PROFILE

Raj B. Shroff

Founder & Principal, PINE Strategy & Design

Prior to founding Pine, Raj was VP of Brand, Strategy & Design at a global experience design firm. During his tenure there he led many turnkey research, strategy and retail design engagements and was a specialist in digital-retail integration; consulting clients and teams on mobile, VR, AR and the application of technology in experience. He has run many large-scale initiatives, having served in account leadership roles at Fitch (WPP), in the areas of Research, Retail, Brand and Product design and at Resource (now IBM iX), in Digital Experience & Marketing.

Clients he has served include Intel, P&G, Mars Wrigley, Unilever, Target, Walmart, Dollar General, LG (South Korea), Pernod Ricard (Mexico), Reliance Retail (India), Aditya Birla (India), Mahindra (India), Nestle, Tyson Foods, The North Face, SC Johnson, Gatorade, Carhartt, NFL and others. Raj is an industry speaker on topics such as the future of retail, branding, digital engagement and consumer behavior.

He is Adjunct Faculty at CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design) in the Masters of Design and Undergraduate Design Programs.

He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and two sons. He is an avid runner, reader, mentor and compulsive traveler. He started undergrad in Chemical Engineering but ended up in a self-directed program and holds an MBA in Strategy & Marketing from Ohio State University.

To learn more, visit: pinesd.com

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  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    Do retailers have to catch up to Amazon’s logistics powerhouse?

    I agree with Mark; their advantage is in all areas combined because they have a vast assortment. People visit Amazon because they can FIND an item from a variety of choices, have plentiful ratings and reviews, and then get it reasonably fast. And how fast do people really need things? I think that if a retailer can get it delivered in a reasonable amount of time, that's fine. Retailers should get the blocking and tackling right. Target is using Shipt and others to get more local fulfillment to speed up delivery. Retailers should partner with UPS, FedEx, etc to find better tracking methods to provide more transparency to customers in terms of shipment progress. As other panelists have said, leverage their stores, BOPIS, etc.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2021

    Will Americans open their garages and homes to Amazon and Walmart?

    If the insight on this is that people fear their items will be stolen or damaged, then for those people, this will work. I think as smart home systems expand, facilitating things like this will get easier and be more accepted.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2021

    Will stock ownership work as a loyalty program perk?

    This is a cool and smart concept. Loyalty is ripe for innovation. The benefits are giving people with connection to a brand a unique way to own it. It can help get over the hurdle for those intimidated with investing or not thinking they have enough money to invest. Consumers will be happy as long as their money is appreciating -- even though the amounts will be so small, a chart going up is always going to make people happy. The interface and tracking have to be SUPER simple and clear, consumers aren't very financially literate so anything even a tad bit complex will be an impediment. As for this type of program "taking off," I think it makes sense for certain brands where there is some connection. If it ends up being oversaturated, it could become less meaningful. All in all, good potential to get some traction.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2021

    Will Americans go shopping for dressier clothes as the COVID-19 threat is reduced?

    Yes, people are eager to dress up. I listened to a panel of Gen Zers last week, they were ready to dress up. And one of the panelists works at a boutique and said there has been elevated interest in dressing up, with people being tired of sweats. I actually think there will be a blended approach to the next wave of fashion; evolved and new innovations, by designers and manufacturers. The availability to look dressy with better materials that are more flexible and comfortable. The change comes from a subconscious mindset shift to get this behind us.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2021

    Say goodbye to Walmart’s robotic towers

    I think there are at least two drivers. Some retailers want tech for tech's sake because their executives experience something cool and tell their team to try it. Others do it because there is an unmet need that technology can solve. I don't think the first path is a bad one IF they are intentional and create some working hypotheses and intend to test and learn. Unfortunately, I still think tech for tech's sake drives many -- not the shopper need, and that's never good in my view. I have no issue with Walmart's approach. In my experience, they have been very open-minded with testing, are usually in touch with their shopper and have a willingness to admit when something doesn't work. Incidentally, I never liked the towers, they seemed odd so they won't be missed. If shoppers want pick up outside, give them pick up outside. For a historically operational efficiency driven company, the fact they are listening to the shopper and meeting their needs is a great thing.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2021

    Family Dollar joins a crowded retail media marketplace

    Yes, I see demand growing for specialized ad platforms such as Family Dollar's. Many retailers have traffic they can monetize, why wouldn't they? The next phase for retailers is to do it better and be more relevant. I skip dozens of irrelevant Youtube ads a week. If a retailer I already shop sends me relevant content, it would seem my likelihood of clicking or at least reading it would be higher. I think marketers will create the allocation that works best for them, likely both brand building and sales promotion.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2021

    Is e-grocery killing or inspiring impulse buys?

    Intuitively it would seem impulse would be higher in-store, especially for food shopping, where all products are visible and those visual cues drive consideration. However without having the data it's hard to say for sure. Grocers are already using banners and search terms, especially as they turn their websites into media platforms. Those ad methods likely drive some awareness and convert impulse buys. Over time sites will be even more customized based on past behaviors and insight from other platforms to predict or prescribe items that will undoubtedly drive more impulse. They might do something like Netflix and have a percentage likelihood a particular food is a match or "these friends gave this product a five star rating." So more and better integration of familiar tactics from sites people spend time on. LOTS more to do on the e-commerce front.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2021

    Does GameStop’s next CEO need brick & mortar retail experience?

    I can't see why anyone would disagree with where Cohen is going, GameStop was DOA the past few years. Shaking things up so it doesn't become another RadioShack, Circuit City or Toys "R" Us is necessary. I think stores can play a role. My young boys love going into the stores whenever they see one to shop and we tend to buy non-game merchandise on occasion. It is still a delight to see merchandise all together and be able to have some serendipity. Even at their ages (11 and eight) there is a place for physical stores. I don't think the CEO needs to have stores experience. I think a CEO versed in gaming and tech with an open mind can hire an innovative leader to create a compelling 360 go-to-market strategy in which stores can play a role. As always, the trick will be keeping merchandise and/or experience to get someone off their couch.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2021

    Plant-based drink and meat alternatives look like they are here to stay

    The momentum started before the pandemic but I suspect the pandemic helped boost trial in some areas. It was an odd mix of comfort and shelf-stable foods people were looking for, but we also heard a desire for more health and wellness focus, which plant-based helps with. Yes, we definitely see plant-based CPG products continuing to grow. People are more health conscious than ever and realize replacing meat with plant-based products, even at one meal can significantly help your health. The new challenge plant-based will face is that not all of those items are really healthy. Consumers will need help discerning between truly better-for-you and sort of better-for-you and we'll begin to understand the longer-term impact of the highly-processed meat alternatives.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Will Best Buy’s customers love its new service and savings plan?

    Yes, I think this could be broadly popular. My parents are in their 70s and have already expressed interest in a Geek Squad program, this would certainly be something they would sign up for to help with device issues, set up, etc. and it's a low enough amount that tacking it on to an electronics or appliance sale is nominal. I see the benefits in that they are building consumer intelligence, getting people to consider Best Buy first if they don't already, incentivizing them to buy all electronics there and meeting a real unmet need for a trusted source of hassle free support for an aging population. That service element is a monetization of (and a personalized) last mile whereas the competition is leaving that last mile generic (any delivery person) and losing margin from its cost.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2021

    Will shelf scanning robots put an end to out-of-stocks?

    Robots seem suited for replacing humans with repetitive tasks such as continuous heavy lifting, picking, packing, labeling, etc. Likely an entire warehouse operation can be fully robotic. I suspect in the near-term they are effective for counting or managing inventory but with computer vision and other innovations, cameras will be able to monitor inventory levels from a ceiling or elsewhere; no need for roaming robots. Cost effectiveness comes at sufficient scale and when tasks can be done more efficiently than humans.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2021

    Will a ‘skyscraper’ store change how groceries are delivered in cities?

    This is a neat concept and makes me think of the disruptive innovation thread on RetailWire yesterday. Many of these innovations make we wonder what the end game is, what is the upper limit of "convenience"? At some point, we will have groceries a few minutes after our smart home notifies the "grocer." Maybe we need more innovations that help us manage and enjoy all the time that's been freed up.
  • Posted on: 03/31/2021

    Where will ‘disruptive innovation’ take the retail business?

    In my opinion, the "tech" mentioned here just moves parity forward. Keep chasing them as game-changers at it will be exactly what he's talking about in his first book. I think a glimpse at something such as Vans' customization is an enabler, mass customization done well could lead to something interesting. Micro-manufacturing, micro-fulfillment, getting product manufactured closer to real-time and personal -- probably things like that which are happening in small bits around the globe.
  • Posted on: 03/31/2021

    Where will ‘disruptive innovation’ take the retail business?

    Lee, I think Amazon is a perfect example of what he called the innovator's dilemma. Walmart, Target, etc. didn't see the tiny bookseller coming, they didn't take Amazon seriously in the early days; Target even let Amazon host their website until 2009. Amazon slowly and surely took bites out of the categories that were low hanging fruit and of less concern to the big retailers. And they worked their way up the chain to become who they are today.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2021

    Are remote controlled robots ready to deliver for grocers and drugstores?

    My sense is that we are light years away from this happening at a scale suggested by the question. I am still waiting for the drone delivery phenomenon we were all so excited about five years ago. At this point, robots/autonomous delivery are better suited for behind the scenes efforts; warehouses, loading delivery vans or for commercial deliveries where there is limited conflict with pedestrians, traffic safety and more consistency in delivery patterns.

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