PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does Starbucks have a big delivery opportunity?

    Starbucks has struggled and hasn't innovated since MOPIS. It's hard to see how this is going to make a material impact in its business but presumably their test was informative and a reason to make the investment. The quality and value proposition of a Nespresso machine versus Starbucks Coffee delivered, at least for me, is clear but like so many other things, the diversity of customer wants and needs makes a market, Beyond group orders, it's hard to see the economics of this favorably given the costs and pricing around delivery.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Will ‘Practice’ make for perfectly loyal customers at Lululemon?

    How refreshing that a leading retail brand acts like a leader and does something other than points and rewards! While there is a movement toward membership as a loyalty strategy, it's not for all brands and only works around brand strength and a clear value proposition. Lululemon has done so. The question that remains is how they leverage the data and addressability to deliver not just a customer experience differentiated by membership, but one in which the member's customer experience becomes more relevant and valuable to drive incremental business.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Are subscriptions an untapped gifting opportunity for retailers?

    Customers like giving and receiving subscriptions and retailers like the recurring revenue of fee-based models, so it seems like the perfect convergence. And it is, but like most other customer value propositions, relevance becomes a fundamental question. As more retailers are pushing into fee-based models, there is already the beginning of a shakeout and it's largely due to the subscription offering being too merchant-centric versus customer centric. The most beneficial approach for the merchant is to develop its own offering versus promoting a third party, unless there is a strategic partnership underlying the offering. Like most things, we expect that this trend will ultimately be overdone.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2018

    Can Gap cut its way to profitability?

    Gap hasn't been relevant in a long time, other than to retail landlords. They are following in the footsteps of Limited (and PacSun as Paula mentions in her reply to Neil) into oblivion. There are better basic goods to buy than Gap's that are not only more contemporary but that also deliver with a better customer experience. Speaking of which...Gap was also way too reliant on Syncrony to fuel its growth, ignored non-tender customers for way too long and remained overly reliant on promotion. Retail darwinism will continue until the herd is appropriately thinned.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    Can customer lifetime value scores work against retailers?

    There are certainly hurdles facing not only consumers but even more so retailers (among other industries). Those hurdles include not having the right data and accompanying insights to derive CLV, not having other meaningful customer metrics and, more importantly, not having a well-developed customer marketing/management strategy. The last item is what separates leaders like Delta Airlines from others. Delta has always been clear that to get a better experience it takes being a premium passenger. It's Delta's business strategy linked to its brand and marketing strategy and directly tied to its loyalty strategy. Amazon sets its bar at Prime membership and some retailers like Nordstrom do a smart job of tiering value and experience in terms of customers and the business. How many others can say the same thing? When they can it's much easier to be transparent about CLV and why that's important for the customers and the brand.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2018

    I don’t like Amazon as much as I did last week

    The reaction to Amazon's decision is fascinating and consistent with the polarization and mistrust we are seeing regarding large institutions and companies. If I were Jeff Bezos I would have likely made a similar decision, even as a resident of Atlanta, GA, one of the cities that was among the finalists. It's easy to see why Amazon wouldn't relocate here, largely because of Georgia and not Atlanta per se, with the exception of the fact that Atlanta has no mass transit for a city and metro area its size. Georgia is another thing, as it:
    • Has an ultra-conservative state legislature which punished one of the area's largest employers and a large component of a reason to base a business here, Delta Air Lines, for terminating a discount program for the NRA to the tune of $75 million annually;
  • Is one of only five states without any hate crime laws and an inclination toward "religious liberty" versus civil liberty;
  • Is increasingly unfriendly to immigrants and non-white people in general, having removed hundreds of thousands of mostly minority residents (citizens) from its voting rolls;
  • Already has about 5,000 Amazon employees here.
It's unprecedented for a company to pursue a HQ of the size that Amazon did and while it's always unfortunate to be on the losing end, this is a for-profit company in the private sector and if states and municipalities didn't think the process was (going to be) fair, they could have easily declined to make proposals accordingly. For the right economics, I'd rather live in NYC or DC than many of the other cities on this list of finalists. But like all of us in this forum, it's really not our decision. As a customer, the decision is not inconsistent with Bezos' stated values nor are the economics of the deals anything but beneficial for the company. Beyond sour grapes and disenchantment with the decision, Amazon remains the best retail customer experience for many, many items. Where its HQ2 or HQ3 are won't change this fact.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2018

    Retailers need to focus on customer lifetime value for long-term success

    If you define loyalty marketing as we at rDialogue do -- paying attention to customers and acting (treating them) accordingly -- the pros of a CLV approach are obvious. Customer marketing and delivering the proper customer experience should be a function of not only realized customer value but also future CLV. Equally important is managing customers based on changes in CLV, recognizing customer actions and brand (merchant) activities that impact the measure.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2018

    Should retailers respond to every consumer review?

    Responding to customer reviews is an obvious opportunity for retailers to explicitly demonstrate that they care -- and are loyal -- to customers. It's why we define loyalty marketing simply as "paying attention to customers and acting accordingly." That means when a customer says something, such as a review, you look and respond appropriately. It's fundamentals like these, among many others it's worth noting, that separate leaders from laggards. And as we al know, there are many fewer of the former than the latter.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2018

    Should Old Navy and others offer better deals online than in stores?

    The more price is at the center point of a retailer's omnichannel (I hate even having to still use that term in 2018) selling strategy the more doomed they are. If it's not about a better experience it's a surefire strategy for margin (and profit) erosion.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    ‘Frictionless’ is the annoying word of the year

    If "frictionless" is annoying to marketers and merchants -- and it is -- it's partially their fault. The implication is a better, less cumbersome and more relevant customer experience. Is frictionless the right term? Probably not, unless you are talking about ordering something via voice (e.g., via Alexa) and then having it show up at your door an hour or a day later. Time is a scarce resource and consumers increasingly place a high degree of value on their time, which includes when it's wasted by a retailer or other brand. According to our research, 83 percent of consumers believe it is extremely/very important that a brand makes their experience more convenient. Frictionless may not be exactly the same as convenient, but the idea and its importance are unmistakable.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2018

    Will Starbucks prosper or suffer under a hedge fund’s influence?

    Starbucks has gone from a loyalty leader to a laggard and consequently their stock price has underperformed in an ever-rising market. Management should be concerned as Ackman is right that Starbucks has underdelivered for its shareholders of late. In our work one of the things we do is track "loyalty leaders" and compare their stock price performance with both competitors and the S&P 500 as a proxy for the U.S. stock market. We used to include Starbucks as a loyalty leader but in reality they have done very little of note since MOPIS. Yes they relaunched Rewards but it is nothing more than a hyper-transactional loyalty program and does very little to impact the customer experience other than MOPIS, which launched before the new Rewards program.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Gap sends its Visa cardholders to Amazon and Target

    In the interest in presenting a contrarian viewpoint: File this under: "if you can't beat them, join them." If Gap wants customers to buy its goods it needs to embrace what its customers are doing, which clearly includes shopping at Amazon and Target. Presumably there is some reciprocity from those merchants and/or its card partner Synchrony. It's likely they identified enough data in their co-brand credit card (CBCC) file to support this move and the rewards from that credit card spend is generative for Gap. These are Gap's best customers so in addition to creating more value for them, they might entice some "almost best customers" to further commit and apply for the CBCC.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Giant Food expects big things from a new, mini-grocery store concept

    Time is the new loyalty currency and the convenience of smaller store formats like Giant's — and Amazon Go and others — have a great role to play. In our own (rDialogue) proprietary research we've found that 83% of consumers say it’s very/extremely important that a brand makes their experience more convenient. Cluttered "full-size" grocery store footprints with lengthier ingress and egress are not exactly time-saving, even though they carry significantly more SKUs. A smaller footprint neatly fills the gap and presents a great option in between bigger boxes and "endless aisle technology and pickup/delivery options".
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Will the Birchbox/Walgreens pilot deliver beautiful results?

    It's interesting to consider this partnership in the context of a report by GPShopper just featured in eMarketer that found just 9 percent of customers changed their behavior after signing up for a subscription service. Notwithstanding the data point above, it's clear that this partnership will:
    1. Further erode the value of department stores in the consumer supply chain relative to smaller box footprints and other venues, both digital and physical. Consumers place a high value on time, with 83 percent of consumers saying it’s very/extremely important that a brand makes their experience more convenient. This kind of distribution does just that for Birchbox and the brands it delivers.
    2. Help Birchbox reach new prospects. Walgreens is a high traffic and high frequency retailer with a very large footprint. Especially relative to paid digital media, this partnership is going to be a successful acquisition strategy for them.
    3. Reinforce Walgreens as a merchant working to provide more value for customers and, even incrementally, improve its own customer experience. This raises the bar for Walgreens to do so and they likely know this.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2018

    Why do retailers practically ignore existing customers to go after new ones?

    Way too many retailers check the box on existing customer marketing (ECM) by launching "me too" loyalty programs and issuing private label and/or co-brand credit cards, the latter of which rely on their card issuing partners for ECM. In turn, many of those card issuers are similarly focused on acquisition in (an appropriate) effort to build their portfolio. The opportunity is the mix of marketing investment against media versus customers. For most of my nearly 30-year career this has been an "opportunity" not just for retailers but for most consumer brands. Thus, it truly is an opportunity and those that are customer-centric, like the obvious ones, Amazon and Nordstrom, are the winners.
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