Phil Rubin

CEO, rDialogue

Phil is CEO of rDialogue, an Atlanta-based customer marketing firm with clients ranging from mid-market to Fortune 100 and in industries including retail, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, dining, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Representative clients include Caribou Coffee, Cracker Barrel, Kimpton Hotels and Sprint, as well as a number of clients that can’t be named like a world famous customer-centric department store.

He has nearly 20 years of strategic marketing experience with an emphasis on customer loyalty and relationship marketing, integrated communications, partnership development, promotions and program development. He founded the loyalty practice at Loyaltyworks and led the spin-off of the practice to rDialogue. Prior to Loyaltyworks he was Group Vice President and General Manager of The Lacek Group, a loyalty marketing firm now part of OgilvyOne. While at Lacek he established the Atlanta office and was responsible for leading the development and implementation of relationship marketing strategies on behalf of clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cox Communications and UPS.

Phil has developed and managed loyalty and relationship marketing as a client both at Midway Airlines and at GTE Wireless (now Verizon). He began his career going through Macy’s Executive Training Program and working in store management.

Phil has an M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing and Strategy from Tulane University and a B.S. in finance from L.S.U.

Other Links from Phil Rubin:

  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Shake Shack founder says, ‘Do it. Don’t talk about it (sustainability initiatives) until asked.’

    Danny Meyer has long been ahead of the curve for not only local sourcing and transparency, but also for other important lessons that retailers and brands should heed better than they currently do. His book, "Setting the Table" is a great illustration, including the stories referenced here, but they go further into what (he thinks) makes for great hospitality. It is great hospitality that retailers and brands need to learn and the point is perfectly made in the quote Tom used at the end of the piece above: "The thing that's going to make you fall in love with a place is to have stories. When you leave there, you feel better and we left you with something that you can share with your friends." If more brands and retailers did this, the retail world would be a far better place.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Macy’s balances plusses and minuses of free shipping to loyal customers

    Gene is right that free shipping is the ante that must be played but for which customers and under what terms/conditions? Leave it to retail to follow Amazon and obsess on free shipping without the other prerequisites in place, as Nikki aptly mentions. Loyalty marketing cannot and should not be one-dimensional, or two-dimensional as most retailers now focus on discounts AND free shipping. So whereas retailers have mostly focused on margin reducing "value" for customers, a select few have added focus on other loyalty drivers such as recognition, content and access. Amazon is one that delivers value across all these drivers but not as much on price as it used to. Free shipping absolutely needs to be in the context of customer value which is ultimately about the customer experience, not the promotion. As a client CFO said most eloquently: "great companies get their best customers to pay more, not less." Take a look at Macy's stock price and see how it compares to the S&P 500. Free shipping is not going to be a silver bullet for them, sorry.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    What’s the secret to driving emotional connections with customers?

    These are some good and not surprising data points for Deloitte, echoing our views on the changes that need to take place with how brands show loyalty to customers. Yes, that's where loyalty starts, with the brand demonstrating loyalty to customers, not the other way around. In our research we've seen that 80%+ of US consumers view themselves as loyalists and yet a similar percentage feel that brands fail to recognize and be relevant to them. The challenge and opportunity to scale data is to both demonstrate loyalty from the brand in order to sustain and grow brand trust so that customers are willing to share data. Increasingly the data must go beyond transactional and be contextual, which Deloitte refers to in its findings. Customer loyalty is no longer driven by loyalty programs but rather by brands "paying attention to customers and acting accordingly." This means using data to be relevant in a human way, much as we treat each other when it matters so that we can similarly build relationships.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Should Kohl’s buy At Home?

    It's a smart move for Kohl's to diversify given its momentum lately. Its partnership with Amazon is strategic and assuming it leads to an acquisition, Kohl's would be smart to expand its footprint both in terms of doors and businesses. Given what's happened to traditional department stores, Kohl's occupies a nice middle ground between the legacy DSs and the big box mass merchants. That will fit Amazon nicely so it's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    It's a stark contrast to consider what Kohl's is doing with Amazon against JCP's move to stop accepting Apple Pay. It's Retail Darwinism and indicative of who will be around in the next 3-5 years and who will be gone or going.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2019

    Why is Petco doubling down on same-day delivery with Shipt and Instacart?

    We (rDialogue) found more than ample data to support the idea that "time is the new loyalty currency" in every wave of research we've conducted since 2017. This is not a new trend nor is it an option but rather it is what Jeff Bezos refers to when he writes about the continued escalation of consumer expectations. So the question is not either/or but rather "both and what else?" and smart retailers like Petco are rushing - pun intended - so address the expediency of the last three feet of retail: getting goods into customers' hands.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2019

    Is Dick’s making the right move by bringing its software development in-house?

    We've seen a few retailers (attempt to) do this before with customer marketing and loyalty applications with very mixed results. In one case, an in-house dev group developed an application for a pilot program and it worked reasonably well but was largely absent a rich feature set. In another case, a similar size retailer earmarked $15 million for a new platform and after spending $9 million pulled the plug. Whether Dick's is successful depends on its IT leadership and ability to attract talented people to their team. Starting with a hurdle rate of 10x incremental revenue for the business case is reasonable but spending 10 percent of incremental sales on new technology seems high for retail. Let's hope they got their incremental revenue right.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Will retailers be ready when AR adoption takes hold?

    Thanks and I agree re: internal applications and especially merchandising. Bethany's is right on, that's why there has to be a business case, which is stunningly foreign to so many decisions involving tech.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Will retailers be ready when AR adoption takes hold?

    Great piece Nikki. Retailers, like other brands, should follow a marketing (and sales) technology investment strategy where selection follows strategy and design. This includes how such a technology will support the intended business outcome, customer experience and expected financial return. On almost a daily basis we see brands that have bought - or more rather, been sold -- technology that is in search of a strategy and likewise, a business case. That strategy should be more than simply emulating a competitor. That said, retailers especially need to invest in more and better technology capabilities but if they don't get the customer experience right, which starts with using customer data to be more relevant, it really doesn't matter what else they do. They will end up like so many other retailers today, in the bankruptcy bin and the endless downward spiral of Retail Darwinism.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2019

    Is there anything special about specialty retail?

    I struggle to generalize about the differences between speciality retailers and broader line merchants when it comes to the "disruption" that has (rightly) impacted the industry. In our experience as well as our research, there are broadline merchants that do very well and there are those that fail and the speciality categories are quite the same. If anything, the specialty retailers have an advantage in that they are focused, or by definition, specialized. The real issue in terms of the degree to which their business is disrupted or disrupting comes down to how focused on customers they are and how this translates into their brand relevance and customer experience. Show me a retailer in any category that is focused on customers and I'd bet they are doing pretty well, regardless of who and what they are up against.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    Are legacy retailers on the right track or heading off the tracks?

    First, it's interesting that this discussion is on the same day as the one about JCP exiting the appliance business (speaking of a legacy retailer that can't figure out what to do). Retail Darwinism isn't a new concept and Laura's article makes some great points, especially about the two clear classes of merchants. There have always been dynamics in the marketplace though clearly the rate of change has increased. At the same time there is and will always be one constant: customers. Retail leaders who are customer focused generally win. Today and tomorrow they win bigger. Pay attention to them, treat them accordingly (how we define loyalty marketing). The retail laggards are mostly a function of poor leadership and the decisions they have made and continue to make, their willingness to invest and take risks and their ability to move fast and remain relevant. We live in a world that is rich with data if you know where and how to look so "customer ignorance" is not an excuse. Does it really take a genius to be obsessed with customers? Where else does your revenue come from?
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Will Fanatics and Walmart deal be a grand slam for both retailers?

    This is a slam dunk, home run, hat trick for two (note as a Saints fan I'm not mentioning the other "big league"). Fanatics dominates its space and Walmart brings the scale so it's truly a win-win. Nike just won MLB uniform rights and Fanatics gets the retail piece so Michael Rubin (no relation, unfortunately) is continuing to have a James Harden hot hand.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2019

    What do shoppers really want? Do retailers have a clue?

    Thanks Bob!
  • Posted on: 01/28/2019

    What do shoppers really want? Do retailers have a clue?

    Great stuff Bob and I agree with most of the panelists here. It's a terribly low bar in retail these days with a few exceptions. In our research we've found remarkably similar insights to the study Bob did with Oracle and Wakefield. Bottom line is that customers want a better experience, which is a function of five factors or forces:
    1. Recognition: Customers expect to be recognized. This can be as basic as a greeting when they walk into a store or on to a floor or interacting with a sales associate who actually remembers a customer and what she likes/bought last time/is likely looking for. Or it can be as sophisticated as can be via a clientelling app.
    2. Education: Customers want to be informed about what a merchant offers and why (it's helpful if you're not selling commodities but that's a merchandising question and not a trivial one), how to get it, where and how to optimize their experience with the store.
    3. Financial: Yes, retail is now overly promotional and that's not changing for most merchants. Consequently, customers expect to be rewarded as they are (knowingly, for them at least) more valuable to the retailer. Does it have to be discounts? No! But there has to be something tangible to reinforce the emotion so that both sides of the brain are into the relationship.
    4. Time: Convenience matters but so does being relevant (as David Katz points out in this discussion) and that extends to all facets of the customer experience. Waste customers time and you'll never earn their loyalty. You've heard it from me before: time is the new loyalty currency.
    5. Access: Give customers something to make them feel and experience what it is like to be part of the brand. Bring them inside and you'll see immediate benefits that come from what that does to them emotionally.
    It's also worth noting that this approach is tantamount to true customer-centricity. And as Laura Davis-Taylor aptly points out, this is where leadership matters.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did Gillette’s rant against toxic masculinity go too far?

    Personally, I applaud what Gillette has done. Unfortunately, it's not surprising that there was and still is so much backlash against Gillette's ad and the stance it took given the current politics in the U.S. and other parts of the world. That said, more people are looking to CEOs and the private sector for leadership, according to Edelman's Trust Barometer (reported here by Axios). As a CEO, it's important that we stand up for what we think is right and props to Gillette for doing so. Here's to more companies acting as leaders not just in business, but in making the world better for all who deserve it.

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