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: 10/19/2018

    Do retailers need more social media?

    I don't think this is a question of how to have more social media or which platform is the best. It's a question about what social media is being used by a retailer's customers. Better yet, what social media is adding value to your shoppers daily lives? Social media is a chance for retailers (and all brands) to engage at a very human level to create connection, add value and ultimately build a relationship. It's little different than how we used to build relationships in stores years back, but now it's happening online in a public forum.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2018

    Will rising costs throw a wrench in e-commerce operations?

    This is a great example of market forces that will drive innovation. Consumers are demanding delivery and as traditional delivery costs increase, it opens up space for disruptive technologies, tools and practices to generate new opportunities. We're already seeing innovations around pickup, autonomous delivery, etc. starting to be explored. I suspect the short term will see some price increases/margin decreases for retailers until some of these new models can achieve scale.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2018

    Shopify opens a storefront to support its online merchants

    I'm with Jon that the community aspect of this move is most powerful. There's only so much that can be created online -- physically bringing people together takes the experience to another level. I don't think the approach necessarily applies to all tech vendors, but the idea of a more connected community is applicable across the board.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Would biometric feedback shopping carts creep out Walmart’s customers?

    Privacy (in this case a function of your biometrics while pushing the cart) is a value exchange and it changes over time. At this time I don't think the value exchange is there for customers to be open to that kind of tech. The benefit isn't worth the cost for consumers. For Walmart, the data could be used to better understand marketing, assortment, customer support and a long list of insights. There's no doubt that over time Walmart can build up the right kind of value in smart carts for them and their customers.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Giant Food expects big things from a new, mini-grocery store concept

    I think the small format and deeper integration with technology is the right direction. Endless aisle and many other technologies are creating more experiences and more possibilities inside of a smaller, more efficient space. If anything, I think Giant could have done more with technology, including computer vision based checkout (which can work well in smaller formats), automated out of stock management and AR or responsive digital signage. That's the differentiator from delis and other competition, how online and physical come together to create new customer experiences.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2018

    There may be benefits to adding uncertainty to rewards programs

    It's why people play the lottery and it's why the whole idea of "surprise and delight" works so well in retail. Most people have a natural predisposition to engage with what they expect. When there's something that breaks that natural cycle of monotony it's notable and even exciting because it's new and different. Building habits with certainty is great; keeping active engagement present with uncertainty keeps it alive.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2018

    Why do retailers practically ignore existing customers to go after new ones?

    Repeat customers are everything. And as retailers are looking for growth, it's a natural tendency to look for something "new." To want to attract "new" demographics and "new" customers. It's easy to miss that growth is much more effective serving existing customers. When I was on the retail operations side, we used to watch month on month and year on year spending from our best customers. Having that metric front and center enabled us to focus on those best customers and as a result have them even happier, more engaged and spending more.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2018

    Omnichannel retailing lands at the airport

    There's a place for it; however, if travelers are cutting connections too close to stop to pick something up, the complications with delivery logistics will only help minimally. I'd expect usage might be broader if they could bring out-of-airport product into the airport via delivery.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2018

    People don’t like being lumped into marketing segments

    There's no such thing as an average customer. However, humans need to conceptualize averages to understand. We need some kind of definition of the masses in order to know how to act. AI changes that paradigm. It's able to look at, understand and interact with everyone on a truly personalize basis (as least within the constraints we give it). Until we get to that point, I'd say that if any marketing is landing with people as annoying and stereotyped, the averages are off and it's poorly done to begin with.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    Walmart expands test of giant automated grocery kiosk

    There's definitely a balance between people and automation. And it might be different depending on the vertical and customer. I'm 100% with Bob that it's not about taking humans out of the equation. What's great about a lot of this technology is that it is automating a lot of the repetitive work that frees humans up to engage in more meaningful things.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2018

    Will a bot soon be taking your order at the drive-thru?

    Innovation is relentless. A lot of these technologies are inevitable, it's just a question of when they become commercially viable. Voice bots will need to dramatically improve to work with the customizations, background noise and poor speakers at drive-thrus. When they do, it's just a matter of time until we're speaking with them everywhere.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2018

    Coca-Cola to take a run at Starbucks

    With Coca-Cola's global reach, distribution and innovation thinking, their entry into retail is a big deal. It changes the coffee business landscape overnight and it's also another signal emphasizing store footprints that impacts all retail verticals. Will be interesting to watch how competition responds.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2018

    Is Amazon a major threat to Trader Joe’s?

    We worked with Sense360 on getting this study out and it showcased some pretty impressive numbers. Whole Foods market conversion increased from 4.8 percent of all grocery store visitors to nearly 6 percent when compared with the same period a year earlier (2.2 million visit sample size). Putting numbers like this on the board is a threat to all grocers. You can review the whole study here :)
  • Posted on: 08/29/2018

    Amazon’s warehouse workers become social cheerleaders

    Authenticity is the critical factor here and it could be compromised because of the incentives involved. I'm all for employees sharing on social media; however, if it's not the truth, it's just more noise.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2018

    Publix pioneers an easier way to see the doctor

    Right? Such a great opportunity to recommend products as well based on the health condition. Of course, more serious cases would need to be seen by the doctor in person; the majority of the minor things will be easily taken care of and solved on the spot. Especially when these things start taking health data from wearables to understand key indicators over time. It's a good move and I'll think we'll be seeing much more of this modern telemedicine.

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