PROFILE

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 Forbes.com 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.
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  • Posted on: 06/21/2021

    How should (and shouldn’t) retailers honor Juneteenth?

    I think Gen Z and Millennials are savvy enough now that they want to see retailers put their money where their mouths are. I could very well see this holiday becoming a combination of sales bonanza and reflection - where retailers are held to account not just for Juneteenth offers but for how they have invested and supported Black-owned businesses and the community throughout the year. Pride Month is leading the way - the first week of June was full of memes calling out companies that wrap themselves in rainbow flags at the beginning of June but do absolutely nothing else the rest of the year. Consumers are too savvy - an approach that recognizes disadvantaged communities only in the moment isn't going to work for much longer.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2021

    Is Netflix about to replicate Disney’s product merchandising success?

    I've lived through this in a past life with Nickelodeon/Viacom Retail Group. Retail is not for the faint of heart! For studios, you have to have someone in charge who understands the strategic nature of the investment. Otherwise there will always be an enormous amount of pressure to trade the slim margins of retail for the more lucrative licensing business. The limited nature of Netflix's offering - "get it now or it's gone forever" - is intriguing as a way to potentially shake up that dynamic.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

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

    That last comment from Natural Grocers is the one that I think is the most important, about no one doing drop-in shopping during the pandemic. Averages can hide a lot of variability and big basket sizes during the pandemic might have been some reflection of not eating out, but it was also a reflection of wanting to only expose yourself to the grocery store one time per week max. Already with full vaccination under the belt and a loosening of restrictions, I'm seeing many more "hey will you run to the grocery store and pick up X" trips in my household, where before we were asking ourselves "is it worth it to get COVID-19 just for X?" As for long-term shifts, I just read an article about how many of the behavior shifts that happened during the pandemic will not return to pre-pandemic levels. Working out was one. Eating out was another - consumers will return to it, but also are keeping hobbies and activities from the pandemic that they enjoy, and cooking for yourself turns out to be one of them. So it seems wise to plan that nothing will return to pre-pandemic levels, but also that nothing will stick around at pandemic levels either.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2021

    Best Buy puts multi-taskers to work

    Inevitable. Retailers, whether through Wall Street pressure or their own short-term decisions at the expense of long-term thinking, have tried to cut their way to growth for far too long. You can't grow by closing stores or cutting employee hours or trying to staff stores with unskilled workers to keep wages low. It's time for retailers to re-learn that skilled workers who don't have to juggle three jobs make far more effective workers - driving sales, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, customer loyalty and lifetime value.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2021

    Is retail going to the ‘doges’ with cryptocurrency?

    With the IRS also saying that they think they're going to treat cryptocurrencies as property rather than currency, which significantly changes the tax treatment (I don't know exactly how, except that the traders are very against it so it must be bad..?), I just can't see this being anything other than maybe hoping to get a stock bump from Robinhood traders who also are deep into crypto. As a percent of tender, I can't believe this is anything other than literally a rounding error. However, I just saw a tweet from Aldi making fun of all this after a signage error that listed something at the original price, BPS 7,000, marked down to 79 pence. You can find it by searching "Aldi dogecoin tweet." That pretty much sums up the risk of accepting crypto, if it does eventually become a larger portion of payment.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2021

    Do micro distribution points (AKA stores) give Petco an edge over Chewy and Amazon?

    I see more and more retailers - especially with a widespread store base - turning to stores as fulfillment centers. Not only does it provide an opportunity to be faster simply because the inventory is closer, but it provides flexibility in leveraging the store as a pickup point. I know it's the most expensive real estate in the chain for holding inventory, but given the lack of available warehousing space and also the earlier and earlier cutoff dates for expedited shipping during holiday rushes, I think smart retailers can turn that expensive real estate into both fast service levels for consumers and profit in charging expedited rates for inventory that won't have to actually be expedited to reach the consumer in time.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2021

    What are the greatest pain points for mobile checkout?

    The point about employees is especially spot on, because they are often expected to be the first line of help desk - and often are never trained on how to provide that kind of help. If you could provide that kind of help without the pressure of a line behind you ("set up your quick pay here!"), that could yield an enormous amount of uptake. Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come - retailers do need to put some effort into getting customers to use it, and store employees are an important part of that.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2021

    Will TikTok-driven customer traffic break Starbucks’ baristas?

    One question: Frustrating or not, are these creations profitable? It's one thing if the customizations end up costing more than the price of the drink, it's another thing entirely if everybody is still getting paid. I've seen some of these "drinks" cost $80-$100 by the time all is said and done. A little bit of training on how to handle a customer who could be annoying to the barista (and also other customers in line), and I would think companies should be able to make everyone at least capable of managing the situation. And at $100 each, I gotta think this is a fad, not a trend...
  • Posted on: 05/13/2021

    How high can thredUP grow?

    I think the number of full price retailers who have partnered with ThredUP, like J.C. Penney and Macy's even, point to how much the company is disrupting the industry. But I am still skeptical on how easy it will be to become profitable. I would be interested to learn more about how they go about deciding how to pay customers who sell their clothes to ThredUP - the handling costs are always going to be high and difficult to bring down. So their ability to make money is going to be dependent mostly on how much they have to pay to get clothes, and how much they can really do to get a better price from consumers in resale. The more efficient they get, the more it encourages people to participate as a seller - oversupply could end up keeping prices depressed.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2021

    Are brands and retailers defining authenticity on their own terms or consumers’?

    If you have to "try" or "have a strategy" for authenticity, then by definition you're not being very authentic. For me, integrity is the most important of the list. You have to operate from a very solid alignment to what you stand for as a brand - and you better stand for more than just "great prices" or even "great products." Brands need to stand for something more, something that does tie back to their products, and then they need to live it and breathe it and bleed it from top to bottom. If you do that, you don't need to "try" to be authentic. Anything less than that, consumers will sniff out in a heartbeat.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Are consumers getting less creeped out about being tracked online?

    I think ignorance is bliss. When it is a direct value proposition, like, I want to track your browsing behavior on my site so that I can make you better offers, I think most people are fine - as long as the retailer delivers on the "better" part. When you get smacked in the face with the cold reality of someone like Facebook tracking you everywhere, all the time - I thought I was immune and resigned when it came to giving up my privacy, but I have to say, I'm more than happy to revoke permissions from a company not only because they are asking for way too much, but also because they have repeatedly shown that they abuse that data by allowing companies to target racists or to be racist in their targeting, or to drive thousands if not millions of people down disinformation and conspiracy rabbit holes through targeted content. Personalization on the small scale - I think that's what most consumers think is happening. When they get faced with the reality of everything, everywhere, all the time, I think Facebook is right to fear the reaction to that.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2021

    Toms finds one-for-one charitable model doesn’t add up for its business

    The risk in cause marketing - especially the kind that you have made essential to your brand - is that you come off as whitewashing at best or hypocritical at worst. The challenge operationally with cause marketing is actually reaching to where you want to have the most impact - and it sounds like this is exactly what Toms ran into. One for one was easy to say, hard to do. This more generic giving message is harder to get across but easier to do. I get that sending shoes to the shoeless might not be as much of a priority to those buying the shoes if they believe things like systemic racism or climate change are bigger issues that need more attention. But purely from a branding perspective, Toms now has moved from someone staking out real ground to someone who sounds just like everyone else. It's more impactful to do the hard thing, and I feel like Toms could've put more effort into the shift to keep at least some element of the direct part of what they do.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Will climate action become less of a priority for retail post-pandemic?

    So interesting! I had Jamie Dimon top of mind when I was thinking about the question. Always good to see other data points!
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Will climate action become less of a priority for retail post-pandemic?

    There's a third actor in play that I think will ultimately have more power than governments or consumers to keep change rolling at retailers: the financial industry. I think now that investment researchers and firms have started to take notice and price sustainability awareness and actions into stock price guidance, you will see more focus on climate initiatives, and more discussion about it at an executive and board level. So far, consumers have been the biggest driver with their support and rapid rise of brands built on sustainability. The pandemic has underscored that importance, not eroded it. Now U.S. government leadership is climbing back into the saddle on a global stage, so government requirements could ratchet up, but I expect that won't be as fast as it needs to be. So it'll be investment firms who punish or reward climate plans in the markets that will ultimately have the most impact in the near-term.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2021

    Will Bed Bath & Beyond achieve its omni-always dream with its latest digital-first moves?

    I must have a very different definition of "omni-always" than Bed Bath & Beyond, because in my definition, I would not be talking about "growing my digital business" or "reimagined stores." I would be talking about the customer experience. Period.

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