Nikki Baird

VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
Nikki Baird is the vice president of Retail Innovation at Aptos, a retail enterprise solution provider. She is charged with accelerating retailers’ ability to innovate. She has been a top global retail industry influencer for several years, with a background in retail and technology. She is a regular contributor to and has been quoted as a retail subject matter expert in <i>The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington Post</i>, and National Public Radio, among many others. Nikki brings perspective from all sides of the retail technology equation: she has been an industry analyst for nearly fifteen years, co-founding Retail Systems Research, the premier boutique analyst firm focused on the retail industry. Prior to co-founding RSR, Nikki was an analyst at both Forrester Research and Retail Systems Alert Group, where she covered retail industry and technology topics. Prior to that, she was director of marketing for StorePerform, a store execution management software provider, and director of product marketing for Viewlocity, a supply chain software provider focusing on adaptive supply chain execution and exception management. Nikki came to Viewlocity from PwC Consulting, now IBM Global Services, where as a senior manager she led IT strategy consulting engagements for retail and CPG clients. Nikki has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, focusing on operations and IT. She also holds a bachelor of arts in political science and Russian, with a minor in physics, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2022

    How will grocers react to Instacart’s expanded digital ad network?

    I think this is ultimately a bad move for Instacart. Now they are moving from being a service that makes a retailer more accessible to consumers, to competing directly with those retailers. Albertsons just announced their media network, for example. They'll be competing for the same dollars. As a retailer trying to decide if you should build your own delivery service or partner with someone like Instacart, this could definitely push them over to deciding to build their own and keep Instacart out as much as possible. The money is in brand advertising, coop and trade funds -- as soon as other companies try to take a bite into that budget, you can be assured that retailers will take that seriously.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2022

    Are perks the secret to associate job retention at retail?

    As I watch my 17-year-old daughter's journey through retail employment, I'm struck by a few things in this regard. She's certainly not 100% representative of every retail employee, but as retailers open up to more younger employees, I have to say it feels like retailers have completely lost touch with what it's like to be a teen employee. What she really wants out of her part time job is, as noted, a solid discount, a "fun" work environment -- as work takes a bite out of her social life (yes, I'm rolling my eyes too), she expects work to be almost as much fun and engaging as she would have on her own. I think she would be thrilled to rack up a long-term bonus that could be counted as a scholarship or money towards college. But other than that, what has the greatest impact on her motivation is when she has a bad/mean manager and/or when a non-productive coworker is not being held accountable. So my advice is, before you run off and throw a bunch of "popular" or trendy perks at employees, make sure you're blocking and tackling on the basics of managing a team and the team's productivity. Then make sure you focus on adding in perks that your employees actually value.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2022

    December retail sales were strong, no matter what the clickbait headlines said

    UGH! What does it take to kill this "month over month" thing in retail? That has never had any meaning, ever, and yet whenever there is an opportunity to use it to say something negative it gets splashed everywhere. This year's holiday season was AMAZING. Even better than 2019, at least among our customers. This month over month stuff has to be killed - killed as dead as the idea of spinning off dot-com businesses to "unlock value"!
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    Are brand and product messages in conflict?

    I think this reflects the pressure being driven by consumers' switch to digital as their preferred way to initially interact with a brand, especially in a retail context. It wasn't that long ago that the store was considered the main ambassador of brand, whether talking about the retailer's brand or a product brand featured under the retailer's roof. You came to the store, you tried or bought and brought home to try, and that experience engendered trust in the brand. That's all flipped on its head now. You learn about the brand online, develop trust, and then when you see it in a physical retail setting you have the trust to buy and try. That means brands need to lead with the brand story online, and use it to transition customers into product interest. It certainly isn't either/or, but the order presented to new customers is important - if you hit them with all product messages and then try to say "and we're a good company with strong values," that's not going to resonate. You have to be a personality online, use that personality to create engagement, which is where consumers give you permission to introduce product messages. Violate consumer trust by being too product-forward, and you'll lose them.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    I feel like this survey blended/confused the ideas of BOPIS, BOPAC, and home delivery in weird ways. And there is always the warning that you can look at what consumers SAY, but then you must also look at what consumers DO. December was a blockbuster month for BOPIS - for our customers, it was the largest volume of BOPIS orders both in terms of absolute dollar value and in percentage of overall fulfillment ever. It's important to keep in mind that customer preference for BOPIS is also highly dependent on inventory availability (as in, if you've hit a holiday shipping cutoff for the website, your only option to get something is to pick it up in-store), and that this preference for BOPIS will vary throughout the year depending on things like shipping cutoffs.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2022

    Will 15-minute cities truly bring back local retail?

    As someone who lives in the western U.S., where the space is available to create communities like this from scratch, of course it's interesting - it's an important antidote to senseless suburban sprawl. I think the better, harder question is, how do you bring that model to places where that suburban sprawl has already happened? It's easy to start from scratch. Much harder to retrofit - and that's where the real impact will be. Retailers are already thinking about this model - think Nordstrom Local. The only question there is, is the net effect still positive if retailers have to ship more inventory around in order to reach into these 15-minute communities when they can't just drop a big box there?
  • Posted on: 01/06/2022

    Is retail ready for the phygital future?

    We've all contemplated these questions for a long time, about how to bring digital more firmly into the store experience. Even before the pandemic, there were equal parts of "this is a gimmick in stores" that quickly loses luster and is impossible to keep fresh, alongside "the current store experience just isn't going to cut it" - even if they did invest to make it what even the bare minimum in-store physical experience should be. My current thinking is that retailers need to look at things that add value to BOTH physical and digital, rather than trying to force the two together. Virtual closets could be a good example of that, where the digital representation of your purchases adds value to your online shopping as a customer, but could also seriously enhance the in-store purchase where you could see the new item side by side with the virtual one you own. And then the retailer would need to continuously invest in building on the value that capability could provide - build my daily outfit or something like that. I know virtual closets have been "done" already, but they weren't retailer provided and they required a LOT of effort on the part of the consumer to set one up. It's not a perfect example - still thinking about this - but rather than think about blending digital and physical into this "phygital" thing, what we need to do is think about the things that are differentiating and valuable about physical, and digital, and a third category that can cross over between the two. Acknowledge that there are things worth keeping in both digital and physical that are unique to those experiences, but find ways to enhance both at the same time.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Are Albertsons and Tesco too late for the retail media party?

    It's not ever going to be too late for a large retailer to add a media opportunity to their offering to brands. I think where companies like Tesco and Albertsons can differentiate from Amazon is in the more collaborative approach they can take - that this is part of a whole package that meets mutual objectives, rather than just another transaction. And it seems like this kind of more collaborative relationship is more what the brands are looking for anyway.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2021

    Is the Great Resignation really about quitting the rat race?

    There are always two sides to every resignation - what the new opportunity is, and what the employee is leaving behind. If an employee sees that there is continuing opportunity at their current employer, then it'll always be difficult to wedge them out of the current job. But if they see no future where they are, then just the fact that a new opportunity pays a little better or has a little more flexibility could be enough to send them out the door. Everyone is paying attention to the new opportunities and the rising wages, but there are still plenty of stories, especially in front line retail, of terrible managers doing horrible things to employees out of some mistaken perception that they can get away with it. And now they can't. And that should always be front of mind when considering the "Great Resignation."
  • Posted on: 12/09/2021

    Will consumers ever get over the price hurdle for sustainable goods?

    First of all, you have to take a huge grain of salt alongside any surveys based on what consumers SAY they will do, because they often will say things that make them feel good about themselves, but then do something completely different at the shelf. But aside from that, I don't think price is necessarily the biggest issue. I don't think you can separate "price" from "effectiveness" or "equivalency." With the "green" cleaning supplies, it doesn't matter if they cost less or the same if they don't work as well or you have to use a lot more in order to get the job done, for example. It's not just about price, it's about what the price pays for. In the supplier/retailer collaboration on finding the right price point to get consumers to buy, you can't ignore the equivalency aspect.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2021

    Does this activist investor know what’s best for Kohl’s?

    Anyone proposing this kind of split is just a vulture circling over a limping zebra, much as Lampert circled Sears. Companies' ability to resist this pressure is wholly dependent on presenting an alternative vision - the one thing that won't happen in all of these situations is the status quo.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2021

    Did Cyber Monday hit its peak in 2020?

    A local peak happened in 2020 - it will take some time to catch back up to that level along the lines of organic (rather than pandemic-driven) growth. I will be curious to see if December continues to show slower growth in online - and how much of it is driven by consumers worried already that they may not be able to get things shipped in time. I know I bought things last year after Black Friday that, because of USPS slowdowns, didn't arrive until New Year's. I have an Etsy seller in my family who said this year was down 45 percent vs. last year - she sells mostly Christmas decorations, and we thought it may be that people are spending more on travel instead, so this may be something where we need to look at spending holistically, and not just on retail goods, to find the answers...
  • Posted on: 11/02/2021

    Does Macy’s or Best Buy have a better approach to gift cards?

    Offering gift cards like what Blackhawk offers is more akin to renting out floor space and taking a cut than it is anything to do with gifting, competitive or otherwise. I don't really see Best Buy as a destination for gift card shopping, even as I have gone to Target or my local grocery store to pick up a restaurant or a Playstation gift card as a last minute gift. For Best Buy in particular, it's almost an impulse purchase kind of buy. And it ignores the rise of digital gifting. I feel like all of those displays of gift cards are more anachronism than trend. While it's always nice to have something physical, especially for kids, the reality is it's far easier to buy a gift card online and print it out than it is to go anywhere to physically get one. I think those gift card towers are going to go the way of the change machines and carpet cleaner rentals - still there, but dusty and mostly forgotten, making just enough money that it's not worth getting rid of them.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2021

    What’s really behind Facebook’s rebrand to Meta?

    I think Zuckerberg has long had "metaverse" ambitions, so I don't think this move is one designed just to disrupt negative press. However I could totally see how the timing was likely moved up in order to try to counteract all the current negative press. I just have to point out that in the world of metaverses, Facebook seems more like IOI than Oasis. For you Ready Player One fans. I don't think anyone has any illusions (beyond Zuck himself) that Meta is in this for the benefit of humanity.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Is Amazon 4-Star a winner?

    Amazon opened one in Denver early on. It has the potential to have a key ingredient for keeping a store fresh: changing what's featured and bringing in/taking out products from an enormous potential selection. But the store in Denver is in a mall - a mall I haven't been in since at least March of 2020. So that's something to keep in mind: Amazon opened these stores across a variety of types of locations, and that may be part of the experiment. But the experiment was seriously disrupted over the last year and a half. As a result, I don't think there's anything "set" about 4-Star at all.

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