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: 03/18/2019

    Can location intelligence provide a lifeline for retailers?

    Technology searching for a use. If you can't find the canned beans in a store with signs that say "CANNED VEGETABLES," they should take away your drivers license.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2019

    Will customer hosts raise the shopping experience bar at Walmart?

    Returning at Walmart is the worst part of the Walmart experience so if they can make it faster, great. But at the expense of older workers? Not so sure.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Do retailers need to reevaluate their omnichannel strategies and tactics?

    Where do you get this 70 percent number, David? That's certainly not the case for grocery, which is most of what people buy.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Where are grocers failing on in-store experience?

    The problem with thinking that grocery shopping should be any experience at all is that we have so much data that says shoppers aren't interested in having an experience. How many articles, how many surveys, do we see that say shoppers don't have time to shop or much interest in shopping (hence the reason for BOPIS or delivery) and why self-checkout is so important? Shoppers choose the level of engagement they want - and not everyone in Connecticut chooses Stew Leonards. Better research should be able to segment the market into those who want varying levels of engagement. Then you turn around and decide who you want to market to, remembering that creating an experience costs the shopper.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    Technology disruptors are causing independent supermarkets to innovate

    I can't wait to see what Tony Orlando has to say about this topic. Every retailer needs a website and the more informative the website can be, the better (locations/hours, inventory or at least a list of products regularly carried are must haves). Do they have to embrace technology to compete? Of course not. For 20 years we've been saying online grocery will take over and it's barely a pimple on the elephant's butt, as one of my old bosses liked to say.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    What will Amazon do with a conventional grocery banner?

    Amazon does not seem overly concerned with profit margins, which is a great attitude to have if you're getting into the grocery store business. They bet a lot that Prime memberships will drive their business - at some point, they must think that will stop or slow down enough to make operations that only exist to support Prime members unaffordable.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Walmart says ‘goodbye’ to greeters and ‘hello’ to controversy

    Tom said it - customers will get over it, but it will be a shame - one of the last pieces of a civilized shopping experience at Walmart.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Why is shelf management getting short shrift in supermarkets?

    Perhaps it's because most grocers have already gone through the SKU rationalization process of the 2000s. Changes we make to the shelf now are less likely to have a big impact. We still show only 15 percent win-wins for brands and their categories when we test new layouts and/or assortments. Retailers need to push for new ideas - manufacturers have little incentive in category management unless they are being grossly underrepresented in a chain.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    What will it take to transform BOPIS ops from just okay to great?

    Retailers will end up walking away from BOPIS, or at least BOPIS where you don't have to come into the store. It's never been clear that you actually make any money offering this and if the experiences are dissatisfying, maybe the idea is to avoid it altogether. It's not like shoppers are demanding this.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    Is Walmart just starting to hit its stride?

    At least in the Walmart locations I visit, selections seem to be getting better and better in grocery. They've cleaned up the produce area to where it now looks appealing. It's rare that I can't find a flavor or size in most of the products I buy. I've been pushing this idea for Walmart with my clients for close to 20 years - it's good to see Walmart recognizes it's not a club store or large size store but can be America's grocery store. Now if they can only do better on meat and dairy (haven't bought a bottle of milk that is fresh or stays more than two days).
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Is there really wisdom in the crowd?

    That increasing your sample size gets you better answers goes against everything we know as market researchers and statisticians.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    There is an assumption that Bain is making - that doing this stuff online will elevate grocery shopping. Maybe that's not true, which is why we're not adopting apps and voice assistants.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Is there really wisdom in the crowd?

    There has never been much evidence to support the notion of the "wisdom of the crowd." Social psychologists have know for years that the crowd usually devolves into its lowest common denominator when behaving like a crowd. Behaving individually as a crowd only produces a "better" answer under a very specific set of circumstances which turn out to almost never be the case. But maybe the bigger question should be, "Aren't we appalled that only a third of MIT students know that Philadelphia is not the capital of Pennsylvania?"
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Will a new rewards program expand Target’s circle of guests?

    The pitfall may be in believing their own hype (sorry Mr. Gomez). Target gave up its cheap chic cachet a long time ago in favor of reduced assortments, empty shelves, and prices higher than Walmart. The last thing anyone is looking for these days is a new reward program. The current program probably isn't that great, otherwise it would have been expanded chain-wide rather than to a few selected cities.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2019

    Walgreens tests tech that sort of recognizes you in-store

    I think they'll respond coolly. I'm not seeing the shopper benefit and any benefit to Walgreens looks like it will come at a high price.

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