PROFILE

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!
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  • Posted on: 06/19/2018

    Will an online dating site formula work for pop-ups?

    I think is a great, natural evolution of this store format. Why not bring all the pieces of the ecosystem together, eventually add a little AI into the mix, and POOF! ... you have a successful pop-up formula!
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Microsoft exploring checkout-less technologies

    Many tests have been going on for years in this area. I do see more and more pilots succeeding in the near term, however widespread adoption is most likely a few years away. That doesn't mean this won't happen, it just has to go through several more refinements to be able to be implemented at scale.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2018

    Merchants seek the right balance between classics and fad items

    In certain retail categories, we call those traditional items "staples." Those are the products that have been around forever and also thrive during lifecycles and resurge even bigger when the fad of vintage products returns every so often.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It

    I think one big obstacle is enhancing the staff's ability to connect with shoppers personally. Think about what the typical "script" should be when approaching a shopper. "Can I help you find anything" is so ancient and doesn't offer any connection. How about, "Has anyone said how much they like your [shoes, dress, etc.) today?" I dunno. Anything that begs the shopper to connect with the staff is a good thing. Your staff is the human differentiator versus your competition.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Do retailers need RFID to do BOPIS right?

    Customer order optimization software is a really good stopgap to identify true inventory levels and to create better supply visibility, rather than depending on (often) hundreds of suppliers to comply with RFID mandates. We've been talking RFID for decades and, although I'm an eternal optimist, I don't see a compelling reason for product ecosystems to invest in the capabilities to implement RFID anytime soon. I'm a big fan of what RFID could promise, however it's just not realistic right now.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Around 15 years ago I met with a prominent East Coast supermarket CEO and he told me that he would like his company to be known as a service company rather than a product company. Well, that hasn't happened yet, however I also believe that he was ahead of his time. I do think the time has come to leverage a true differentiator, such as services provided by real humans, to really generate compelling reasons to shop your store rather than a competitor's.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?


    Any change in internal process, be it technological, manual, cultural or otherwise, requires a certain incentive to help staff adoption. That incentive need not be monetary by any means. It can be helping with a workload, improving a work schedule or providing a cashless bonuses. I think digital transformation is only one aspect of staff collaboration that requires a coordinated approach to succeed.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    Quite simply, the more liberal and stress-free your return policy, the more policy abuse you'll get from your customers. You decide what it's worth, and use real analytics to help that decision, not your gut.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Too many meetings and reports undercut promos

    I may have an inherent prejudice based on my employer, however, I'll still take exception to item #5 in this article regarding the statement that, "Tools have not evolved since 1990." Seriously?! I realize there are a boatload of retailers and CPG Brands that still handwrite POs, but that shouldn't cloud what is available in the marketplace today for very competitive and even no cost options. Data IS available in real time, and reports ARE generated automatically. "Only 14 percent use a customer relationship management tool or budget management software." Well, THAT'S the problem, boys and girls. Let's get out of the previous millennium and go onto any of the dozens of vendor sites and give their free trials a shot. Watch a demo, invite them into your office and demand an affordable price and compelling ROI.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Are retailers short-changing national grocery brands?

    Without naming names, I can think of at least one national food retailers that has made itself one of the most profitable per-square foot store operators in the business by having an assortment made up of more than 90 percent private label products. That may be the exception, however there is an optimal mix of national brands and private label products. Other countries have done a better job, especially in certain European and Asian markets.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Brands win with TV 2.0 and the new direct mail

    Let's not forget that broadcast TV is still a dominant channel that has immense reach and rivals the most popular streaming channels that tech-savvy Millennials and others utilize. This is all about knowing your audience. If your products and services have a wide target, as in traditional supermarkets for example, then TV and potentially direct mail may hit the mark. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, though. You can't get sloppy in your approach.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Retailers told to forget social media

    In today's world, I would mildly disagree with the premise that you do not have to have a social media presence. In the future, if social chatter dies off, then yes. But for now, I would measure impact as Mr. Salvatori does and focus on that channel (or those channels) that works. Why would you disengage from a sales channel that is working, like YouTube? Stay close to it and when the tide shifts, deselect those channels. But I would definitely stay in front of your target audience if they are showing you that they are buying from you or your competition on a specific social channel.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Is AI the key to legacy brands’ revitalization?

    In retailing, AI is already being employed to drive brand value for new and old brands alike. However, we need to remember that AI in itself is not the tool. AI augments the intelligence of software tools. First you need to identify what you aim to accomplish and then understand what information you need to capture. From there, using AI capabilities, like natural language processing, visual recognition, etc., it can help users make decisions around the shopper experience, digital marketing and myriad other functions. I don't see any real dangers in using AI to augment our decision process. I only see more and more opportunity as humans better understand ways to improve retailing effectiveness overall.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    How many e-mails are too much?

    This is a way too subjective a study from which to make any serious, strategic decisions. The point is, people THINK they get too many emails if those emails are irrelevant. If they are spot on for that shopper, then they are more than welcomed.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    Retailers get real with high-touch service

    With all the greatest technology available today, the one last, great differentiator is still the human touch. Plain and simple. Keep it that way at your organization if you want to thrive.

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