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: 11/13/2018

    Walmart puts AI to the test in an in-store lab

    The ability to automate shelf replenishment has been around since the late 1980s - we were doing it at the Retail Alliance. All it required was a starting inventory, an effective POS system, and conscientious entries when shelves were re-stocked. There's nothing AI in this, so no - it will not be a game changer. Remember - AI is not automation.
  • Posted on: 11/02/2018

    Walmart reimagines its big boxes as town centers

    So food trucks instead of food courts - otherwise, what makes Walmart think this is a destination idea? And walkable suburbs will take decades to develop, so it hardly fits in with that idea.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2018

    Shoppable ads need to tone down the sales pitch

    Give shoppers the choice - make both a "learn more" and a "shop now" button and let them choose.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2018

    Is there a failure to communicate between retail HQs and stores?

    The local stores don't need data; they need solutions. If a chain finds that broad-stroke initiatives don't apply or make sense when they've filtered down, it's the chain management's fault, not the district or local guy. That said, sometimes the district or local guy is not the right person for the job. Have someone outside the chain find where the problem is and fix it. Internally there will be too much blame going on.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2018

    Should retailers respond to every consumer review?

    The reviews are only going to affect traffic in one of two ways. Either the reviews are plentiful and extreme - all 5 stars or all 1 stars and lots of them - or the shopper is unfamiliar with the store but has been sent there by a search engine. At the point of limited knowledge, reviews can make a difference. How the retailer responds is dependent on any number of factors. One or two reviews a day - write a "thanks" or "I'm sorry - how can we fix that" note. If you're getting a lot, get an automation program to do it for you, but a good one, one with a sufficient variety of responses. Be sure it flags serious problems for personal attention.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2018

    Why haven’t CPG giants figured out what makes small brands so popular?

    A couple of points here. First, it's much easier for a small brand to grow, on a percentage basis than for a large brand. If my math is right, you're looking a 5 million in growth for a small brand, 33 million in growth for a large brand. Scale matters. Second is that small brands can appeal to niches and don't have to generate the revenues and profits that a larger brand does. They tend not to advertise or to advertise inexpensively and they don't have to deal to the trade as much. What does it mean for large brands? Not much.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2018

    Stores rarely ID customers before they check out

    I'm not sure retailers have a problem with their ability to identify customers. They appear to have a problem giving customers a reason why they should be asking for that information. Fix that part.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2018

    Where are market research and analytics falling short?

    Ryan -- there are good researchers and bad researchers, those focused on practical issues and those who don't understand that, those who think cohorts matter and those who think we researchers have better things to do with our time. Joel thinks the universe consists of one type of shopper who is digitally driven. His points are great, but only for that small group.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    ‘Frictionless’ is the annoying word of the year

    Paula - a great question. To me, you start with an acceptable range of friction among most people, from a little to some or a lot. That's your retail position. Frictionless then means you meet the standard your shoppers have come to expect. If you don't meet it, you've created friction. My (least) favorite friction example is Target -- they never have what I want when I click on a Google search link.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Is disruption coming to the alcohol beverage business?

    Ken makes a compelling case for its demise, but let's be honest - when was the last time we revamped a system to benefit the producer and the consumer? I'm not holding my breath on this one - too much money and politics involved.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Would biometric feedback shopping carts creep out Walmart’s customers?

    The creepiness aspect aside, it's not even clear that it is legal to collect this data without explicit consent each time someone chooses a biometric-enabled cart. Their rationale is silly -- there are not enough people passing out in Walmart to justify the cost of the carts. They want to see if your pulse goes up as you pass the Oreo cookies display. This data is much less useful than they probably realize.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Will the Kroger/Walgreens pilot lead to something really big?

    Hoping that a merger never happens. We love our Kroger pharmacists and my neighbors hate their Walgreens pharmacists (they are forced to use them for insurance). In a Kroger-centric area like Northern Kentucky (assuming the Cincinnati suburbs), how much easier are they really making this? If I look at my part of the Atlanta suburbs, there are no Walgreens that aren't within a few blocks of a Kroger.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Trader Joe’s success is a matter of values

    For me, it's #2 - product-driven. They offer unique products that we think are really tasty at a very good price. Close by is #3 - their customer service is outstanding, but I go there for the products and enjoy the service.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2018

    Is traffic a flawed measure of engagement?

    Nikki is right that traffic is a flawed measure - but every retailer should be trying to maximize conversion while keeping traffic levels stable (at least), if not growing. Conversion is the magic number, regardless of whether you are a tourist store or main line. But comparing one store to another may not be legit. This is why humans get involved in the data.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2018

    What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?

    Paula - Mister Donut?

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