Dr. Stephen Needel

Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Dr. Stephen Needel is Managing Partner of Advanced Simulations, based in Woodstock, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. He formed and now manages an international company responsible for bringing virtual reality simulations to bear on retailing, marketing, and consumption issues from a research perspective.

Prior to starting ASL, Dr. Needel was President of Simulation Research, where he brought the concept of using virtual reality technology to the everyday marketing research world. Dr. Needel held the position of Vice President for Product Development at A.C. Nielsen, where he developed new techniques for integrating and analyzing retail scanner data and household purchasing data. He has also been a Vice President of Analytical Services at Nielsen after coming from their competitor, Information Resources, where he led a team doing advanced analytical research from IRI’s BehaviorScan market testing system. Earlier jobs included analytical roles at Burke Marketing Research and Quaker Oats.

Originally a native of the Boston, Dr. Needel came to the business community with a B. A. in Psychology from The American University and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Connecticut. He is a member of the American Marketing Association.

His international experience dovetails nicely with his appreciation of English beers, South American beef, Australian football, and Mexican chiles. He hopes to pass on these fondnesses to his two sons.

  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did Gillette’s rant against toxic masculinity go too far?

    The ad makes a great point - there are things men should change. That said, is it Gillette's job to change this or is it their job to sell grooming supplies? When I'm shaving, I'm thinking about the closest shave I can get, not whether I'm being politically correct. Nor am I thinking about boycotting my razor because it wants to be more politically correct. Avoid the political statement - there is lots of research showing Millennials, for example, are less interested in a brand's political views than we used to think.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Some question if digital assistants will ever live up to the hype

    I hate to sound like a Luddite, but for the average person this is a toy and not a particularly useful one. How many times do I need to change my thermostat in a day, for example? Yes, more people will buy them as they get put on sale at Christmas time and, like VCRs (for those old enough to remember these), we'll probably see the formats reduced, perhaps to Google v. Amazon. But I just don't think they are that useful yet. Technology in search of an application.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Is Lowe’s doing it right with its new tagline?

    Seems like the opposite - that Lowe's is becoming more like its competition and given the (low) quality of its employees -- not the most knowledgeable people in the business -- that's not a good strategy. At least here in Atlanta you don't go to Lowe's if you need help, you go because they have something you need on sale.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Should Dollar Tree sell Family Dollar?

    Wait - Dollar Tree is down 15 percent while Dollar General is up 15 percent? If this has any relationship to sales, the problem for Dollar Tree is Dollar General, not its own Family Dollar. Fix Family Dollar to make it more competitive or change the name to Dollar Tree and simplify your operation. Selling it is a potential disaster, especially if someone smart buys it.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    What’s holding back in-store mobile engagement?

    I agree John - and most of the surveys that point to the demand are done by companies that have a vested interest in the answer being "Yes -- give us mobile."
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Is Blue Apron smart to pin turnaround hopes on Weight Watchers alliance?

    No - the partnership won't pay off. Doesn't mean it's a bad idea, but don't expect this to turn around Blue Apron (or WW, for that matter). The maximum potential reach is 2.8 million, of which we imagine very few are already subscribers. I don't see how they will get enough new people to turn around a failing business.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Whole Foods to expand nationwide to drive Prime Now growth

    If I have this right, we'll have more Whole Foods stores so that Amazon can deliver to more people? Seems a bit backward to me -- generate the interest in Whole Foods products (and prices), then add on the value of Amazon delivery. Otherwise, why don't they just build warehouses?
  • Posted on: 12/28/2018

    Are dollar stores bad for cities?

    So I'm sure there's no bias in a study run by ILSR -- really?! Doesn't this sound like the argument against Walmart coming into a community years ago? Dollar General will sell what people will buy. If people will buy healthier food options, Dollar General will sell them -- they aren't stupid. That they offer a lot of junk food is not the cause of problems, it's the result of problems, and we should stop placing that responsibility on retailers' shoulders. There won't be backlash.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    Kroger’s private label hits get their own store-within-a-store

    Its success will in part depend on which level of product they are putting in that section -- Kroger, Private Selection, or Hemisfares. That said, shoppers tend to shop by category, then brand. Now Kroger wants us to shop by brand first -- I don't think that will happen. Part of the appeal of their private label, which is getting better in taste quality, is that it is less expensive. Take away that price comparison and you lose an advantage.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2018

    Are retailers getting over their SKU management hurdles?

    Using sales-based hurdle rates has never been the best to determine item retention, although I recognize that many companies aren't sophisticated enough to understand all the ways that a product can contribute to the store. An item that fits a local niche, increases the perception of variety in a narrow assortment, that helps set price points in a category (i.e. high or low priced products) can all be useful beyond their sales numbers. And the argument that what space they take up could be better used is weak - the 80/20 rule will have covered that.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Walmart gives associates a tool to deal with out-of-stocks

    Workers in customer-facing positions would be much more important. Why not kiosks with this tool, with big "Can't Find It" signs? Let the customers do it themselves.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Are weekend deals the key to Target’s holiday success?

    The questions I'd ask first are whether Target's bulk of shoppers on the weekend is a.) similar to other chains and b.) if that is that a good thing. All chains may be experiencing weekend skews, so this may be nothing unique. Does this backloading play havoc with employee scheduling? Do they have lots of employees sitting around during the week while too few are on the floor on the weekends? I'm not sure (but I am open-minded) about whether this is a good strategy.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2018

    Aldi gets creative for Christmas

    I hate to say this, but the U.S. ad is the only one that makes a point and I can't feel bad about that (reindeer hooves is a cute touch).
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    How can retailers get customers to complete feedback surveys?

    You have two issues here -- one is bad survey design and the other is bad feedback mechanism design. A company that asks more than a few questions is not respecting their customers' time. A company that doesn't include an open-ended "what else would you like to tell us" appears disingenuous about their desire to learn from their customers. Both are easy fixes. I've seen more of the second problem -- how do I give feedback to a company? As the authors say, if I'm in the middle of a bad experience and there is no way for me to fix it, I'm angry. How does a retailer of any sort have a website without a link that says, "Give Us Feedback"?
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    Are Millennials taking advantage of retailers’ goodwill?

    I'm with Cathy - I don't know that this means they are complaining to get discounts - they are (overgeneralizing) a more delicate and easily offended generation and often seem to lack the filters that some of us were brought up with. I'm saying this as gently as I can so I don't offend my Millennial son, but sometimes they do need to get over themselves. That they often lack the ability to communicate face-to-face is disturbing and will indeed change how we think about customer service. Feedback kiosks, anyone?

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