Shawn Harris

Global Innovation Strategy Lead, Zebra Technologies
Shawn is Global Innovation Strategy Lead for Zebra. Shawn leads innovation strategy for Zebra, with a specific focus on Zebra's Top 4 global customers across retail and T&L. Shawn helps to navigate the ever changing retail and T&L landscape, providing thought leadership, pragmatic insights, and innovative human-centered solutions for issues pertaining to customer experience, and staff productivity.

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: 06/04/2018

    Does it pay for retailers to price-match their own websites?

    Why don't the prices just match without a shopper having to effectively call out the retailer? A shopper having to constantly check a retailer's online price, to validate their in-store price, erodes trust. It also wastes a shopper's time, which degrades convenience. It's not customer-centric, and if retail is about price, convenience and selection, you now negatively impact the former two.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2018

    Macy’s latest acquisition is all about STORYtelling

    The opportunity here is to scale STORY's presence, not attempt to create a new attraction within the existing box. However, I fear it will be the latter. We'll see, and congrats to Rachel!
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Amazon Go is all the above; it's a testing lab, marketing vehicle and a truly viable concept. The fact that there is a large number of employees speaks to Amazon's continued desire, even in the real-world, to make sure the customer experience stellar. It's a transformative concept, so shoppers will need guides. Also, with the exception of the employees in the prepared foods section, as this humanizes the experience, I can see this concept going fully autonomous to include replenishment activities. Also, don't forget Amazon is a hardware company too. The cost to R&D the tech was certainly significant; the "tooling" is now done. Amazon Go will extract out the most significant cost in retail, labor; the ROI is clear to me. It does this while also increasing the customer experience, a classic retailer's dilemma solved.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2018

    What does Ring mean for Amazon?

    Amazon acquired Ring for edge data. This data will help them improve customer experience through a more integrated delivery assurance, including better management of false no delivery claims. This immediately expands Amazon's IoT at-home solutions making Alexa your personal doorman; with ingress and egress knowledge, including the leveraging of face recognition and identification for access control and other smart notifications. Lastly, I can only imagine what can be teased out from the collateral data capture of video and sounds, utilizing deep learning. Back in 2016, I predicted this would happen: I wouldn't be surprised if @amazon bought @ring. #retail— Shawn Harris (@SmarterRetailer) December 18, 2016
  • Posted on: 01/29/2018

    Are ethics compatible with AI?

    AI, including robotics, raises a number of ethical considerations from issues mentioned in the article surrounding data bias, to the impact AI and robotics will have on a workforce. To help with the former, I would recommend keeping a human in the loop. In most cases, you will not know how an AI landed on any given prediction; what you know is the elements of the data the system was fed. If you have attributes that could lead to bias (e.g. zip code, education level, etc.), you may want to consider ensuring a human is in the loop to provide judgement, and thus training; and initially maintain a conservative stance with respect to what prediction confidence level will lead to immediate action, no action or go in to a review state. Robotics pose similar decisioning concerns; retailers should also consider what the introduction of robotics mean to their workforce. There is an ideal of collective intelligence, that is the pairing of robots and humans where each does particular tasks they are more adept and efficient at in the pursuit of meeting a job requirement. I see this way of working leading the way in the near-term; inevitably robots will take more and more tasks over, leading to the obvious need to reset workforce requirements. I think it will be incumbent on retailers and government to develop ethical solutions for what may be an increase in unemployment. Lastly for robotics is how human should they be. Many believe the anthropomorphizing robots is critical to acceptance and effectiveness in the workplace. That is, give a robot a human name, a smile, a story and something to make it feel less alien. This raises numerous ethical issue as you could imagine. We are in exciting times, no question; the advent of thinking machines introduces a new ethical dynamics that retailers will not be able to ignore.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2018

    Can Wakefern crowdsource away its out-of-stocks?

    This sounds like it could be an effective solution to monitoring for out-of-stocks, while having the potential to reduce labor hours. If the equipment/service's CapEx/OpEx is competitive with legacy and emerging solutions, and it achieves its performance goal, I do not see why this would not gain some traction.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2018

    Could ‘platform thinking’ be a blueprint for retail success?

    Those are all great ideas, but unfortunately can all be easily copied by big platforms. The big platforms are winning because they are successfully executing on assortment, price and convenience at scale, and have strategically focused on developing well-curated "walled gardens." I think retailers should focus on the three fundamentals of assortment, price and convenience with respective attributes being localized and personalized, competitive and truly frictionless. In addition, retailers should devise a way to federate customer data outside of Facebook, Google, et al., potentially standing up a decentralized model for permission-based access to shared customer data, where the consumer is rewarded for sharing.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2018

    Will retailers go on the road with self-driving mobile stores?

    This will enable the ultimate in localization of goods, allowing for supply to literally follow demand. These bots will revolutionize supply chain design, taking on more of an Uber-esque ideal. Level 4 autonomy (autonomous in specific environments) will be adequate to get started, and would allow for material reach.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2018

    Kohl’s to share space with grocery store partner(s)

    The shifts in retail are structural, not cyclical. This move by Kohl's would be a bold structural shift. I applaud the deliberate strategic decision-making and emergent testing and learning they have been doing.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2017

    Will chatbots replace customer service reps?

    Undoubtedly, chatbots both text and voice-rendered will replace a large majority of customer service representatives. This is true given the specificity of the use case and advancements in artificial intelligence with respect to semantic and sentiment understanding within natural language processing, highly accurate translation services and text-to-speech models that sound more and more human. Personally, I prefer chatting with customer service, and I'm not sure if it's a human or bot on the other end given the generic responses often received. Are chatbots now passing the Turing Test? Have we arrived?
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    It’s good to be Home Depot

    Here are a few things I think Home Depot has done well: They have curtailed opening new stores and instead have leveraged the existing ones in a rethought supply chain management model building a very flexible network. They have focused on delivering a great experience for both the pro and the DIYer, with a particular focus on the former. Lastly, they have accepted the economics of online vs. offline, and have worked to optimize them individually rather than trying to get online's economics to fit within offline's.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    How would the end of net neutrality impact retail?

    A repeal of net neutrality would lead to "tolls" on the Internet, which will find their way to the consumer's pocket. It is management's role to maximize value for shareholders, and due to personal incentives they often have only a near-term view. Undoubtedly, ISPs will want to tap into the revenue streams of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Netflix, Airbnb, Spotify, et al. In the pursuit of value, ISPs could establish comparable services for free. However, if a consumer wishes to access competitive sites and services an ISP could charge consumers similarly to how they charge for content today (e.g. "online shopping fee" or "social media fee" or "music streaming fee"), block services, or otherwise degrade the experience. ISPs could selectively charge service providers to gain access to customers as well. If repealed, I think this will also lead to great competition for the ISPs as certainly the larger Internet companies will start to move more aggressively into the space. Facebook and Google already have land-based and air-based Internet service offerings.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2017

    Lowe’s and Macy’s join rivals chasing smart home opportunity

    Lowe's move makes sense; I'd argue they are missing a piece by not injecting themselves in to the data play. Macy's move feels very tactical, but these are the sorts of things firms do when frantically seeking value. Macy's should launch a program where shoppers pay a subscription fee to walk in to any store, grab an outfit and go -- call it "Macy's My Closet." Get bodies in the door, a reoccurring revenue stream, and it's more in alignment. It would be a way to collect data for increased personalization of product and pricing. Gaining advantage through strategic data is key today, not just the transaction.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2017

    Retailers need supply chain urgency – now

    I have been spending a lot of time going deep on supply chain management via MIT's SCM micromasters program. I get it, it's hard. However, I think retailers need to rethink level of service to meet today's supply chain management challenges, and then address the upstream constraints. Level of service (LOS) is typically determined by a supply node's proximity to demand; that being customers, stores or other third-parties. Given the numerous fulfillment choices customers have/want today, retailers should not look to build a network which seeks to satisfy all of the possibilities on their own. Retailers should look to co-op networks and forge deeper relationships with transportation and logistics firms, up to and including Amazon. Think about how you can extract out complexity in your network and bring in outside perspective to help. Not only could you find new ways of delivering unexpected LOS, but you also could realize new competitive advantage and/or new market opportunities. Focusing on LOS focuses you on the customer.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2017

    Big Data is done, put a fork in it

    The idea of "Big Data" stumbled because it was too much data for us humans to make sense of. That ushered in "Small Data;" more useable chunks of data that a data scientist could use to model with. I think the recent advancements in machine learning now allow us to go back to making sense of "Big Data," or lots of data. I'm not sure retailers are at the point of needing to understand the limitations of data science, as I think they still have not yet grasped the potential. Marketers should be clear on the business problem they are trying to solve for, then enlist data science to determine the right data to model in order to draw out insights.

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