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.

  • Posted on: 06/15/2018

    Sam’s to open small concept focused on tech, fresh and grab-and-go foods

    Well. There are two, count them two empty shells of Walmart Neighborhood Markets within 10 miles of my house. So on the one hand I do think that, just like superstores, club stores are going to have to figure out how to move into markets with smaller formats, because you can only build so many warehouse stores on the edges of cities or centrally adjacent to several towns before you run out of good locations. On the other hand, Walmart -- and I'm going to just lump Sam's together with that for now -- has never managed to figure out smaller formats. And to have to be a member to buy anything, without the range of a warehouse store behind it, kind of changes the math on the value proposition of the membership, too. I'm not one to dis experimentation -- I think testing different assortments in a small format location is a very good idea. But I'm not holding my breath for this particular company to figure it out.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Retailers stand out by vetoing the ‘pink tax’

    I think Joanna makes a great point. It's not enough to make a commitment to consumers. This is such a key point about this era we're living in, of transparency and corporate social responsibility that consumers are demanding. You have to be genuine AND authentic. Genuine is what all of these companies are doing -- they're saying, this is wrong and it should end. But to be authentic, they need to carry that mentality into everything they do. You can't claim to be supporting the environment with the products you sell and then pollute like no tomorrow out the back end of your business. Just like you can't claim to care about treating women fairly, and then pay them less as workers, or penalize them with a business-based mommy tax when it comes to benefits. Just wait for someone to figure out if these companies like are living this value end-to-end. Because someone will -- and they will make hay out of it if these companies are not. And if you don't believe that, just look up Unilever's Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the pushback that happened against Unilever's Axe campaigns as soon as people made a connection between the two. All that goodwill built for Dove, flushed by one very much objectified woman in an Axe ad. And there were many more than just one.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?

    It comes down to Change Management 101. Prepare people for change. Make a case for change, make it personal so that they understand what it means to them specifically, and to demonstrate that you've cared enough about what it means to them personally that you've thought about it. Then follow through on the change. Then come back around and deal with the unplanned consequences of change. Retailers can approach transformation one of two ways. They can just wait for their existing workforce to turn over (good luck with that strategy if you want to be authentic and genuine with consumers), or they can approach their existing workforce head-on and be transparent and caring about the impact. But if you think that you might not need to address it? I have no hope for YOUR company's future!
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Retailers told to forget social media

    So, three things. One, You have to use the right social media channel for your users. To say "all social media doesn't pay" when Vat19 is clearly getting benefit from YouTube is misleading. YouTube counts as a social channel. But his customers aren't going to be found on Facebook, so I agree that it's not worth it for him to invest there. That's not true for other brands who appeal to different demographics and psychographics. There are plenty of beauty brands who would take serious issue with the idea that Instagram is not a good selling channel. Two, I think you have to think of a lot of social media presence as a more interactive version of the brand-building/brand-awareness kind of advertising that used to happen on TV. You have to be where your customers are. But that doesn't mean you have to relentlessly promote to them every place where they are. Use the social channels you're in, in the way they are meant to be used. Facebook is meant to share stories. So, share stories there, not ads! Three, just because it doesn't sell, doesn't mean it's not good for anything. There are plenty of retailers who have found that Facebook and Twitter are very important customer service channels, and if "marketing" abandons them, you could be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of meeting customer needs overall.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    How many e-mails are too much?

    Oh my goodness, where to begin! One, after moderating a panel of Millennials at a conference, I took the advice of one: create an email rule that dumps all promotional emails into a folder, and then when you decide you might want something, go to the folder, search it, and see if you can find a deal. You do have to purge the folder every once in awhile, but otherwise, you get a cleaner, stress-free inbox, without losing access to all the promotions retailers insist on sending out. Some of the best advice I ever took. I have since learned the other value of this approach: it actually helps you see just how inane some retailers' strategies are. I fielded a question from a reporter about whether #metoo was having an impact on Valentine's Day, like were retailers for whom V-day is important changing their messaging. I went to my handy "ads" folder, and found that 1-800-Flowers had sent me a ridiculous number of emails in a two-week period. I didn't count them, but it was on the surface just an egregious amount. And every one of them was the traditional "chocolates and roses." Every. Single. One. Email is very much like all advertising: consumers hate it, but it works. I think the standouts called out in the article, with Amazon, Groupon, Old Navy, and Apple, the reasons why consumers don't hate them so much are good reasons to examine as retailers look at their own email strategies. But that's really just a start. There is so much more opportunity to be creative -- and relevant -- here. But I suspect retailers won't act until their response rates really start to die off.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

    It's about time! This is an enormous area of untapped potential, held back by executives fears of social media fails at the hands of their front-line employees. My question is, if you can't trust your employees to be an ambassador for your brand on social media, then why did you hire them in the first place? Why do you trust them to talk to people IRL in the store? Handle cash at the register? One thing I like about this program is, it's unforced -- employees choose the topics based on their own interests. And they get paid if they do a good job, through commissions on the sales. I think these are both really important aspects -- to make sure the content is genuine and authentic (and also not the result of some kind of specific promotional plan, i.e., this week you must sell X brand), and also recognizing that people are putting effort into this above and beyond the workday, and they should get paid for it if they're doing a good job. The next question is, if some of these employees grow their influence as a result of this program, what next for Macy's? If someone can make a living off of just the videos and not have to work the sales floor, will Macy's let them do that? Will Macy's work to ensure that such influencers can't be poached by competitors? What if an employee gets an outsized influencer base and decides to go it alone, without necessarily driving people to Macy's to buy the products? Big questions, but I bet something that will come much later. In the meantime, kudos to Macy's for taking the plunge -- and for believing in its employees.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    Is data-driven marketing holding back storytelling?

    I don't think it is any coincidence that a lot of brands and retailers are poaching from the magazine industry to fill out their marketing ranks -- to address exactly this skill of storytelling. As someone who has made a career out of telling a story out of data, I can say that it is not easy. It's a blend of art and science, and of knowing what data to pay attention to and what data to ignore. It's also about knowing when the average tells the story just fine, and when the real story is in the variability hidden beneath the average. The problem here is domain expertise. You need people who know how to analyze data and know when data is "good" and when it is "bad." You can use "significant" and "not significant" to replace good/bad sometimes, but not even all the time. And then you need people who know enough about the subject the data pertains to, to be able to tell you of that data what is relevant and what is not. And those, only rarely, are the same person. It's like everything else: all in moderation, including moderation. So it is also true that it can't be all about the data (science) or all about the story (art). It should be about some kind of balance between the two, except when it shouldn't.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Retailers can make personalization work

    The problem here is confusing "relevancy" with "personalization." Consumers want relevancy. I have my own toilet seat example: a wine refrigerator. How many wine refrigerators does a person need? I think, but for a select few, the answer is one. So if I've bought one ... I don't need another. That's not "personalizing" my communications, that is simply recognizing what would be relevant to a wine refrigerator *owner* vs. a wine refrigerator *shopper.* Personalization in the Vans sense is, I think, misleading. To me, that is mass customization. That is a challenge -- a supply chain and order configuration challenge -- but it's not personalization in the sense of "knowing me" and catering to what you know. I think the biggest challenge for retailers and personalization is that they refuse to ask customers what they want or like. Instead, they lurk and sneak around and try to infer preferences based on behavior. Pinterest, thank heaven, has started asking: Do you like this ad? Do you want more like these? Do you not want more like these? It can be that simple: Do you want more offers like this one? You could probably even get away with asking a follow-up multiple choice question. If the answer's no, why not? Give them some categories to choose from. If the answer's yes, what did you like? With that information, retailers could do a lot more with personalization than what they achieve today. Without it, they're guessing, and with the state of tech sophistication that they have, they are guessing badly. And then not listening when consumers ignore them or complain.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2018

    Are podcasts the next big ad opportunity for brands?

    In a way, these are really no better or worse than vloggers who promote stuff on their YouTube channel, it's just a different medium. Sure, advertising can work if you target it right - anywhere. What would be more interesting to me would be retailers who invest in podcast content, rather than yet another ad.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2018

    Best Buy finds more inventory on hand drives sales

    Like with labor, I think the pendulum on inventory in stores got pushed way too far to "cut, cut, cut" and needs to come back a little. It's not just about having the right products in the right stores at the right time. The idea of "fixture inventory" or that you need a base level of inventory, no matter what it is, to make the store look "stocked" is not baseless. If people see an empty store, they think "There's nothing here for me" and won't shop. So even if you had a perfect match between what you had in store and what you expected to sell before the next replenishment truck, it really would not be enough inventory to get consumers confident enough to shop. So, I suppose we should give kudos to Best Buy for recognizing this, though I would say it's more like "rediscovering a long-established retail store principle."
  • Posted on: 05/29/2018

    Target’s new Instagrammable collaboration is a sweet deal

    Unboxing. I think providing unboxing opportunities at home is another way to extend the Instagrammable effect beyond the installation or store. Retailers and brands both should pay attention to opportunities for consumers to "reveal" their purchases in their own home's setting, so that whether you went into the shop or ordered it online, you can share not just the experience but the product experience as well.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2018

    Consumers get the smart home experience at Amazon open houses

    This is a brilliant idea. I think a lot of smart home capabilities get viewed as "meh, is it really worth all that trouble?" but once you really experience it, a lot of those benefits become much more readily apparent. You kind of have to experience it to really appreciate it. And, when it comes down to it, for smart homes to become mainstream, it's not the homeowner who is really going to want to be the one to install it. But if the home comes already equipped with smart outlets and wifi connected devices that are already set up and presented to you on a tablet, how can you resist? Home improvement retailers (and electronics retailers and even some general merchandise retailers) have been trying to get it together to figure out how to sell smart home technology to consumers. While there will still be an enormous market for retrofit, Amazon has gotten in front of the game by targeting new homes -- with an experience that might easily be taken to retrofits too.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2018

    Best Buy campaign highlights its ‘insurmountable advantage’ – its people

    The challenge I see with Best Buy's campaign is making it authentic and genuine. It is way too easy for one store manager acting like a jerk, or a few disaffected employees ganging up on Twitter or YouTube to make this look like all sizzle and no steak. And once that's out, the message isn't just ruined, it makes the company look like the worst kind of rapacious corporate machine that is exactly what most people want to avoid. The messaging is good -- but is Best Buy really, really delivering on the promise behind the scenes? And can they sustain that over time? I'm not saying it's impossible -- Costco and Container Store always get rave reviews for how they treat their employees, but it's built into their culture and their brand promise from top to bottom. I'm also not saying it's impossible for Best Buy, but for them, it is definitely a case of remaking a culture that once completely devalued the store employee, and cheated customers to boot. It's pretty hard to come back from that, and to sustain it in the face of cost cutting pressures or a bad quarter or two. Kudos to Best Buy if they pull it off.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2018

    What’s holding back data-driven supply chains?

    I don't think it's about demand volatility, so much as it is about demand granularity. Demand has always been volatile, it's just that retailers had only so many channels (stores) to serve as aggregation points of demand. But now, more granular demand -- not aggregated into stores, but at the individual customer level, expressed in many more channels than they had before -- is much more highly visible. The margin of the future is "in the margins" (ha ha) -- if you're forecasting to the aggregate, you're leaving a lot on the table, and there is no tolerance in margins for the inventory and the mistakes it makes to operate at that summary level. The future is not analytics or AI -- those are the tools. The future is understanding individual demands as closely as possible. Granular.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2018

    AI for e-mail? Marketers enthused, but not without concerns

    First, let's have a discussion about how much email goes unopened in the first place. Personalization only matters if the consumer actually reads the email, and there is plenty of evidence that most messages are pretty much unwanted right off the bat. If machine learning is used to identify better times and places to send email within a customer's lifecycle, then sure, I see lots of benefits. But using high-end optimization to personalize something that consumers find annoying in general seems a lot like "paving the cowpaths" rather than doing something that benefits both consumers and retailers. Remember, supposedly consumers only wanted a "faster horse" - so when they say they want more personalized emails, that's pretty much the same thing. Of course they want them to be less annoying and personalization can help. But what would be better is more tailored engagement overall, within which email can play a more intelligent role.

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