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: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    There is nothing wrong with returning merchandise, especially apparel, when bought online. That said, there is always a small percentage of customers who abuse return policies much as they game loyalty programs and pursue fraudulent activity (basically a form of shoplifting) in general. The good news is that it's increasingly easy -- and fun -- to develop models to identify such bad apples. Perhaps the motive behind this issue is that the study was sponsored by a commercial real estate firm?
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    How many e-mails are too much?

    There is too much data and too little relevance and that's why the majority of the brands on this list are eroding the value of their customer relationships with excessive email. As pointed out in this discussion, too many retailers believe that email is simply a revenue channel and that more sends means more revenue. Our own research (and Jeff Bezos in this year's Amazon letter to shareholders) reveals that consumers have increasingly higher expectations in terms of their customer experience and this fundamentally means relevance. Brand trust and loyalty are increasingly being redefined as data and privacy appropriately demand. Retailers need to get on board just like brands in other categories or risk irrelevance along with their customers opting out.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

    Macy's approach is a most refreshing social media strategy in terms of its authenticity. There is no shortage of distrustful information (isn't that more professional than referring to it as BS?) on social media and within the influencer marketing space. Macy's strategy here is especially smart given not only the real connection between retail associates and customers, but also its size and scale. More evidence that Macy's is continuing to get its act together.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Best Buy’s Geek Squad is now available by subscription

    Fee-based and subscription offerings are becoming more and more common, and Best Buy is fortunate to have Geek Squad to leverage for this offering. It will create preference, if not lock-in, among consumers wanting the support and it serves as a significant differentiator versus Amazon. It will be interesting to see how they might further use this offering, whether in terms of its credit card holders (or prospects), to drive high margin/high ticket purchases or through partners. Well done Best Buy!
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Amazon bans chronic returners

    Amazon is stellar at serving customers and they have every right to ban bad customers. Good customers -- those that do not game or abuse policies including those affecting returns -- have no reason to go anywhere else. LP, including fraud -- through returns, loyalty programs or promotions -- is a real problem and when you have the right approach to data, it's increasingly easy to spot.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Ellison leaves Penney, further fueling doubts

    Yes JCP is in trouble, as are most retailers who are failing the "relevance" test. That said, leadership matters more in tough times and I'll echo Dick's comments that Ellison was taking a risk-averse strategy and came up short. Hard to blame him for taking the job at Lowe's though and if JCP is to remain for another XX years, they need to start focusing on the customer and doing something unlike they or others are doing in the market. Last, and related, blaming the weather in today's world is a total cop out. Either they don't know why sales didn't meet expectations (doubtful) or their forecast was not very diligent.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    eBay asks consumers what they want

    Retailers -- with a few exceptions -- are holding themselves back from embracing relevance and personalization by not focusing on customers and investing accordingly. This is not rocket science (even the AI aspect!) as it's been done for years in travel, especially by leading brands like Kimpton. It's a matter of leadership, strategy and prioritization, much less than a lack of tech tools and capabilities that are more easily procured now than ever before.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2018

    Chico’s decides to join Amazon, since it can’t beat it

    For a number of retailers with a "nothing special" customer experience and/or brand -- online or physical -- Amazon is their only hope. For others, like Nike, it's a strategic relationship that follows the recognition that with 100 million Prime members, everything even a leading brand like Nike does is relative to AMZN. There is no better retail customer experience than what Amazon provides and when you can work on more or less your own brand terms, as Nike is doing, it's a win-win proposition. The challenge for most retailers, leading them to see AMZN as their best hope forward, is that they have failed to:
    • invest in the customer and run their business with the customer at the center
    • recognize the value in customer data and relevance, and the corresponding degradation of that value by being overly reliant on discounting
    • build a compelling and unique brand proposition
    While it's easy for retailers to see AMZN as Darth Vader, it's also true that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
  • Posted on: 04/30/2018

    Walgreens tests lower prices, membership savings

    Another retailer doing something interesting, testing a fee-based membership proposition, and typical -- focusing on discounts. The former is smart, especially where it includes value beyond discounting, such as saving time. The latter is going to be margin reducing and, unless there is enough incremental share shift, similarly unprofitable. There are multiple loyalty drivers and price is not the most important anymore, even for a "drugstore." WBA is increasingly more of a c-store with more CPGs and a pharmacy, so the time-savings value is ultimately a better focus than discounts. I'd be more bullish on WBA if it were focused elsewhere, including how it recognizes customers and makes it easy for them to get what they need/want.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2018

    Is $119 too much to pay for an Amazon Prime membership?

    Amazon continues to raise the bar when it comes to customer experience and Prime is a large part of that. Given its traditional renewal rate of 95 percent and the fact that there are now 100 million members, that renewal rate may decline slightly. But given its continued "obsession" with customers I wouldn't bet that growth will slow significantly. Meanwhile, Amazon rivals will continue to follow and attempt to close the gap though, again, I wouldn't bet that anyone overtakes Amazon. As Bezos said, there is a lot of humility with respect to ever-changing (and rising) customer expectations. Read his letter to shareholders and see if you do not agree. And here are some more of my thoughts on Amazon (from earlier this week).
  • Posted on: 04/26/2018

    Will Gen Zers push personalization toward individualization?

    It's not just a generation (Z, M, X or otherwise) that is demanding individualized experiences, but rather almost every human with discretionary spending power. Customers expect more relevance from brands in a world overflowing with data. Individualization and personalization might be distinguishable semantically among marketers but customers simply want and expect brands they like to "pay attention to them and act accordingly." It's not rocket science nor is it pure science or art, but rather a combination. The expectations are clear in the proprietary research we conduct and reflect what Amazon has done with its 100 million Prime customers who have even higher expectations than non-Prime members (however few are left!).
  • Posted on: 04/23/2018

    Apocalypse? No. Retail faces a reset

    For many brands and still many stores, "apocalypse" is still applicable. All one has to do is read Jeff Bezos' letter to shareholders that was released last week. Amazon has been "obsessed with customers" for 20+ years now and that, among other reasons, is why things have changed for retailers and for consumers. Our (rDialogue's) proprietary research underscores this. What's missing but is implied from Mr. Schwarztrauber's list is investment. There are still too many retailers that are loathe to invest in systems and technologies that help deliver a better customer experience. Consequently, these retailers lazily resort to competing on price rather than any of the ideas that Mr. Schwarztrauber appropriately suggests. Retail is at an interesting crossroads where there will be the haves and the have-nots. The latter will cease to exist; the former will be focusing on customers.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    Starbucks to close shops for racial bias training

    Most retailers don't adequately invest in training, period — much less training for bias, among other things! This is not just an issue of training or recruitment but rather an issue of both, and an issue of leadership. Starbucks, clearly a leader, is addressing it head on, and did so expeditiously with the help of its former executive Jonathan Greenblatt, now CEO of ADL, and the other partners involved. Full Disclosure: I am a regional board chair for ADL (Southeast). Bias such as this actually starts in pre-school level and unfortunately remains an issue for most people, as evidenced by what's been happening in our society. If there is any question that this is an issue for the business community, you need only read the comments on yesterday's WSJ article on the topic, as many are quite disgusting, and reflect our reality.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2018

    J.C. Penney is feeling merry about its Christmas performance

    It's always nice to comp against lousy numbers isn't it? Just as it's nice to be in a category being abdicated by a giant like Sears. Not to mention a strong stock market. We'll see lots of positive comps for holiday, but the real proof and truth of the great retail turnaround is profitability. We've already seen examples where smart retailers are reducing their promotion and trading topline growth for bottom line improvement.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Should marketers personalize products using consumers’ DNA?

    The data driving relevance for a brand is increasingly contextual, so it's natural -- no pun intended -- to use biological-ish data. Certainly data such as those from activity trackers provide insights into someone's lifestyle, especially when associated with additional data. However the reality for most retailers is that they are dreadful at using data to be relevant. This is a big stretch unless and until these retailers are more customer-centric and accordingly, more capable in terms of data consolidation and leveraging said data. Nice idea, not going to happen at scale or en masse anytime soon.

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