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: 08/09/2019

    Amazon adds personal shopping to Prime Wardrobe

    The key to Amazon is their relentless pursuit of change. This is probably a good move for Amazon, but it's not an end game. I'm sure they're going to continue to evaluate their progress into fashion and continue to iterate. One move isn't likely to make a dramatic difference. However, continuous evaluations/adjustments over time do.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2019

    Will the next big thing since Starbucks be run by robots?

    I don't think there's any question that robotics will play a more prominent role in coffee and foodservice in the future. But that doesn't mean humans aren't ever involved -- it starts to free people up to focus on things that humans are just better at: customer interaction, developing the experiences around the robots, etc. The unrelenting march of technology will continue on. It's up to us to make sure we're using them to improve human experiences, not just replace them.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    CPG companies spending more to use less packaging

    Responding to consumer wants and needs is always a smart strategy. Although, it's important to understand those needs fully and the tradeoffs consumers are willing to make around things like sustainability vs. price. Great packaging speaks for itself, but it's even more powerful when yielded by a culture that's authentically committed to doing good.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2019

    Are store robots cute, creepy – or nearly useless?

    I give credit to Giant Foods for trying out something new (especially a robot!), but I'm not quite sure what the value is, the measurable ROI. Unless this becomes an effective platform to manage out of stocks, planogram compliance, etc., it's an awfully expensive way to make sure aisles are clear of "hazards." Robots are best doing simple, repeatable tasks where there's a real need. Walmart deploying robotic floor cleaners is a perfect example. I think we'd probably all agree that robots will be increasingly included in our lives, it's just a matter of having them start in manageable and sensible places to match their costs with current capabilities.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2019

    Staples creates content to reposition and differentiate its brand

    I think the power in this approach is the community and human-centric connection it potentially creates. Anyone can sell office products, but it's not everyone that's connected to understanding their customers work life and their experience of work at a deeper level. Of course, the details here will really matter, but at a high-level, Staples is right on.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2019

    Your company has a vision: Why can’t everyone see it?

    A vision alone is not enough. And trying to come up with the right words won’t do it either. It’s the leadership that puts themselves on the line for significant positive change that makes the difference. JFK put himself on the line by making that declaration and people rallied behind him. Without leadership stepping out for the benefit of their team and their customers, anything else is empty.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2019

    Walmart shakes things up, further integrating online and physical store teams

    These kinds of things should start to be routine. It's not rocket science that consumers want one experience across all the touchpoints and our organizations can be geared to serve that. And at the same time, things like merchandising stores is a unique function to stores themselves and that necessitates a little more focus. I think Walmart is setting a new norm.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2019

    Who owns customer service in an age of co-branding?

    The responsibility for customer service comes down to the person standing in front of the customer (or on the phone with them). It's definitely a growing issue with all the co-branding and partnerships and ultimately retailers need to ensure great customer service, no matter what agreements are in place behind the scenes. The co-branding can only be as great as the service and customer experience they can provide.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    What makes great retail leaders?

    Having a CEO that exemplifies what the company stands for and puts themselves on the line for significant positive change is key to culture. And culture is the key to everything (what it's like to work there, why everyone is there and what new ideas come up/are embraced, etc). Supporting those same traits amongst the team is a success recipe that transcends any strategy, technology or trend.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Location-based marketing is spreading beyond smartphones

    I think there's a better question to ask, which is: what consumer experiences can be enhanced with any of these technologies? Approaching our business from a "technology first" standpoint is a mistake. Technology is not the end goal. It is only there to support/enhance great consumer experiences.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    NRF study says customers dig retail tech

    There is a nice convergence of consumers becoming more tech savvy and technology getting easier to use. With all the new tech available, it's easy as retailers to think that it's the technology that'll provide the next big wave of growth. But we can't lose sight of why we're here as an industry: to meet the needs of human beings. And what motivates human beings is new, positive and engaging experiences with the world around us. All these technologies are not a goal. They are only a means to creating those meaningful human experiences.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2019

    Will meatless meat, CBD and cold brew coffee help food retailers differentiate?

    Attempting to differentiate with a few products is looking in the wrong direction. Many of these will just become more standard items on the majority of retail shelves. Consumers are looking for full experiences, with new products and services consistent with that experience. It's around the full experience that retailers can innovate, differentiate and compete. Just look at the Best Buy turn around -- did they have the latest products on the shelf? Sure. But that's not why they started winning.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2019

    Rent the Runway lands inside Nordstrom

    It's a good idea -- but I'm with Georganne, there's so much more that the partnership could take advantage of. A standard dropbox is almost a no brainer. They are similarly positioned brands with aligned customer bases so it should work well. I think we'll see an expansion of the partnership to further engage customers over time to showcase potential rentals, etc.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2019

    Are Shark Tank-like competitions a path to retail innovation?

    A step in the right direction! To be effective these programs need two things: 1.) The ability to attract and vet a great selection of companies to be there and 2.) A broad cross-section of retail execs to review, discuss and take action. The more these retailers are able to support that, the more meaningful they’ll be.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Walmart’s checkout pilot puts shoppers in the fast lane

    People respond to how the world occurs around them. And a small change like this could produce strong results — helping people understand the value in more physical terms (a special place to checkout). There will be some period of overlap with most of these technologies. Self-checkout still most often works in tandem with traditional checkout. As technology improves we’ll see some stores bet on some of these new technologies alone. We’ll be telling our kids there used to be a time you had to wait in line to “check out” of a store.

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