Shawn Harris

Senior Director, Global Retail and Hospitality Strategy & Business Development,

Leader responsible for all North American go-to-market activities for Zebra’s intelligent automation solution for retail, SmartSight. SmartSight leverages the robotics, computer vision and machine learning capabilities of Zebra’s EMA50 enterprise mobile automation system to capture shelf and store status. The solution also puts data to work by issuing near real-time corrective actions to store associates’ mobile computers. SmartSight is a complete subscription-based solution.

Shawn’s passion rests in brick-and-mortar and digital retail technology experiences, operations, and supply chain management . Shawn has been involved with store systems, ecommerce, and order management technologies for over 15 years, having held management positions in, or consulted to, numerous Tier-1 retailers including, TJX Cos, Staples, and Uniqlo (Fast Retailing). Shawn also founded a luxury menswear brand, ECC Life&Style, which most was known for designing and making clothing for some of New England’s most regarded corporate executives and professional athletes across the country. Shawn keeps a keen eye on what’s potentially next, by staying closely involved in the Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley startup communities. Shawn recently served as the program lead for the Startup Leadership Program, and has participated in startup programs through Techstars, New York Fashion Tech Lab, MassChallenge, and New York Fashion Tech Lab.

For 8 years Shawn honorably served in the Army National Guard as an infantryman and armored personnel carrier (APC) driver. Shawn has a passion for culture and language. He speaks conversational Japanese, and has traveled extensively through Europe, Africa, and Asia for business. Shawn earned his MBA from Babson College, and a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Massachusetts.

Read Shawn’s blog at:

  • Posted on: 08/25/2021

    What will be the toy story of Christmas 2021?

    Just love seeing the Healthy Roots Doll on this post's hero photo. I remember having discussions with Yelitsa, Founder and CEO, at RISD when she was just getting going.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2021

    Does every online retailer need to have a third-party marketplace?

    I believe that it is a winner-takes-most world when it comes to online. Though I do think that if you can monetize your distribution (aka eyeballs), logistics, and brand in your retail segment -- profitably -- then you should establish a marketplace.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2021

    Labor Department makes it tougher to classify gig workers as contractors

    I'd imagine these firms will start pitching drivers/shoppers on becoming LLCs and support this effort as value-added services. These new LLCs would then contract to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, et al as businesses with tax benefits. This prior to the aspirational hope of what autonomous vehicles and other automation will bring.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2021

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

    I agree with this post.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2021

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

    Improved visibility/demand sensing in-store, enabled by intelligent automation, provides the deterministic data required to inform net new inventory policies and processes upstream. Helping to answer the question, what needs to change upstream to meet the aggregate needs we now see in-store.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2021

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

    We are in interesting times where retailers are having to more aggressively figure out how to get a tube of lip balm to a front door, instead of a pallet to a store. This is a deep structural change. In addition, an increase of minimum wage to $15 per hour is looming. In order to have the resource to apply to addressing immediate customer experience needs while also innovating forward, retailers need significant advances in productivity. I have been calling this transformational productivity. Shelf edge scanning robots can help with the immediate need of providing the inventory visibility required to support retailers in keeping brand promise for those shopping in-store and at home. Shelf edge robotics can also provide that productivity, which can be applied to customer service, BOPIS, store safety, and invested into innovation. Solution pricing has reached cost effectiveness, with a growing list of use cases to drive more value.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Will Nordstrom celebrate or regret its decision to give brands a lot more control?

    One response to disruption is to determine the high-value reason(s) why shoppers choose you. Double down on those high-value components, and begin to decouple lower-value ones. For many legacy brick and mortar retailers, their high-value rests in their real estate and their brand name. This move makes sense.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2020

    Are retailers cutting their way to profitability or slowly bleeding to death?

    There continues to be a secular decline in brick and mortar retail sales, as consumers shift to more online based fulfillment. This move from analog dollars to digital pennies is a structural change that will not be solved by simply closing stores, but instead by taking a deep assessment of unit economics, as pallets to stores is not eaches to homes. Also, diversification to find other sources of revenue will be key. It has taken Amazon close to 25 years to start to get this right.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2020

    A successful diversity initiative led to an unintended consequence at Walmart

    Systems thinking is underrated.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2020

    Should restaurants charge a pandemic fee?

    The economics of running a restaurant have changed. Restaurant owners must make the price/cost adjustments required to maintain a viable business. I'm all for a COVID-19 fee.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Retail shrink rose to all-time high in 2019

    As of June 2020, the United States had the highest number of incarcerated individuals worldwide, with more than 2.12 million people in prison. So, I would need more time to reconcile that fact with the first two bullets. The last bullet, "Opioid addiction, mental health challenges and economic conditions", should have been the first, they are the root causes; the rest are criminal tactics. However, I think that retailers should focus on increased surveillance deterrents, flexible payment options, truly making associates partners and not just employees, and community outreach.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    What white people need to know

    I am glad that these difficult conversations are taking place. Systemic racism is complex and is deeply rooted in the construct of America. When you consider systemic racism through the lens of Systems Thinking one of the most impactful intervention levers is shifting paradigms. In this case, to shift paradigms you need to be made aware of some ugly truths, shortcomings, and flaws in the "system" in order to understand that change is needed, rallying all. On the flip side of intervention levers is numbers -- we need to look at corporate workforces, executive leadership, and boards, and commit to bringing in qualified black talent. They exist.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Will Walmart’s customers pay $10 more to get deliveries in two hours?

    $10 as a premium charge for less than two hour delivery is steep; I do understand it's costly to execute on these services. I'd imagine that the fee could represent over 100 percent of the item(s) price, as you are not last minute bulk shopping. So the intent here is to drive people to just go to the store and pick it up, as the friction of $10 will be an untenable cost for most customers.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2020

    Will selling groceries help restaurants ride out COVID-19?

    There is a ton of business theory that would guide these decisions. From Jobs-to-be-done, to customer value chain analysis. When your business is disrupted there are several ways to respond. In this case restaurants choosing to decouple themselves makes sense. Sell ingredients and supplies, broadcast preparation tips and tricks on YouTube, offer live cooking classes, offer virtual personal chef services via Zoom...
  • Posted on: 03/31/2020

    Why do so many people working in retail find AI scary?

    Today in retail, AI is being used to help with labor scheduling, task creation and assignment, shelf edge inspection for out of stocks, pricing compliance, planogram compliance, hazard and spill detection, freshness and waste mitigation, and plenty more. However, it is still early days. Inherently, "AI" is dumb. Its view of the world is the distribution of the data it was trained on; fall out of distribution and watch how AI can go bad. I think that within the next 10 years there will be more causal models, then correlation-based, and real-time human preference seeking, which will lead to even more powerful machine agents.

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