Michael La Kier

Principal, What Brands Want, LLC
Michael La Kier has a proven track record in building consumer-loved and shopper-relevant brands by unearthing insights to break new ground, enter new markets and create richer, more profitable relationships. Michael founded What Brands Want, LLC in 2013 as an advisory service to help companies better position and effectively present their offering to brands and consumers. With deep of experience working with some of the world’s best brands – including Coca-Cola, The Food Channel, USA Today and Save the Children – Michael brings a wealth of marketing experience to help a diverse client based ranging from digital and traditional brands to marketing tech startups. For more information, visit:
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Is AI’s impact on demand forecasting more hype than reality?

    What's the old saying? "Garbage in, garbage out." AI’s accuracy requires the right kind of data and the right kind of questions. Given the current margin of error on retail forecasting it's fairly safe to say this is not being handled well by retail today in all cases. For AI to emerge as the driving force in retail demand forecasting it will be important to ensure data from all parties (retailers, manufacturers and other vendors) can be coalesced into one massive data set -- this in and of itself may be too much to handle.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Will a healthier Wawa be a more successful Wawa?

    A retailer making changes in response to changing consumer tastes? Right on! The megatrends Wawa is leaning into will serve them well today and in the future. Healthier, more visually appealing offerings, with an added dose of convenience, can be a winning combo. The key is to ensure that this helps expand the market while not alienating their core audience.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Is Bed Bath & Beyond smart to draw the line on coupons?

    Bed Bath & Beyond is right to move away from generic coupons, but they should transition to more personalized offers to better drive trips and build baskets. They have trained us all to buy on coupon. But they have shortchanged themselves by not doing a better job of requiring consumer info in return. They must move from an everyday coupon strategy to more strategic discounting -- without shopper data this will be hard to do.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Can Walmart beat Amazon, Facebook and Google at the online ad game?

    Saying Walmart's digital ad business is "tiny" should be taken in context. Total 2018 Walmart revenue was $136.3B billion. Amazon ad sales are estimated to be $3 billion, compared to Facebook at $23 billion and Google at $32.6 billion. Clearly, Walmart sees opportunity and wants to add some "Bs" to their bottom line. Simply put, retailer platforms are where the shoppers are -- they own the digital shelf and brands need to take advantage of that (assuming retailers offer accountable results).
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Which data sources should be driving personalization?

    Obtaining first party data to drive personalization is now table stakes. Unfortunately, most brands still don't have a fully thought-out strategy for collecting, vetting and using. E-mail and mobile number/ID are critical as they are the "match points" for many sources. Especially if appending third-party data or using to target across digital channels. But purchase history and engagement activity (email activity, store visits, etc.) are also very important.
  • Posted on: 03/19/2019

    Are Amazon’s private labels falling short or just getting started?

    Calling Amazon private-label brands a "low level of success" when sales are just shy of $1 billion? How many brands or retailers would happily trade places with them? As with most private-label brands, the play is to increase margin and offer shoppers alternatives. There's no doubt that Amazon will get it right over time to create better brands in categories where having a brand will matter.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Can location intelligence provide a lifeline for retailers?

    Here in the U.S. privacy is not as much an issue as in Europe and other countries. That being said, it is becoming more and more a concern and we are likely to have our own version of GDPR shortly (courtesy of California most likely). For retailers and CPG, understanding more about shopper behavior is of significant value. Being able to precisely target people based on their movement and location will open up many opportunities for better communication and a greater chance of driving sales.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Why is shelf management getting short shrift in supermarkets?

    Shelf management is the skulduggery of retail -- it takes hard work to delve into the details and manage effectively on an on-going basis. Yawn! This despite the fact that the majority of sales happen on shelf. Perhaps it's more exciting to negotiate pricing and get trade allowances. Or maybe given that "center store is dying" it's not worth the effort to deal with. It could be that it's just a pain in the ass to reset the shelves often. Regardless, the biggest opportunity in retail - and, perhaps the most bang for your buck - is getting the shelf right (this includes assortment and keeping items in stock). Not sure you need new technology like eye tracking and heat maps as much as getting the shelf fundamentals right by having the right tools to understand real-time data and then planning to optimize.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    What will it take to transform BOPIS ops from just okay to great?

    Initial BOPIS efforts were done to make things easier for the retailer and were almost done begrudgingly. For example, many Walmarts had the in-store pickup located at the back of the store with customer service and their backroom. This meant shoppers had to not only come into the store, but also trudge all the way through the store. Fast forward to today with dedicated lanes and pick up points. Focusing on ease and convenience will be key to make BOPIS work. Integrating with voice and mobile apps will help make this easier.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Are disappointing holiday sales numbers a harbinger of things to come?

    The amount of uncertainty and strife in our government on a daily basis (regardless of your political beliefs or standing) is high. In times like these there is an understandable level of consumer uncertainty which typically leads to more measured consumer spending. So reports of a consumer spending renaissance are likely to be exaggerated and over-reported.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Influencer marketing produces a fuzzy ROI

    Attribution in marketing is difficult, regardless of whether influencer marketing is part of the mix. Historically, the more a medium reaches consumers the easier it has been to measure (think TV and radio); the more a medium engages and asks people to do something, the more difficult. Engagement is a good metric, but it's simply not enough today. Brands should establish metrics to understand the results of influencer marketing from several dimensions, rather than solely relying on reach or engagement.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    While,like everything at retail it is a nuanced problem, compared to Europe and other developed countries we are over-retailed. The U.S. has a higher per capita percentage of commercial real estate devoted to retailing. The appetite for risk for U.S.-based retailers is also greater (i.e. less conservatively managed and higher-leveraged financing). This leaves many retailers more vulnerable to falling sales and economic issues, all at a time when shoppers are shifting a percentage of their buying to online.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    To answer the question succinctly: No. Turning around Sears is not something that is likely given the erosion of trust and their shopper base. Looking to sell the assets is perhaps the best plan.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    Any technology that can make the shopper better (faster, smarter, spend less) will help. At this point, despite widespread penetration of mobile, the use of apps has been limited to, say, the best -- but continues to grow double digits annually. And, while voice household penetration is increasing, the usage within households for grocery shopping is small. I think we are still waiting for that killer app to propel grocery shopping forward, something that layers onto apps and voice to make it more compelling.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Shopper technology opportunities are the focus of FMI Midwinter

    How do you put the genie back in the bottle? How do you get the horses back into the barn? How can grocery recapture share from others? These are questions that have no simple answer, or may not even have an answer. The advice to behave like an innovative company is only half right (and the less important half, in my opinion). The true advice is to operate like a consumer and shopper-obsessed company.

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