Sterling Hawkins

Co-founder, CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology)
Sterling Hawkins is a business leader, entrepreneur and investor living at the intersection of in-store and online. Currently running operations and venture relations for CART, his legacy is that of a 5th generation retailer whose family name is synonymous with retail. From that springboard, he has worked with clients on best practices in consumer marketing, loyalty and retail technology including Mitsubishi, M&M Meat Shop, Procter & Gamble and many others. Through CART, he has also partnered with universities including Stanford, Cornell and the University of Texas to incorporate the future of retail into their curricula and provider a go-to-market channel for relevant startups. in 2004, Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena. Since, we has been actively involved in the community speaking at business conferences around the world. He has been seen in ABC Money, Comstock, RetailWire and Forbes. Sterling lives in Los Angeles and spends his time mobilizing a network of startups, investors and retailers to bring together online and in-store for the betterment of business, communities and the human condition.  Blog: Business: Speaking & Investment:
  • Posted on: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    My mom used to have a saying for this -- "it's cheaper to milk a cow than buy one." That is, if everything Amazon is looking for from Kohl's comes at a low cost, why do they need to move forward with anything else? I'm sure Kohl's is keeping their fingers crossed for a deeper relationship, but Amazon will only drive from the data, numbers and performance that makes sense.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Is AI’s impact on demand forecasting more hype than reality?

    AI will significantly transform most aspects of our lives. By 2045 (or so) a $1,000 USD processor will buy you the processing power equivalent to all human beings alive -- about 9 billion people. It's hard to fathom the kind of impact that's going to have on our businesses or our lives; however, I imagine shoring up at 32% forecasting error will be positively impacted sooner than later.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2019

    Will America’s love for paper coupons ever die?

    It's worth looking at the whole experience not just the paper coupons; there's a cycle of distribution and redemption that's sometimes just easier with paper. Digital has a little work to do. I don't think consumers "want" paper coupons -- they just accept them as a known, simple experience. Separately, Valassis conducting a paper coupon survey is kind of like cigarette companies funding cigarette studies in the '50s and early '60s :).
  • Posted on: 04/17/2019

    Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?

    I'm already seeing pockets of livestream sales from influencers in the US. And it's definitely growing. Only the biggest and/or most focused retailers will have opportunity to build their own platforms. Others will have to take advantage of the existing platforms and associated costs. It's just like any of these other new channels and new technologies -- even if it's a bit early, it pays to test, trial and learn. Keeping one foot in current operations and the other in what's newly possible keeps any organization viable over the long term.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Will Walmart’s KIDBOX help kids look good and do good at the same time?

    It's a great chance for all parties to learn -- Walmart learns about a kids subscription model and KIDBOX opens their offering to a new audience. If all goes well, it wouldn't surprise me to see Walmart take the next step and invest or buy them. It'd only be natural to look at extensions into other demographics from there.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Should uniform pricing be the norm for large chains?

    As soon as we all pay the same for airline tickets and credit card interest rates we should look at generalized pricing. Different customers have different economic value and personalization customizes that. There are technological and operational kinks at some retailers that reduce benefits, but that doesn’t mean scrap the program. We should be looking at how to improve it or use technology differently.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Which data sources should be driving personalization?

    Time-relative consumer feedback/requests really should be #1. How can you be more relevant than that? But I don’t think this is just about data sources. It’s about the quality of the personalization. Making two or three segments for offers is far different “personalization” than a more advanced AI that customizes offers and even prices for everyone. I’m with Nikki here that all of it is a value prop — if there’s enough perceived value, consumers will engage and respond.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Will retailers be ready when AR adoption takes hold?

    AR or VR (or any technology) is not the answer. It should be the result of finding better ways to deliver more value to the consumer. As we're able to create meaningful experiences that use AR/VR, something like 65% of shoppers expect it will change the way they shop, so they're ready and willing to engage.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2019

    Does direct mail or email deliver greater results for retailers?

    Demographic groups as well as retail categories as they're talking about above. Direct mail costs have dropped with many advertisers moving to other channels so there can be an ROI there for certain groups. The tradeoff is that it doesn't come with any depth of analytics.
  • Posted on: 03/19/2019

    Are Amazon’s private labels falling short or just getting started?

    The key that Amazon has is that they've built into their culture the ability to learn, adjust and change. Even with limited success, I'm sure they're not only capturing all the data, but understanding exactly what is happening and why for their next iteration. Instead of worrying, other retailers and brands can focus their efforts on developing their people and their cultures to continually learn how to deliver increased value to the shopper.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Where are grocers failing on in-store experience?

    Getting in and out isn't necessarily mutually exclusive with positive human contact or visually appealing displays. I do think that speed is a necessary condition for most stores and not every retailer needs to be a Wegmans. But there's strong competition in some markets and coming soon to others that necessitates grocers take a step to compete.
  • Posted on: 03/05/2019

    Where are chatbots falling short of consumer expectations?

    It's like any new technology reaching towards a peak of inflated expectations -- these steps are necessary to push the technology forward and build consumer acceptance. Its inclusion in many aspects of retail is inevitable. As retailers we can be looking for how to effectively support this early technology with human representatives to maintain great service.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2019

    Retailers take on massive legacy system challenges one module at a time

    This is more of a people question than a technology question. The most effective way to keep pace with technology is to build a culture of innovation. A team of people that can first embrace the change that's happening and then step out ahead of it to create. Any technology (both long and short term) should be the result of great people working in service of each other, the business and the consumer.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Why is shelf management getting short shrift in supermarkets?

    It's a blindspot for many retailers -- they accept (more or less) shelf management as-is and focus on promo, packaging, etc. It's kind of like putting on a new outfit every day but never going to the gym. Sure, it does improve it, but the biggest gains come from impacting what's underneath. Shelf management tools like ShelfBucks, Perch, Bossa Nova, SmartAisle, Globalworx, AWM Smartshelf, Pensa, Focal Systems and many others start to get at the core of what's happening in-store and can have an outsized impact.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2019

    Will robotic fulfillment centers reshape Kroger’s business?

    This will take a little time to work out the process, but there's certainly the promise of reduced cost and increased speed. As retailers look to automate parts of the supply chain they'll likely see those benefits every step of the way. If Kroger realizes significant cost savings over other models, competition will have no choice but to copy or continue to innovate to keep up. At the end of the day though, it's about the consumer experience and how Kroger (or anyone) uses technology to create that value.

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