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: 05/24/2019

    Questions abound about the value of net promoter scores

    I'm guessing a lot of retailers don't actually understand NPS. It doesn't measure whether you will or will not recommend something. It measures your PROPENSITY to recommend. Think about it - who recommends a fast-food restaurant or a gas station? I've been asked the NPS question for both in the past week. What it does measure is whether I had a good experience (Yes to BP, no to Dunkies) without directly asking me, because the experience question often elicits positive responses. Retailers need to get that lots of people don't recommend establishments to anybody, so a failure to recommend is less a comment on the store than on the whole social media environment.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2019

    Do the benefits of using facial recognition in retail outweigh the risks?

    I'm hard pressed to come up with a use for facial recognition in retail that will overcome the creepiness factor or even pay out. How many people does Walmart think will be turned into happy shoppers? Does it matter - what are they going to do, not shop at Walmart any more? I'm betting the cost of losing some shoppers will never exceed the cost of the system. Expect more and more legislation claiming your face is your property, not a retailer's, and opt-out won't be sufficient - you will have to actively opt in.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    How should retailers raise prices to offset tariffs?

    Snicker away, Bob - and I agree, normally politics doesn't belong here, but in large part this is a political and not a business issue for most industries.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    How should retailers raise prices to offset tariffs?

    Pass it on to the shoppers - this is what Republicans want. If shoppers don't like the new higher prices, vote current officeholders out. This is not a time for retailers to take the hit.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Kroger launches accelerator fund

    I'm not sure Kroger has existing trade partners - it has vendors. If Kroger develops its own products that are more interesting to shoppers, great - the shopper wins in the end. If they develop something and sell it to an existing CPG company, great, the shopper wins in the end.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2019

    Is the gig economy sustainable?

    It's not the on-demand economy, it's the business model. When you have a business model that says, "let's sell this product or service for less than it costs," you are not going to make money. People use Uber and Lyft because it costs less. When they have to raise prices to make a profit, demand will drop.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    Why is Party City closing profitable stores?

    I'm confused. I get closing unprofitable stores. I get thinking about what stores you keep or drop in case store-level profitability drops. Unless they've tested this somewhere first, though, I think relying on people to travel to a store is risky. Yes, it's one thing to drive another mile - but what happens if that extends to 3-4 miles? Online is starting to look better and better.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    What’s wrong with the (fill in the blank) category?

    I would blame the manufacturers, particularly their category management teams. The principle behind CM is that vendors work for the benefit of the category, not themselves - in return, they get bonus points and benefits/prioritization/protection for helping the retailer. If they know that yogurt (or any category) is declining or that there is a shift in segments, they should be helping the retailer re-set the section.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2019

    What companies need to know before using AI

    Retailers have a tough time explaining this because mostly they don't need to use it - they are buying into it because it's the hot term. That doesn't mean AI can't find some interesting things to try, but so could smart analysts and you need them anyways, as Mr. Bassett says, to understand what the model really is. Keep in mind most AI models are indecipherable as a mathematical equation, meaning you can't play with purchase drivers to see what happens - you have to take it on faith that the model is right. Never take on faith that a model is right.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2019

    Will a strategy built around changing people’s lives transform Lululemon’s business?

    I would bet (because my wife is a yoga and meditation instructor) that most participants don't have all three goals - most have one of these, some might have two, very few share all three. And Lululemon's future will end up being price-based - as yoga spreads in popularity, lower cost clothing options will become more popular.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2019

    Do urgency tactics used by online retailers amount to marketing deception?

    Do we think retailers are creating a sense of urgency around purchases -- sure they are -- we'd be shocked if they weren't. Is this questionable? Really? Haven't we been doing this forever? My local Persian carpet store up the block has been going out of business for the 27 years we've lived here. I'm all for consumer protection from fraud, but they are on their own when it comes to marketing.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2019

    Will Walmart’s ‘Great Workplace’ test work for its customers and associates?

    Nope. It may make their workers happier (but probably not). It may make them leaner over time or it may make Walmart staffing more rational. Customer needs are pretty minimal at Walmart. Get in, find my stuff, make sure my stuff is on the shelf, get out quickly. With the occasional return. None of this seems likely to impact my shopping experience.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2019

    Will Americans eat a direct-to-consumer cereal brand for breakfast?

    Somewhere between failure and epic failure. Their comparison chart uses some of my favorite cereals (yeah Cocoa Puffs!), but not any cereals that might be good for you. My wife eats Kashi GoLean every day. It also has 12g of protein, albeit lower in net carbs. They don't mention sodium counts and the grain and gluten free aspects are not necessarily a positive. Take that along with a price that's about triple the grocery store price of something like Kashi and I think your market is extremely limited.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2019

    Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab store runs on AI

    If their version of AI can resolve issues like products in the wrong place, not in a straight line, not facing perfectly front, etc. then this could be a very cool application. The question then is whether it is less expensive than a manager walking around a store making notes or staff with assignments that would be regularly checking. You still (today) need someone to get it out of the backroom and load the shelf, or someone to place an order.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2019

    Will Rite Aid and Walgreens gain health cred by restricting tobacco sales?

    Cathy - a rare time I'm going to disagree with you. CVS ended 2014 at a share price of $71, followed in 2015 at $97. Today, they are down to $53. Not sure they are making money hand over fist.

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