and deliver solid results represent many of the characteristics I think retail CEOs should posses.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2018

    Bed Bath & Beyond offers an exchange for Toys ‘R’ Us gift cards

    Toys "R" Us’s demise has created a hole in the market and stranded countless customers with gift cards and a useless gift registry. It’s reasonable and not surprising that other retailers are interested in serving this disenfranchised market. Since moms are likely the main holders of the Toys "R" Us gift cards (perhaps on behalf of their kids) and given the competitive positioning of buybuy Baby, it seems like a sensible move on the part of Bed, Bath & Beyond to try to win these customers over. Whether the program will pay out or not is yet to be seen, but the attempt seems worth the risk.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Amazon Go is a testing lab and a marketing vehicle. It’s important to remember that Amazon is not bound by the same constraints that most retailers are -- like profit or access to capital -- so it can afford to freely test new ideas and concepts regardless of financial viability. I do believe that Go and other retail initiatives by Amazon are intended to find new and even revolutionary ways to serve customers, and to this end the entire industry should be grateful for their efforts. But while Amazon’s initiatives provide inspiration for the industry and push the bounds for what’s possible, I caution retailers from trying to replicate Amazon’s efforts -- they're playing an entirely different game.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2018

    Walgreens focuses on healthcare services in new store format

    Smart move by Walgreens to focus on healthcare services. Walgreens and other drug retailers are realizing that there’s a big opportunity in being part of the health delivery system instead of merely selling products and filling prescriptions. Given the pressure on the healthcare system, I believe that Walgreens and other pharmacy retailers will find this to be a growing and sustainable direction.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2018

    Research ties regular shift schedules to higher retail sales

    Despite the advances made in workforce management technology, staff scheduling remains one of the biggest challenges for retailers – it’s also one of the biggest opportunities. A large part of my work is understanding the impact of staff scheduling on in-store conversion rates and I can say categorically, even some of the most successful retailers are misallocating or misaligning their front-line staff resources. Staffing to traffic is still very much an important principal of effective labor management, however it’s how you staff to traffic that’s the critical insight of this study. Not all staff are equally experienced/skilled or being deployed effectively (i.e. tasking vs. serving customers) -- staff scheduling to traffic without considering conversion rates leads to suboptimal results.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2018

    Retailers can reduce turnover by treating employees like consumers

    There’s no need to over-think this. Retailers can reduce turnover by paying their employees fairly, providing decent benefits and creating a work environment where they can learn, grow and advance. Technology is a helpful enabler, but it’s not a panacea. Ultimately it comes down to creating a culture where employees feel valued and care about what they do.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2018

    Whole Foods cuts local marketing staff

    The changes being made were inevitable and will continue as Whole Foods evolves under Amazon. To think that the original culture and processes would remain unchanged is naïve. Naturally it’s in Amazon’s best interests to maintain as many of the elements that made Whole Foods a success in the first place, but it’s clearly a whole new ball game.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2018

    Has Facebook become toxic for advertisers?

    I don’t believe Facebook’s business model is in danger of breaking down – but this is a bump in the road. Ultimately, advertisers will go where the eyeballs are, and notwithstanding the recent "delete Facebook" movement, I suspect this will pass. Anyone remember Equifax? With more than 2 billion users, I believe this Facebook controversy will blow over, hopefully with some new policies and procedures that make users’ data more secure.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2018

    Should retailers emulate or differentiate from Amazon?

    There’s no question Amazon is pushing the bounds in retailing with what seems to be moon-shots every other quarter. However, traditional retailers need to remember that Amazon generates an enormous amount of its profit from its web services business and therefore can make investments and experiment in ways that most retailers simply cannot -- Amazon Go is a good example. My advice to retailers is to focus on their customers and the unique value proposition they bring to the market. It's sensible to monitor Amazon’s activities (as well as those from other leading retailers and brands that are doing interesting things), but don’t get too carried away trying to replicate or beat Amazon -- they’re playing an entirely different game.

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