PROFILE

Nikki Baird

VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos

Nikki Baird is Managing Partner of Retail Systems Research. Formerly, Nikki was a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where she covered extended retail industry topics like supply chain, RFID, retail operations, POS, and in-store management.

Most recently, she was director of marketing for StorePerform, a store execution management software provider, now RedPrairie. Prior to that, Nikki was 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: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    I think recognition can help. I recently read an article about the circular problem of getting women on boards. Boards want people who have board experience, but if you don't get on that first board, you never get access to the opportunity. Men somehow have these opportunities and are considered "less risky" for that first board position while women are somehow not. So I think recognizing women who are doing great things in an industry is not pandering or condescending -- at a minimum it is tackling an awareness issue. Supposedly we women are terrible at self-promotion, which is why we get overlooked for opportunities like boards. Part of the solution is to lessen the importance of self-promotion (if you're seeking empathy or humility in your organization, rewarding self-promotion seems like an odd way to get that). The other part of the solution is to recognize the good work that women are doing, who might otherwise have remained invisible. I just saw Frank Blake speak at the Aptos user conference yesterday. He said "Recognition is free fuel for the company. It costs you nothing to recognize people, but the benefits you get from it can fuel an organization for a very long time." So, Warren, personally, I appreciate how much thought you've given the topic. But (also personally because I'm not going to claim to speak for all women) I don't think it's harming women to recognize them. I believe Stephen King once wrote that in general language usage, the bias has been to say "he" for so long, that he could say "she" for the rest of his life and never even make a dent in making up for that bias. But that wasn't going to stop him from trying....
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Backstage shops star inside Macy’s

    I have, but my impression of it was, it's fancy branding of what would normally just be their clearance section. I sort of wonder if branding it like that gives them an opportunity to discount at a shallower rate -- kind of the outlet mall effect, where people perceive a great deal because you told them it was great deal, when it really wasn't that great. But the section I saw (and maybe they hadn't gotten around to sprucing it up any in this particular store) looked just as trashed and trashy as any clearance section out there. Definitely not something I would've said "enhanced" the Macy's brand by any stretch.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Is product discovery now the biggest pain point for mobile buys?

    I sometimes find myself putting off researching a purchase because I don't have my laptop in front of me. There are some things I'm willing to buy on my mobile because I know exactly what I want and there aren't a lot of choices to wade through to find it. But when I want to really browse -- like when buying shoes for example -- I opt to use my computer rather than my phone because it's just a much richer experience. I think AI can help streamline selection, but I would caution against forcing consumers to use it. Just because they're on mobile doesn't mean they want an enormous amount of hand-holding (never assume!). When I'm in "browsing" mode, I don't want to feel like someone (or some technology) has already down-selected my choices for me, without any direct input. That's part of why I go to the desktop experience in the first place, because I can see so many more options and feel good that I have explored all of the options that I might've been interested in. I don't trust "the machine" to make that judgement for me -- definitely not yet.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Can Nordstrom’s full-line men’s store make it in Manhattan?

    Well, my husband would certainly be willing to go there, if we lived in Manhattan. He's always complaining about men's departments that are half the size of women's (I would point out that he buys clothes about half as often as I do, but that's not something I would particularly want to draw attention to). The thing is, Manhattan is a special beast. It's good that Nordstrom is paying attention to the peculiarities and demands of a local market, rather than trying to be everything to everyone everywhere. Things like $20 curbside pickup 24/7 might have critical mass to be successful in Manhattan, but just might not be worthwhile anywhere else. So I'm not sure that what eventually works there will really work well anywhere else -- but at least Nordstrom is experimenting and trying.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Will micro-designers disrupt fast-fashion giants?

    Maybe I'm missing something, but this just sounds like Etsy to me. Or try any local craft show or farmer's market. I mean, I've seen the t-shirt customizing services in the mall -- the printers to do that at mass scale used to be high five-figure, six-figure expenses and now they're like $10,000. So I get that the technology costs of "small batch" are making it possible to produce larger batch sizes than a few at a time, which gives the artisans more reach in a way, because they have more inventory to sell. But the story of the benefits are the same as they've always been ---I feel like this is a big industry rediscovering something they had consigned to the dustbin and now suddenly realized it's still thriving.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2018

    Retailers push to onboard tech talent

    On one level, I agree with you. I'm concerned about that too, that retailers should not be reinventing the internet in order to feel like they are offering something "differentiating." We've all seen that mentality play out to the harm of retail more than once. On the other hand, though, can you even sell a product today without technology? Heck, my mom is an Etsy seller who has stopped going to local craft shows, because she makes more money online with less work. So you kind of have to be a technology company to be in retail today. And it's that transformation -- from buying and selling goods to "enabling experiences" (usually on some kind of technology platform) -- that is disrupting the industry. If all you value is buying and selling products, you're playing the wrong game in retail today.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2018

    Retailers push to onboard tech talent

    Yes, and yes. Retailers are behind the curve (except in e-commerce) because for the most part it has been about maintaining aging systems rather than investing in modern technology. And yes, I think they do face challenges attracting talent, because they will get out-bid -- I mean, retailers have wanted and have been looking for data scientists forever, but have chosen not to pay market rates (competing with the likes of investment banking firms) to get them. From my corner of the world, there seems to be a big push towards investing in microservices. That's not so much new tech skills or development languages, but it is definitely a new way of thinking. I actually think it will be harder for existing tech resources to change than it will be to find new resources capable of delivering on this latest round of tech strategy and architecture.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Walmart is focused on expanding its digital brand portfolio

    I think there are two parts to Walmart's strategy. One part is, as others have noted, a "catch up" strategy. Jet.com and Parcel seem to fit into that. But I thought at the time and I continue to believe that you have to look at these acquisitions in terms of capabilities. Moosejaw has mobile capabilities that has made it the envy of the industry. Modcloth has user-generated content like almost no one I've seen. What will be more important to watch, for the future, is whether Walmart is able to leverage those capabilities into other offerings. I haven't seen much about Allswell (I'll have to check it out). Does it use Jet.com's pricing algorithms? Bonobos's showroom strategies? Modcloth's user-generated loyalty? If the answers are "yes" then I feel like I can give Walmart credit for having a coherent strategy. If the answer is "no" -- as in, none of the acquired capabilities are really making it into new offerings -- then, yeah, this is a shotgun approach to competing with Amazon, and I have big doubts about whether that will really pay off for Walmart in the end.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2018

    Should retailers emulate or differentiate from Amazon?

    I think "they're both right" is the right answer to the question. You have to meet the minimum bar of customer expectations and, like it or not, Amazon is the one setting that bar right now. So in that sense, you can't ignore them. But you can't win by just emulating them, either. Amazon's retail operations don't have to turn a profit, and you do. That means if all you do is try to copy fast, you'll run out of money sooner than later. Retailers need to find ways to do things that Amazon may never do well, for example, provide excellent customer service. The hard part about that is doing that in a way where customers are willing to pay a premium for it.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2018

    Segmentation is central to Nike’s success

    I think it depends on a lot of things. One, you have to make sure that your segments are big enough to be helpful in thinking about how to service them -- distinct from other segments. But you also have to be careful that your segments are not so big that you are aggregating too much and hiding important distinctions. There's also something to be said about the human capacity for remembering lists or groups -- if you've got more than seven, then it's going to be difficult for people in the organization to remember the segments in order to be able to use them in any meaningful way. Segments also evolve. Especially when you have an age attached to the profile in the segment, you have to think about what happens when that profile "ages out" of the segment. What happens to that 30-year-old weekend runner when she hits 40? Retailers and brands should have at least some lifecycle thinking about milestones that consumers hit and how that impacts how they see themselves and which segment they really belong in. Finally, there's a big difference between actual segments and strategic segments. J.C. Penney in the Ron Johnson era is a classic example of how not understanding the importance of both -- and balancing that importance -- can be catastrophic. J.C. Penney had an actual segment of women shoppers that was older and less well-off than the strategic segment that Johnson wanted to target. That's all well and good, but among the many things that went wrong during that attempted transformation, they lost way too many actual segment shoppers too fast, without having gained the trust of the new, strategic segment shoppers. So -- segments are good. They are a great way for companies to talk about consumers and develop a shared understanding of who these consumers are and what they seek from the brand. But they can go desperately wrong, too, if companies aren't careful about how they use them.
  • Posted on: 03/19/2018

    Partnership gives a free Lyft to pharmacy customers

    I'm not sure that this so much about Lyft as it is about services in general. Yes, you could get Rxs delivered to your home, but especially in underserved areas or "transportation deserts" (a new one I hadn't heard before), the pharmacy may be the first level of health care help. I think (so long as the pharmacies are delivering on the expectation) that making it possible for customers to come in and talk to a pharmacist in person is a good thing, beyond the cynical expectation that they may spend money in the rest of the store while they're there. I have to give credit to CVS especially, for walking the walk when it comes to their commitment to customer health. If they're offering free rides in transportation deserts, it makes you wonder if the people they're serving aren't also living in food deserts. A trip to a store offering healthy food to go with that Rx may benefit CVS -- but it could honestly benefit its customers too. That's how it should work.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2018

    Consumers say gender roles have changed. Why hasn’t advertising?

    I think there are a lot of different dynamics at play. One, there are a lot of tropes that are easy to tap into. You've got 30 seconds or less to tell a story, to grab interest, to establish a connection. Tropes and stereotypes are very easy ways to "offload" some of the effort that has to go into telling the story or making the connection by tapping into roles that people already understand well. The problem is, we're in a period where a lot of those tropes are evolving, fast. They're starting to look very long in the tooth. You can respond to this by fighting it - by complaining, by listening to consumers who want to politicize the shifts (which are generationally driven, not politically driven). Or you can be an early adopter and actually gain attention by running counter to the trope - breaking through the noise, at least in the short term. It's those early adopters that start the trend, and I think we're starting to see the evolution now. Cultural norms usually take a long time to change, but I would look to Millennials and Gen Z behind them before assuming this one has not reached a tipping point. We may already be there.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2018

    No more playing around – Toys ‘R’ Us is out of the retail game

    Ah, the end of the toy jail. The entire financial side of the business is completely the reason why they failed, no arguments there. Retailer MUST invest to keep up with the transformation disrupting the industry. The only thing I'll add is that it is striking, when you walk into a Toys "R" Us today, just how bad of an experience it is -- just how much consumer expectations have evolved from what used to be a totally successful model. If nothing else, the last days of the company should serve as a reminder to everyone exactly what's at stake if you don't change.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2018

    What does Ring mean for Amazon?

    I think the relationship with Key is a side benefit, not the driver. This is about wiring up consumers' homes with sensors, and providing services using those sensors to further lock consumers in to a relationship with Amazon. Key is one such potential service, but it's not the only one, and I have a hard time believing it's even the main one. It's funny, I didn't see the same backlash at this announcement that we saw from Google's acquisition of Nest. But to me, it comes down to the same thing: Amazon is one data-hungry organization, and this is yet another way of collecting data about consumers. I guess, to the company's credit, it has used that information to offer even more convenience and services, so far.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2018

    Will department stores regret their off-price push?

    Off-price's long term success is ultimately a function of supply. Retailers who are investing in growing this business -- essentially moving in on Ross, T.J. Maxx, etc. -- are basically admitting that their full price division stinks at buying. Because other than competing on the open market for oversupply, where does this off-price stuff come from? It comes from their own buying mistakes, or they have to get into the private label low-quality, intrinsically low-price business. That means they either have to build in a sufficient "mistake" budget to feed the growing number of their own off-price stores, or they risk choking out the inventory in those stores -- and killing the off-price business that they're rushing to invest in. That's even before you get into the whole "it's way too easy to go down-market, but it is exceedingly difficult to maintain -- or grow -- an upmarket position," which should also be a major consideration that is not getting much due.

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