Ralph Jacobson

Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM

Ralph Jacobson is the Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive for IBM. He is responsible for marketing IBM Consumer Products Industry Solutions to clients in areas including business strategy, operations and the consumer experience.

Ralph has worked in the CP and retail industries for more than thirty years. For more than a decade, Ralph has consulted to more than one-hundred clients around the globe, from Shanghai to Saudi Arabia.

Originally Ralph began his professional career at the largest supermarket company in Chicago, where he worked in store operations and marketing for seventeen years. He is married with two sons and resides north of Los Angeles, California.

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Building a Smarter Planet Blog

Only 40+ years in the Retail & CPG Industries. Let's talk about your business challenges sometime soon! Maybe I've seen them before somewhere in the world, like Shanghai, Saudi Arabia or Bangalore!
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does fear motivate workers or make things worse?

    We have to be careful that we don't paint with too broad a brush on whether or not fear tactics work. People respond differently to the same environment. When I worked in a supermarket in the '80s, the place was run with an iron fist. "Do this or we'll find someone who will," "Taking vacation?! Are you losing interest?!" etc. Sure, if you really needed the money and you couldn't get a job anywhere else, this style worked very well. However in today's employment landscape, workers have a lot of choices.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Retailing success doesn’t depend on silver bullets

    Great points, Ray! Thanks.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Are holiday shoppers getting more ‘appy’?

    Quite simply as apps become more intuitive, more people of all ages will use them. Simple thought -- just not easy to execute, evidently.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Retailing success doesn’t depend on silver bullets

    Physical stores will survive, but those that will thrive will train and continuously re-train their staff to connect with shoppers of the moment. If the current shoppers research products online, then the staff needs to know their product portfolio better than the staff of the past. This is just one example of the continuous evolution of staff capabilities that is required in this fast-changing retail world.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Will the maker movement inspire a new creative direction for malls?

    Making shopping personal via storytelling is one of the best ways to create compelling differentiation for your stores.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Kraft Heinz ‘embraced failure’ in digital transformation

    Bottom line, I believe most of us agree that pushing the envelope and learning from failing is what innovation is all about.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Where will Amazon go with its cashier-free concept?

    I'm wondering why retailers are waiting to see what happens next. Why can't someone else be innovative?!
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    I'm not certain this issue is anything new. In a slow-traffic store, how about selecting items of the day to push and create a short script to make the cross-sell or upsell more compelling? If there are customers in the store -- HELP THEM! Like, really help them. Even if they say they don't need help. Go away from them for a moment and bring an item back to them, and say, "Look what I found for you!" Just to get a sense of what they are looking for. Yes, being creative with time management also includes managing time when there is a ton of it on your staff's hands.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2018

    What is the dollar value of trust?

    This is a great example of retailers needing to stay on top of their brand image constantly. They must respond to negative publicity in a decisive, genuine manner to regain and build new trust. I think we can all name a few strong examples of brands that demonstrate this ability.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2018

    What’s next for Small Business Saturday?

    One of the big issues here is the ease and ubiquity of the big players in the market. Small businesses need to leverage their online presences so they can "punch above their weight" and successfully compete. Small Business Saturday has great intentions, however there needs to be a direct, in-your-face challenge to the big guys/gals. This is still about awareness (because the vast majority of shoppers have never even heard about it ... check your surveys), and it requires an orchestrated full-frontal attack to show why small businesses are the way to go.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Are subscriptions an untapped gifting opportunity for retailers?

    I think the opportunity for new categories of subscriptions is huge. And therefore, the opportunity for gifting these subscriptions is equally large. Securing branded partnerships is a great way to capture some initial revenue for the holiday season without having the need to develop your own -- however, most likely this holiday season's opportunity has passed.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2018

    What will it take for retailers to win the last-mile race for customers?

    This is a cost of doing business. Retailers need to invest in order to capture market share. Then manage COGS to maximize margin. Easier said than done, for sure. However, we're seeing it happen with smaller players, not just the big guys.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    How can retailers get customers to complete feedback surveys?

    Real-time, three-question-or-less surveys, like those on rideshare apps are the way to go. No one wants to take the time after the fact -- unless it's a particularly poor experience. Bottom line, keep it simple, timely and give the customer a chance to expand on their experience with an open comment section.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    Are retailers better off going cashless?

    Many retailers, especially specialty ones are going cashless as we speak. It's one less task to manage, and one less source of shrink to deal with. Sure fees are high, however no one measures the end-to-end cost of cash handling to get it into the banks. That should not be ignored.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    Store employees of the future will be affiliates, not associates

    Department and specialty stores have done this "clienteling" for decades, of course. The supermarket I managed in an upscale neighborhood in the '80s also did it. It was manually accomplished back then. Now, technology has evolved to be able to capture and manipulate far more data for those store staff who are handling this task. This is a role for specific staff to manage. I agree that not everyone in the store will be doing this. Whatever we call these employees, their mission is the same: Make the shopper feel special and build that exclusive brand loyalty retailers covet.

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