Shawn Harris

Customer Partnerships & Strategy, SmartLens, NA
Shawn heads North American retail customer partnerships & strategy for an AI powered multi sensor platform, SmartLens, which truly digitizes the store floor. 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: <b><a href=""> </a></b>
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    There are more pros than cons with this action. As stated in the article, better customer experience through faster front-ends and a positive impact on labor hours. Adding mobile checkout could be yet another option; I'm sure Costco will want to make sure shrink is contained, so more testing and learning to come...
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    How well did Target handle its no good, very bad weekend?

    This event will have a short shelf life. Outages unfortunately happen, though retailers do all they can to mitigate them. From what I have read, from offering water to discounts, it sounds like store staff stepped up.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Is there really wisdom in the crowd?

    There are plenty of examples where the crowd has out-performed other methods of problem solving. Recall Joy's Law of Management: "no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else...” -- Bill Joy. Even NASA uses crowdsourcing to solve some of its most pressing problems, awarding over $20 million in award money. Also, there is an AI firm, Unanimous AI, who has successfully leveraged human crowdsourcing plus AI to surface counterintuitive valuable insights. It works!
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does fear motivate workers or make things worse?

    Fear is not the answer; trust is. To inspire and motivate associates, management has to be trusted. Trust creates and environment where threats are reduced, and thinking and creativity are liberated. Trust creates attachment, which is foundational to a majority of our institutional ideals. A free thinking, creative, and brand-attached associate will be "felt" by customers; improving their customer experience, thus improving a retailer's revenue potential. Ditch fear.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Is Kroger following the Sears playbook for self-destruction?

    The anecdotal assessment is not lining up with Kroger's empirical performance. I think Kroger is doing a lot of the right things, and has the right culture to execute. The CEO's, Rodney McMullen, comment seems spot on "We’re moving from a traditional grocer to a growth company with both a strong customer ecosystem that offers anything, anytime, anywhere, and asset-light, high-margin alternative partnerships and services...” As Kroger, and others in grocery and retail, go through their digital transformation the additional investments and shrinking contribution margin will force them to make tough economic decisions (e.g. new floors, or more cores); at this time it seems like Kroger is navigating pretty well.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Will ‘Practice’ make for perfectly loyal customers at Lululemon?

    I wonder if the inclusion of the monthly fitness programs will make Practice reimbursable by most insurance providers. There could be a very ingenious angle here.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    Bezos Acquisition Thesis:
    1. Customers love it;
    2. It can scale;
    3. It has healthy ROIC;
    4. It is durable over time ...
    I think Target would hit the mark and align well with Amazon. Here is a prediction I had earlier this year: Thoughts on this prediction, @Amazon to acquire @Target? Might as well throw @Starbucks in there too... $110B+ #Retail #Predictions2018— Shawn Harris (@SmarterRetailer) January 2, 2018
  • Posted on: 11/06/2018

    Facebook delivers digital brands to the Market @ Macy’s for Christmas

    The biggest threat to Amazon, besides regulation, is Facebook owning the customer and partner retailers owning the product and fulfillment; through even more partners. This is a great first step by Facebook, I mean Macy's.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2018

    What if artificial intelligence is biased?

    The view of the world an AI has, is not the world; it's its training data. The inscrutable nature of AI makes it difficult, or impossible, to understand prediction logic and to pinpoint flaws of bias; this is still very much a research problem. However, this is where I believe that diversity of thought among applied data scientist, data engineers, and ethics validators will pay dividends.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Re:Store concept mixes co-work and co-retail

    WeWork just announced a similar plan; at scale. It makes total sense for such spaces to leverage their supportive and captive audience of entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and small businesses. This will allow them to further monetize the platform they've created beyond "rents"; provide exposure to aspiring brands and provide a convenient shopping experience for their community.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Can retail compete for computer science graduates?

    This is not just a competition between the retail industry and the tech industry; this is a competition with every industry. I've asked retailers in the past, "are you a technology company, or a retailer?" Most answer, "I'm a retailer." -- to me that's the wrong answer, especially given the differentiating experiences, capabilities and skills required to be successful in today's digital world. Retailers need to let it be known all of the "cool" things they are working on; there is a marketing for talent that needs to happen. Also hiring people who are burned out from the tech industry, who can help in bringing a different cultural ideal, will help in retention. And retailers should partner with academia and technology vendors to indirectly onboard talent while also creating a potential pipeline.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Are outsiders required to tackle disruption?

    Outside hires bring a fresh point of view. Diverse thinking in the C-suite and throughout an organization yields more swings on bat with respect to innovation. Quantity counts when it comes to idea generation to drive innovation, or to develop thoughtful responses to disruptive forces. External hires can inherently bring a fresh take.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    What can retailers do about consumer’s AI concerns?

    Retailers need to be mindful that the view of the world their AI-based tools have is the data used to train the system, not the world itself. Retailers need to be mindful of biased data. Bias could potentially come in the form of diverging customer interactions/treatment based on say fit size, or customer ZIP code. The thing about current machine learning is that many algorithms provide predictions that often times we as humans could never cognitively conceive. This could leave retailers open to unintended outcomes, from judgements made on misunderstood predictions. For retailers, on one end the feature engineering of data will be critical, while on the other the importance of judgement will increase. In customer-facing interactions, it would be wise to tell consumers when they are dealing with a human-like AI. It's OK to anthropomorphize chat bots, text and voice-based, just communicate to the consumer that they are dealing with a "smart" bot.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    Walmart still trying to figure out home delivery

    Current retail supply chains are still optimized to maximize profit by pushing the largest shipping unit to a destination. That's why retailers would love to drop a pallet on your doorstep instead of a box or boxes of eaches. I think the innovation to drive the profitable deliver of eaches will come through the resetting of cost models via the accelerated use of automation (robotics and ML/AI). What needs to happen is a supply chain system reimagination, not just a new piece of software. Ocado has rethought the grocery supply chain system; Kroger will benefit from that as they look to enhance the last mile, profitably.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2018

    Study: Online retailers losing billions in sales to out-of-stocks

    Out-of-stocks are a material issue for retailers. Consumers today are list-driven; having what you say you have, or what a consumer expects you to have in inventory is critical. Brick-and-mortar retailers require a holistic approach to maintaining high inventory accuracy. In-store, merging RFID, video, location and POS data with machine learning can yield incredible results of inventory accuracy, nearing 100 percent perpetually. This allows for smarter replenishment models, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and conversion, thus higher revenue, for in-store shoppers; while also realizing almost guaranteed hit rates for BOPIS and ship-from-store orders. The store needs to be digitized too.

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