Dr. Stephen Needel

Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Dr. Stephen Needel is Managing Partner of Advanced Simulations, based in 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 as well as being an adjunct faculty member at the University of Connecticut.

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.

His international experience dovetails nicely with his appreciation of English beers, South American beef, Australian football, and Mexican chilies. He’s proud to have passed on this set arcane tastes to his son.

  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Has Ben & Jerry’s gone too far with its stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    Asking whether this is the right move is the wrong question, Tom. They have often been outspoken over the social issues they feel are important. They have the right to speak out over this issue. They also appear to have the right to have their products discontinued by retailers who disagree with their position. Sometimes business and politics collide -- and you have to pick which side you're on. It's their choice.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Should retailers continue the chatbot deception?

    Retailers should be completely transparent and, more importantly, provide a way to get to a person quickly and easily. I've used a couple over the weekend which were terrible about this -- had to go through their routine before I could get close to a human being. Which may emphasize that not only should retailers let customers know it's a chatbot, but they should pay a lot of attention to the UX of that process.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2021

    Victoria’s Secret is moving out of the mall

    Millions of teenage boys who hang out in malls will be very disappointed. :)
  • Posted on: 07/20/2021

    Can facial recognition outlast its bad press?

    Technology in search of a problem to solve. There is no consumer benefit to the technology and I'm betting that the retailer's benefit doesn't outweigh the costs. Put this one back in the tech closet.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    When will predictive models become more predictable?

    The over-reliance on data trends is what dooms a lot of these models. They are not modeling how people think or shop, they are modeling data. When the data gets weak, like during a pandemic, a flood, bad weather, or a stock market correction, then the models get weak - they can't represent the underlying reasons for the data. Remember that machine learning is stupid - the machine is looking for patterns the user has identified and told the machine "this pattern means that." At this stage of development, one relies on AI or ML at their own risk.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2021

    Why do healthy eating campaigns fall on deaf ears?

    While mixed messages abound and we occasionally change what is healthy or what eating healthy means, the key psychological factor is a lack of motivation to eat healthy. Until a generation grows up where healthy is the norm and unhealthy is shunned, there will be lots of rewards for unhealthy eating. The negative consequences of unhealthy eating are not immediately felt - usually, quite the opposite (e.g., "boy that tasted good"). Nobody ever said that about quinoa salad.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2021

    Could Dollar General become a go-to healthcare resource in rural America?

    Yes, yes, yes. But they are DOLLAR GENERAL! At this point in time, you'd have to be pretty desperate to go to a DG for medical care. Curate the product assortment - there's a good idea, especially if you are the only store in town. But medical services? Not sure this flies, even though the areas could be underserved. Are they so underserved that this makes sense?
  • Posted on: 07/08/2021

    Will in-person conferences make a comeback after a year of virtual shows?

    Interesting in that this just gives us one side of the story - the exhibitor side. From an attendee perspective, digital is certainly more efficient and from their company's perspective, probably much more affordable. So we may end up exhibiting to each other rather than our target markets. All that said, I'd love to take a client out to dinner again. :)
  • Posted on: 07/01/2021

    Is the food delivery bubble ready to burst?

    At least here in Atlanta, you can easily double the cost of your meal by having it delivered. I don't know how that is sustainable. My guess is that most of these services will fall by the wayside.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2021

    Will a Target-themed Monopoly game be a winner?

    I'm fine with it as long as I don't have to play it. If I were a kid and got this for Christmas, boy would I be unhappy!
  • Posted on: 06/28/2021

    What should replace cookies?

    Privacy and targeting are fundamentally opposing principles, so I don't think there is a balance. We give up privacy for advertiser-supported content. Don't want targeted ads? Pay for your content.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2021

    Can AI solve e-grocery’s erratic out-of-stock substitutions?

    Huge problem, potentially good solution. Two caveats - you need thousands of substitutions for data before the AI solution will be any good and if you keep having out-of-stocks, shoppers will stop coming to your site.
  • Posted on: 06/25/2021

    What makes a great post-purchase experience?

    It's not as important as the pre-purchase experience, but it's certainly a key piece. Make it easy for the shopper to get as much or as little information as they want. And if you're throwing in a survey, keep it very short and clear (make it pass the MOM test - does it make sense to your mother).
  • Posted on: 06/10/2021

    Will grocery basket sizes be cut down to their former size?

    Eventually it will return to pre-pandemic levels - some slight elevation might occur as "new" cooks and bakers have formed, but for the most part this is need-driven - your family only needs so much food. Restaurant openings will reduce and if unemployment remains an issue, we may see some decline in basket value as more economize.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2021

    Will closing stores on Thanksgiving become the new retail tradition?

    Nobody wants to work on Thanksgiving. Younger people may like shopping on Thanksgiving, but that's largely due to a.) an age-old desire to escape extended time with the family and b.) because it's available. Anyone over 20 remembers when this was so not a thing. Reverse, retailers, and celebrate the family.

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