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: 07/23/2019

    How long is the customer journey?

    Clearly biased towards higher-priced items. Most of what we buy day in and day out is grocery and there's probably a trivial, if any, purchase journey there.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    When does marketing cross an ethical line?

    Gee - I always thought that marketing was inherently unethical, in the sense that the job is to sell us stuff that, let's be honest, we may want but really don't need. I'm excusing Charmin, Cottonelle, Northern and Angel Soft marketers - obviously a critical category. That doesn't mean that the profession is evil, it just means that a marketer's job is to put the best face on a product in the hopes we'll spend money on it. Of course, they can cross the line - for me the worst is concealing important information, like, "this will taste great but it will give you a horrible disease." Targeting vulnerable groups, especially kids, is a close second on my list.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Location-based marketing is spreading beyond smartphones

    I'm on the "less" side of this discussion - I think we'll see fewer benefits (unless you like ads) and more intrusiveness and more hacks that will make us all more cautious.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2019

    The data and analytics talk that must stop

    The first question should be whether improving the customer experience actually matters. I've argued here and in Greenbook posts that we might make much more of customer experience than is warranted. For the most part, we need to avoid a bad experience in CPG, not create good or great experiences. Even there, there are exceptions. The club stores (BJ's, Costco, Sam's Club) provide very poor customer experiences as we would commonly define it, yet they are packed with loyal shoppers.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2019

    How do consumers define cleanliness in grocery stores?

    I'm surprised they didn't mention smell. I'm not thinking of enticing bakery scents - I'm thinking of bad-smelling cleaners (hello A&P, hello Winn-Dixie - they might have used the same foul-smelling detergent). If it doesn't smell good, it can't be clean.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    Same for us, Neil Saunders - mine never went away in Atlanta and at mom's in West Palm. The only time we use a regular checkout lane at Costco is when we have a full cart of items and self-checkout would be cumbersome. We almost never need it because how many bottles of Kirkland wine can we buy in one visit? And more visits mean more $1.50 hot dogs for lunch (rated #1 by Washington Post).
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

    I'm a big Walmart fan -- but not this big. Can't decide if it's a little creepy or a lot creepy. But I'll look differently at the Walmart team, later today when I go there, wondering who I'd let in my house.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Ace Hardware and True Value satisfy customers, Home Depot not so much

    Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. They also package hardware in ways we use hardware, not always in the way they want to sell hardware. Sell me the two screws I need, not a pack of 12 (hear that Lowe's? Home Depot?). And put more people on the floor. I walk into Ace and there's someone asking me if I need help. I walk into Home Depot and someone wants to sell me a credit card.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    This is one on of those topics that is misguided by bad research. If you are on Amazon, as an example, there are lots of people selling the same item - easy to find what you want. So Amazon per se is not out of stock, just one of the many vendors on Amazon. That's a totally different phenomenon from my Kroger having an out-of-stock on an item. Then I need to switch items or go to another Kroger store to get it. Brick-and-mortar is stuck with this problem and the best they can do is keep service levels high enough that shoppers don't walk out or aren't dissatisfied enough to stop coming.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Will the price of avocados make Americans say enough to Trump’s tariffs?

    Tony - I think we'd all agree if we actually thought this tariff would have any impact on the border, but this assumes Mexico has no choice but trade with us. We may have no choice but to buy from Mexico, so we are the ones who get punished. Were I Mexico, I'd see who else wants my products and cut better deals with them.
  • 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.

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