Ray Riley

Chief Executive Officer, Progress Retail
Ray Riley is the Chief Executive Officer of Progress Retail, a retail e-learning platform that layers retail management, productivity, and communication tools on the foundation of personalized sales, product knowledge, organizational, and management training content.

Born in Michigan to college professors, Ray rebelled in early 2009, and left college after two semesters to expand a wholesale company he started earlier that year dealing in cell phones, parts, and cellular accessories. Shortly thereafter, he scaled this business into operating wireless retail stores, which continued the course for an entire career based in several functions within the retail industry.

His passion lies in the development of front-line retail teams and the convergence of technology within a brick-and-mortar environment. Progress Retail is led by Ray Riley, Terry Hawkins, and Kash Movania, and is principally headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with an office in Sydney, Australia.

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  • Posted on: 08/14/2018

    ‘Less is more’ when competing with Amazon

    Supply matters. If you're selling commoditized products such as in the light bulb example, than having a plethora of options conveys trust. Perceived differentiated products, such as MacBook Pros, iPhones or iPads on the other hand have perceived value built-in and require no comparison unless it's to an adjacent internal product category (iPhone/iPhone Plus). It is an entirely different model, and one that has been over twenty years in the making since the first store in 2001. Apple drives so much revenue out of their stores, and they offer virtually zero customization on their computer product line for cash and carry retail customers. What does that tell you?
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    Consortium is made-to-order for people who want customized brands

    I remember in 2004-2005 as a young athlete spending hours on Nike's website, which at the time had a state-of-the-art customization tool now commonly known as NikeID. Customers have been and are looking for customized products, whether that's a pair of football cleats or a bottle of Moët. The concept will survive, but many of the middle men won't. With 3-D printing and other advancements in technology, the retailers will own the process and distribution in-house.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Can retail compete for computer science graduates?

    I think organizations need to get really clear on who they are. Amazon and Google are technology companies. Down to the lowest common denominator in those organizations, even in an Amazon fulfillment center -- the precision and systemization of the operation is a clear distinction from a [insert strong performing retailer here], Best Buy, REI, Home Depot, Sephora, etc. Sephora is not a technology company, and neither are any other high-performing retailers. They are just that -- retailers that have adopted and leveraged technology because it's the oxygen needed to run the business in 2018, no different than the importance of cash-on-hand. Retail making a push to hire more CS grads is 10 years too late, and frankly beyond compensation each retailer should incentivize CS grads by giving them freedom to work on side projects, as well as having a pilot store for trialing innovation.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Report says voice commerce is all talk

    I believe voice could be the intermediary technology that drives the next massive change in commerce. As a metaphor, in computing and file storage there was the floppy disk (1.5MB) and then there was the CD-ROM (700MB), but many people forget the ZIP drive that was massively influential in bridging that gap in consumer need with capacity ranging from 100MB-750MB. This hardware eventually fell out of favor. I believe the same is true with voice assistants in their current form, as the technology could quickly evolve to in-ear, optical (applying the visual product element in multi-dimensions or via AR), or a wrist solution with holographic capacity. Sounds a little Star Trekky perhaps, but not far from reality.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2018

    Starbucks prepares for a Bitcoin future

    Without getting into the specifics of any individual digital currency, Starbucks should be commended for continuing to trial payment technology after they are already the leader in mobile payments. Digital currency is no doubt the future, and Starbucks intends on attracting those consumers who use it to their physical outlets from stage zero.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Are outsiders required to tackle disruption?

    Nearly everything is taking a "direct-to-consumer" approach, and technology has enabled this among democratizing many roles across sectors and industries that were formerly held by agencies, brokers, middle men, etc. Much of this has all happened in the last 12 years, and much of these advancements and changes not only are directly applicable to retail, but have had a stun-gun effect on retail. I've witnessed internally in previous organizations big outside hires, but because of the retailer's 300+ store footprint, these individuals couldn't understand how to pull all of the gears and levers within their function to get the machine moving at that scale. They had a lot of proven theory in a controlled environment in their previous work, but there's nothing controlled about retail -- particularly if you're leveraged with physical stores.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Empty malls spelled the end for Brookstone stores

    Similar to Toys "R" Us, Brookstone’s stores were filled with product, with most of them still in the packaging. There were little opportunities to engage with the product, and it certainly wasn’t an encouraged interaction in-store. Those products are just better tested in-store than acquiring online. Lost relevancy and purpose has a lot more to do with it than deteriorating mall traffic.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Who in retailing’s c-suites should drive customer experience?

    Every single executive within a retail organization should be intimately aware and empathically-based in the effect their function has on the customer, and the effect their function has on neighboring functions in the retail organization. HR must be intimate with Technology, and Marketing must be intimate with Operations. It's a single channel world the customer lives in, and they don't care what business function is responsible for what, it just has to be seamless.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Wayfair to open its first brick & mortar store

    Wayfair now has the opportunity to increase their average transaction value, decrease their logistics costs, and leverage in-store teams' productivity with installations, in-store events, and workshops. Physical stores, when done properly from site-selection to day-to-day operations, are a boon to any retailer.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Zara bets on faster deliveries from stores to boost online growth

    As a BIG Zara fan and shopper, Inditex overall is quite a machine. The first thing I think of is the impact on margin, but positioning this service with products at full-margin is very smart, and hopefully they share data from this experiment.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Can store associates do anything about rude customers?

    There are two sides to the coin. In an ideal world, customers will be respectful consistently. However in the case of the sales associate, have they been properly trained to handle conflict and given techniques to diffuse heated situations? Most conflict that individuals of all ages handle today are attempted through text messaging or email. Most lack the interpersonal skills to effectively navigate these issues with friends, let alone customers. It is an employer responsibility to provide these valuable skills. Other customers are watching these interactions!
  • Posted on: 07/26/2018

    Retailers throw ‘hiring parties’ to reach staffing goals

    I think there is a way to do this well. Cap the number of attendees, and perhaps screen them based on a written response, or a 60 second video explaining why they'd be a good fit, and why they identify with the brand. A party with free food will attract warm bodies, but if physical retail wants to being attracting coachable human beings that won't be replaced by kiosks and automation, they need to begin setting that standard.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2018

    McDonald’s offers free fries for mobile orders

    Brilliant. Free fries will translate to increased app downloads and mobile order engagement. McDonald's has a point of difference where they can lead with a much larger average mobile transaction. I would love to see how families capitalize on this convenience.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2018

    Walmart to take another shot at Netflix and Amazon, too

    Walmart should focus on beating Amazon where they can. For a retailer with a heavy physical footprint, how many wars can they find themselves in a position to win? Battling against Netflix with 100 million plus subscribers (which excludes the rest of the world utilizing a friend or relative’s account) as well as Prime Video seems untenable. And with the timing, is this another PR signaling play with Netflix's recent announcement?
  • Posted on: 07/17/2018

    Walmart and Microsoft team up to slow Amazon’s roll

    Microsoft is the best partner for Walmart to accelerate their efforts in AI, and Walmart is a great partner for Microsoft's retail deployment. MSFT's AI work in health care and other sectors has been pioneering, and its application within a retail business as large as Walmart will be interesting to watch. I certainly think the announcement has a lot to do with optics especially during the Prime Day craze.

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