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 The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington Post, 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: 10/17/2018

    Eddie Lampert is the worst

    I find it stomach-turning to read all of these analyses in the wake of the filing about "where it all went wrong" and how doing these two or three things would've saved Sears. I think Lampert's only regret is that he couldn't stretch out the charade a few more years and eke a few more dollars out of laying waste to an iconic brand. And that otherwise, this was a plan well-designed and well-executed: how to extract as much value out of Sears as is humanly possible.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2018

    Will comics, movies and music take tween retailer Justice to new heights?

    As the parent of a girl who theoretically just left Justice behind (she's 14), I can tell you that Justice lost her well before 12. I think the idea of entertainment is interesting, I think it's on point for retailers/brands, which need to be more content-driven if they are going to embrace or enable a lifestyle. And all this will help Justice. But the company is completely missing the "nerd" girl, and that segment is getting larger and larger with all of the investment in girls who code and girls in STEM. Ultra Squad sounds like something my daughter might've been interested in at that age, but there's no products in the store that support that affinity - it's all cheerleaders and soccer. So - the idea is good. But it's the execution that counts.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Re:Store concept mixes co-work and co-retail

    I love it!
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Re:Store concept mixes co-work and co-retail

    I think we'll have to come up with a new phrase for these concepts because there are enough of them that I don't think this is just a fad. It's a natural extension of the new retail growth model: start an Instagram brand, find success with a niche, then physically go to the places where your consumers already are. "Retail as a Service"? "Store as a Service"? It's basically taking infrastructure as a service to a whole 'nother level, by including physical retail space, office space, etc. Neighborhood Goods is taking a similar approach with their concept in Plano, as are several other concepts opening (or already open) in New York. Not to mention the department store rush to open marketplaces. None of these have the co-working element, which is an interesting angle, but they all seek to help digital brands transition to the physical world. The question for me is, what does this mean for established brands? These upstarts don't have the scale to compete directly — yet. Should brands reach back into the designer pool and offer space for new up-and-coming designers as a way to prevent them from becoming future competitors? Should they apply their own curation expertise to open similar "Store as a Service" services? I don't know what the answer is, but I know one thing: they should not ignore this.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Will foodie culture save the mall?

    Food halls are the wave of the future. I think they've grown up in a world of "third spaces" competing for attention and dollars. Traditional malls suffer from the lack of variety and the vibrancy that comes from smaller vendors that might change out more frequently, but they also suffer from a design that is there to force people to move around, rather than hang out. Funny thing -- if you make your space comfortable and vibrant and encourage people to hang out, they might just come more often!
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Will the Birchbox/Walgreens pilot deliver beautiful results?

    My answer: No. What is Birchbox thinking? "Our mission of reaching an underserved customer who doesn't prioritize beauty"? How is that a desirable customer for Birchbox? I can see the angle for Walgreens, but for Birchbox, things must be more desperate than they seem. It's very easy to go down-market, and moving from a position of selling $30-$50 mascara to sitting inside a store that sells $8 mascara is definitely going down-market. But once you're there, it's nearly impossible to reclaim the high ground. For the low-end shopper, there's no way they're going to spend at a level that is going to be profitable for Birchbox. For the high-end shopper, if she's going to drop $40 on mascara, you really think she's going to seek out Walgreens for that experience?
  • Posted on: 09/27/2018

    Will Amazon disrupt retail again with its new 4-star store concept?

    This is brilliant. Products curated by consumer input and some hefty data analytics. In a recent (rare) interview, Bezos claimed that Amazon is not a data company. He doth protest too much. Amazon is totally a data company, and this is evidence of both consuming it and gathering more of it, in ways retailers should be watching. The only caveat to all of this is, there does have to be some cohesiveness to the assortment. I don't think this will have long-term appeal if it's just a bunch of random stuff on shelves. The commonality of being highly-rated doesn't seem strong enough to hold a story together, when it comes to having the store "speak" to consumers.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2018

    Are big box retailers going too small with new store concepts?

    Having the right assortment in a smaller store is key to making the format work, but I don't know that this is really possible. The whole point of a big box format is to be all things to all people. If you cut some assortment (as you will have to), you may find it becomes a lose-lose situation. That said, the trend to smaller footprints isn't going to go away - retailers' sales per square foot has been falling since 2007, and by some analyses have barely started to come back. This makes large store economics very difficult - and that's not going to change any time soon.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2018

    Nike expects sales to take off with launch on Jet.com

    Yesterday we had the discussion related to whether Amazon could successfully go downmarket. Today, this is the reverse: can Walmart go upmarket? Is Jet.com the path to upmarket for Walmart? It increasingly looks like it is. It's clear that higher-end brands still see a big stigma attached to selling through Walmart, as the recent flap over outdoor brands demonstrated. But with Jet Black and some of the other things that Walmart has done with the brand, it seems like Jet.com has escaped that stigma. So, I go back to what Nike fundamentally is: a brand. While they have made enormous investments in stores and reaching directly to consumers, ultimately, any channel where they sell Nike is going to at least accrue sales directly to Nike. Whether that's good for the brand or not -- well, that was why Nike decided to engage with Amazon in the first place, to try to get them to be more active against counterfeiters. In the end, I think Nike's partnership with Jet.com both benefits from Walmart's efforts to make it upscale and lends credibility to those efforts.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    Would you believe older men with lower incomes are the new drivers of online sales growth?

    Well, one behavior identified in the research was that these new shoppers are not naturally attracted to Amazon -- they're much more focused on value and I expect brands that are more familiar to them from a direct shopping experience, like Walmart (though I was surprised to see Wish as the #2 on the list of benefiting from these new shoppers). The challenge with this (yes, demographically defined) segment is that it, to be blunt, is not a growth segment. But it is one that has needs that someone will figure out how to profitably serve. And to Chris's point, there will be a lot of different interests and behaviors within the demographic -- it is by no means a monolithic segment. But there is one defining behavior of this group: they have only started shopping online in the last two years. So if you think they know what a "hamburger" in the top left corner of a screen is, or if they understand what PayPal or BillMeLater is, or even what the Verisign seal means, you're probably making some mistakes. That, to me, was the biggest take-away: there's value here, but it's going to make you rethink how you sell online -- and honestly, in a way that will probably benefit all shoppers.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2018

    People don’t like being lumped into marketing segments

    I second Neil. Behaviors and interests -- and context -- are much more important than demographics. Trendwatchers talks about the current age being one of "post-demographics," where making assumptions about what people want because of their zip code or marital status leads to marketing fails more often than successes, and I agree. However, I don't think the answer is to toss out demographics entirely, or somehow try to skip to the end and jump straight to "individualization." We're not THAT unique, when it comes down to it -- there are many common interests and behaviors. And once you find some commonalities, then you can use demographics as a way to try to find more people "like them." The most important thing is context -- what is the shopper trying to achieve? If you can identify that, and speak to it, they're not going to care if the message was crafted uniquely for them, but it might just feel that way.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2018

    Macy’s expands in-store pop-up concept with Facebook’s help

    From what I gather about the partnership, Facebook is using its data to identify brands that are popular on its platform, and then bringing those brands to Macy's to be included in the physical Market space. Facebook's data, Macy's physical infrastructure. If two data points makes a trend, then this is a trend, because Kohl's has also announced a partnership with POPSUGAR, to do basically the same thing: take fashion trends identified by POPSUGAR (a media brand) on its digital properties, and use that data to inform the assortment made available in Kohl's physical infrastructure. I see this as "one of these things is not like the others" when put in comparison with the other tech investments that Macy's is making. In the Facebook case, they are effectively outsourcing the data and the analysis, and when it comes to understanding customers and what they want, for a retailer to outsource that is never a good thing.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    What will a ‘new standard for green retail’ mean for Starbucks’ results?

    I just read a great article on Vox about how the utilities are looking at consumer perception of renewables ("Utilities have a problem: the public wants 100% renewable energy, and quick"). So it's tempting to say, yeah, Starbucks is definitely on trend with this one. However, I find that aspirations run into reality really fast. For example, even today, I am still confounded by what I'm supposed to put in the "recycling" half of the trash can and what goes to landfill at a Starbucks, and I've stood behind many other customers also trying to figure that out, so I know I'm not alone! Goals are great, because they provide focused attention, but I think there also needs to be attention placed on how to jolt consumers themselves out of habitual behavior, like straws, and single-stream trash, and expecting arctic air conditioning plus open doors. Reality is not so cut-and-dried as goals, and it's consumer behavior that's just as important as corporate investments, when it comes to environmental impact: if Starbucks really wants to have impact, they should train us consumers on how to be more impactful in our behavior -- that will reach far wider than even 10,000 stores.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2018

    Is mobile the most disruptive force in retail since online selling began?

    I think you have to scope that down from the general "mobile technology" to smartphones in particular. Mobile's been around for a long time. But it didn't hit retailers' radar really until Amazon launched their price check app in 2010. From my corner of the world, retailers' response to that was pretty much panic in the streets -- mobile was a skunkworks team inside the e-commerce team up until that point, but became a real effort after Amazon quickly racked up $1 billion in sales through mobile. And we're really still not at the inflection point for the impact mobile will have on retail. When 5G comes, it will be a game-changer -- for consumers' use of mobile, but also for retailers' use of it. We've seen a lot of behavior changes from consumers already, but it will be nothing compared to when mobile browsing is as fast and effortless -- and in some cases faster and even more effortless -- than a desktop experience.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2018

    Gap CEO says retailers not turning in-store data into action

    I have to equivocate here. I think retailers are already talking about it. They've been TALKING about it for years. But it's not like you can just flip a switch and "start collecting in-store data." It's a lot more complicated than that. I think the real problem with in-store data is that it costs a lot to get it, and get it reliably across the store estate. But even as retailers can talk about "$200 million yearly" in top-line benefit, there is little willingness to make the investments to capture that.

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