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: 10/22/2019

    What should retailers do when brands post fake reviews?

    If authenticity/trust is the big thing everyone says it is, how do retailers do less than discontinue the brand and make it clear why they are discontinuing it?
  • Posted on: 10/17/2019

    Is e-grocery less convenient than shopping in stores?

    There is usually an implicit assumption that people want to shop for groceries online and that this is inevitable - I don't think that's necessarily true. There are so many aspects of shopping for food that cannot be easily replicated online - freshness, comparison shopping, and exploring are just some. Perhaps before grocers worry about what features are needed, they should figure out if their clientele actually cares.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    Does Target need to address its associate morale problem?

    The other factors at work are called capitalism and if they thought that Target (or any company) would just raise hourly wages without a compensatory action elsewhere, then they were naive. It's not a grievance, it's what everyone who knew anything about business predicted would happen.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    Is BOPIS a good fit for Dollar General?

    I agree that it may be necessary if they want an online presence. I can't see it being a big thing - largely due to Neil's point about increased staffing needs for an organization that runs lean.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Personalized promos add up to a ‘win-win’ for retailers and consumers

    A lot of the impetus for the interest in personalization has been surveys that purport to show Millennials love to feel special and personalized promos and pricing makes them feel that way (as long as they know it's "for them"). The surveys are terribly flawed and the conclusions are flawed. Very few research studies show any positive impact and this one seems to show that impact is small and fleeting and might not be worth the effort. Note also - it was done in China, and the there is not a one-to-one correspondence between Western shopping patterns and Chinese patterns.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2019

    Is Walmart on the right track with new healthcare pilot programs?

    Not sure some of my colleagues above get the point that it's a program for Walmart employees, not their customers. As such, good for them for trying new stuff, although I'm not sure how comfortable I would be having Walmart curating my choice of doctors (or directing the curation). There seems to be a possible disconnect between doctors with great reputations and less expensive medical care.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2019

    Should companies have to pay you to use your personal data?

    Companies can certainly do a better job of informed consent without a lot of fine print. Let me opt in or opt out in simple terms (can we share your data outside of our company or not?). Beyond that, compensation is not likely and I'm not sure how much government intrusion I want on this.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2019

    Do retail metrics need to be reinvented?

    Let's begin with this - if e-commerce is about 10 percent of sales, then re-writing the book is not quite necessary yet. I think the question is, what are you trying to accomplish with the metrics? If you want investment, then I would think profitability and/or growth potential is key, and at the investment entity level, not the individual transaction level. If you want to understand your business, then any metric which is consistent will be useful and you probably need a group of metrics to understand what's happening.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2019

    Is AI at the center of the retail technology universe?

    In marketing research, some have claimed you can't do it without AI - and of course that's a load of crap. In retailing, we are starting to hear the same thing and to Peter Fader's point, it's still a load. There are some uses of AI (not to be confused, as it often is, with automation) that can make a business more profitable - sometimes it can produce better predictive models and I've seen it work well in logistics. A panacea it is not, however. You need smart people to understand what goes in, what goes on, and what comes out.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    It's all about sales and profits, not being first or being slick, in most retail cases.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Are grocers falling short in selling better-for-you foods?

    We've done plenty of research that says creating "better for you" sections is not necessarily a good idea from a sales perspective. In a number of studies, combining categories into one larger area actually hurts sales. On the second point, I'm not sure it's the store's job to educate consumers, although having a knowledgeable staff couldn't hurt. But I don't need the store or the staff shaming me when I opt for my Devil Dogs instead of some fruit.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    How profitable is online selling?

    If it's never been profitable, there's nothing on the horizon that will make it better - only worse. Lots of potential for a repeat of the dot com bubble situation.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    Will bringing the outdoors inside stores work for J.C. Penney?

    At the risk of sounding stupid, haven't department stores always offered outdoor clothing? I still have my winter topcoat from J.C. Penney (which hasn't been worn in forever, since I live in Atlanta). So no, no more traction for new brands and a revamped in-store section. This news is less exciting than J.C. Penney would like us to believe.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2019

    Walmart and BuzzFeed deliver shoppable recipes

    I don't know that anyone is making money off providing recipes for grocery shopping, whether it's online or in-store (thinking Publix Apron recipes here in the south, for example). Might some people like them? Sure. Might you get some incremental sales of some stuff you might not normally sell? Absolutely. Is it a big money-maker? Nope.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2019

    Will Lowe’s score with its ‘homegating’ game plan?

    I don't think this will hurt Lowe's, but I don't see it as a big opportunity - none of us seem to think this is an underserved population. And showing off Carolina Panthers decor is not going to win a lot of Atlanta fans (could have been worse for me - could have been the Jets).

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