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: 04/20/2018

    What are retailers missing about building a workplace culture?

    Wherever you work in the retailer, you must demand a sense throughout the organization that permeates the sentiment that, "If you aren't helping a shopper directly, you should be helping someone who is." And this is best demonstrated by leadership setting the example. Store management walking the sales floor constantly.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2018

    Walmart ditching khakis for jeans in dress code test

    Dress code is important, especially if the retailer wants to connect with its audience. Times change, and so does fashion. This is a great move. My company used to be known for its employees' blue suits. Now our senior leadership wears jeans.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    What makes a great loyalty marketing professional?

    Among the most critical capabilities of a loyalty marketer must be, "The understanding of customer behavior change," as mentioned in the article. The challenge is, no one can do this alone. There are some great tools available today to help the team capture and ingest the data required for this understanding. I am not certain that data scientists are always required in large numbers. The newest AI technologies really do a great job of analytics to help reduce the need for human intervention. However, the chief loyalty marketer does need a team of people to find the best approach to a program an sell it to the internal organization. To achieve this position of credibility is easier said than done. Communication and persuasion skills are also required.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Who will fill the retailing void left by Toys ‘R’ Us?

    Although the toy industry in general has been transforming for years away from the industry it was when I was kid, I believe there is still significant share to capture. Among the retail formats mentioned in the article, I still feel there is opportunity for both supermarkets and drug stores to grab some share. Forever, the toy sections in these stores have been an afterthought, if there was a section in the store at all. A proactive, intentional strategy to offer what is selling today, like gaming, etc., could be a great way to drive incremental revenue.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    Wow, thanks for sharing so much with full transparency. I am proud to be part of an organization that blazed the trail for women to achieve the most senior executive positions for more than 80 years. This has everything to do with the individual organization's culture, as opposed to the industry in which it operates. For the 17 years I've been here, I have had far more female managers, and their managerial uplines have mostly been female. The point is, this has never been a challenge. We just do it. We don't highlight it so much to make it seem like something strange or rare. We just make it happen. ALL organizations need to do this. Find the best "man" for the jobs, and you'll quickly find it quite often isn't a man.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Brands find unexpected opportunities to reach next-gen customers

    Knowing that more than 100,000 new products are introduced every year with far less than 5% of those surviving beyond two years, I believe that there is a huge gap in true innovation around the world. Those really insightful products and services that do survive come from both large and small brands. The examples in this article are great and I can think of others that find those gaps in innovation and capitalized upon them. These gaps can be filled by new low-cost entrants, simplification of the product solution, better quality entrants, etc. These is still huge opportunity for brands to take advantage.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    This is a natural evolution. People of all ages, not just Millennials, enjoy the local feel of trendy food halls. Are they a via driver/destination for larger retail malls? Actually, not always. The anchor store mentality is still the compelling reason for people to shop a specific mall location. We have seen those anchor stored partner with food hall tenants to create a better partnership, though. Malls still struggle not only to attract shoppers, but also purchasers. There are too many shoppers simply window shopping the malls today. Many of the stores are dying, regardless of the food choices available.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Will electric vehicles prove a bane or a boon for c-stores and energy drinks?

    You'r right, Richard. Only time will tell here in the U.S. And it does make sense for retailers & CPGers to develop strategies now.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Will electric vehicles prove a bane or a boon for c-stores and energy drinks?

    Although growing, the plug-in and pure electric vehicle market share is minuscule compared to the internal combustion-driven market, and I honestly don't see any significant negative impact to fuel stations in the next decade. This is because the average age of cars in the U.S. is more than eleven years, so the 15 million+ new cars purchased this year will still be around for a while, along with the couple hundred million already on the roads. However, all that said, it never hurts to plan ahead, and I'd say that retailers and CPG brands can look to the charging stations both on the road and even at home for opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell!
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Is product discovery now the biggest pain point for mobile buys?

    So, let me understand this. "A provider of mobile product discovery solutions" conducted a survey that found, "product discovery has leaped ahead of payment complexities as the leading inhibitor holding back mobile purchases." Hmm. OK. Those findings notwithstanding, AI is already helping shoppers find the right products and has been for a few years, with retailers like 1-800-Flowers, Staples and others. These technologies are digging deep into complex product assortments to help find those slower-moving, less promoted items that a LIVE call center agent may not see. And now the power of true machine learning will be available via mobile devices. So imagine fully-featured AI technologies in the palm of your hand. That's going to be the next step in really personalizing the shopping experience.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    What makes a successful retail CEO?

    I find CEOs who successfully transition from industry to industry very intriguing. One who comes to mind ran a national snack foods CPG brand, then an international credit card provider and finally turned around a pure global technology company in peril to keep it intact and make it profitable like never before. Leaders like this, at their core, need to be the world's best decision makers. Yes new soft skills may be required today as mentioned in the article, however the most successful CEOs must take both internal and external sources of information and make calculated risks to leapfrog the competition. Balance between being a loose cannon and playing it too safe. That's so much easier said than done.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Retailers must unite to bring dying downtowns back to life

    Agreed, Richard.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Retailers must unite to bring dying downtowns back to life

    Not only in the U.S., but around the world, people are moving into cities. I believe more than 70 percent of the U.S. population is now considered urban. With all this migration into cities, there certainly cannot be a lack of retail shopping demand. Perhaps retailers need to define what their urban audience truly wants and needs, including things like free local delivery because they are walking to the store and cannot carry merchandise home, etc. These shoppers are not traditional shoppers, and need to enjoy a very personalized experience.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    All companies, retailers, CPGs, everyone needs to take this issue seriously, and technologically. Talk is cheap, and talk solves nothing if actions do not follow. There are tools available today that can really minimize risks for data breaches and they need not be massive capital investments. There is no question that those organizations that don't take definitive steps to mitigate these risks are vulnerable, however there are plenty of great examples of retailers and CPGs that have implemented the right capabilities to fend off the majority of these attacks.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Will micro-designers disrupt fast-fashion giants?

    Just like microbreweries, I see this trend growing quickly. It's trendy and cool to support the "little guys" (and gals) in every industry, so I see this growing successfully as the "big guys" buy them up.

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