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: 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.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Sephora adds choices and personalization to rewards program

    Sephora continues to lead the beauty category and is smartly evolving one of the leading speciality retail programs. For engaged members the choices are indeed beneficial. As much as there might be confusion, beauty is a category with such emotional attributes that the added benefits and choice will ultimately be relevant. Georgeanne's comments below underscore some of what differentiates Ulta from Sephora - the former's program is significantly more transactional than Sephora's, which balances transactional value with relationship building loyalty back to the member. Best practices in loyalty marketing include evolving the published proposition and Sephora embodies this wholeheartedly.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Retail industry mourns the loss of Blake Nordstrom

    Blake Nordstrom, like the rest of his family and the company, have set standards around prioritizing the customer that endure and allow the business to succeed, (sadly now) even with his passing. rDialogue was privileged to work with Nordstrom on the development of Fashion Rewards and we saw firsthand "the Nordstrom way." Nordstrom has made retail a better experience for millions of customers for well over a century and we should all take time to remember what Blake and his family have done, and of course extend our condolences. His memory will indeed be a blessing.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Why are retailers publishing paid-subscription magazines?

    Custom publishing -- what a concept! Paid subscription magazines are not a new model -- even if it's called "C2C" now. While not all custom publishing has utilized paid subscriptions, has anyone heard of in-flight magazines? Or more specific to retail, Neiman Marcus' "The Book"? That said, the retailers employing this strategy are smart in that they recognize that selling goods is indeed about storytelling. J. Peterman anyone? It's not surprising that a retailer's best customers are also paying that retailer for its content. Best customers do all the things that brands offer them to consume and exchange value. That's part of how a "best customer" is defined, beyond simply revenues per customer.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    What are the takeaways from the best holiday season in six years?

    On a macro level, there is a strong economy, and job market as a result, functioning as a foundation for spending. There is also Amazon, which as noted above, captured 80 percent of online sales, which shows that there is still one clear leader in terms of being the digital disrupter-in-chief. For the other 20 percent, there was aggressive promotion throughout the holiday season, starting ahead of Thanksgiving. Couple that with leaner inventories and retailers should report better numbers. How much better? That will reveal which ones, if any, are actually selling goods at reasonably healthy margins.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2018

    Nike sees online eclipsing offline sales

    Nike has been committed to digital for so long and (mostly) so strategically, its expectations are well founded. Contributing is their "twelve cities" global retail strategy, which is predicated on -- and a driver of -- its online business. Given its global brand strength, if it is only focused on direct retail doors (not counting outlets) in twelve markets. that leaves the rest of the world to either be a digital customer or an indirect one. While there are categories that over-index in online versus offline or more realistically, omnichannel, the drivers are the commoditization of the category and products and the customer experience. Nike has a very good digital shopping experience and most of its wholesale customers don't, though Nike is editing those customers and raising its expectations and standards for those remaining. Nike is doing what a leader does: it's leading.
  • 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.

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