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: 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.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    Eagerness to learn new things, add value and ability to embrace (or even better, create) change are top in my book. 100% agree that most retail positions can be trained much easier than attitudes. When the people are aligned on values, vision and purpose (not just printed on a sign, but actually aligned as people) anything is possible.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    Are Apple’s classes getting in the way?

    Agreed -- I don't see a conflict here -- they are different sides of the same coin and they reinforce each other. To separate learning would separate the Apple stores from a major component of what makes them special, some of the community aspects. Separately, there's always opportunity around new formats and learning what else might work (or work better) as retailers.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Are retail HQs and stores suffering a communication breakdown?

    Mark is right, technology won't solve it. This is a cultural issue, technology is secondary. Simplifying communications, automating more and setting expectations is key. But there also has to be a relatedness between the HQ and the store level. If HQ doesn't understand what it's like inside their stores and how to run them, they're disconnected from where their business is actually happening.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    When the going gets tough, the tough get transparent

    It's always best to tell the truth in the long run. Although I don't know how Rothy's was so close to the launch before realizing quality was an issue, growing pains are natural. Consumers are ready, willing and understanding of things that don't go as planned as long as we're open and honest (and have a plan to make it better).
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Kroger launches accelerator fund

    I like how this gives Kroger more insight and participation in the brand world. They have the data and insight they need from the most important place: the point of purchase. As a startup brand, it's a relationship that'd be hard to turn down, but might cause conflict selling into other retailers. The relationship between retailers and brands is already complex and this adds another piece to the puzzle.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Why does loyalty program ROI remain so murky?

    Anything that stays the same too long becomes stagnant, and that’s exactly what happens with a lot of loyalty programs. They can become expected, boring and less impactful over time if they’re not continually kept alive and exciting. The right metrics (basket sizes, lifetime value, customer profitability) give us an opportunity to see what’s really going on, but also to see and create new value for our customers.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Why is Amazon paying employees to quit their jobs?

    There are no rules in this game (only some laws). This is a great way to transform the delivery market and empower their people. 100% agree that Amazon only stands to gain to make sure that everyone that steps into this program wins.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    What’s wrong with the (fill in the blank) category?

    There's something to be gained here from the perspective. "What strategies should we follow" is different than "how can we best serve our customers." When an organization starts to ask more questions like the latter, the more positive results follow. If we turn our stores into commodities (by being all tactics and strategies to maximize return) customers will treat us that way too. There is of course a place for all the tactics, but they're most effective secondary to a culture that's really about serving the human beings that shop with them.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2019

    H&M will cease printing its catalog after 39 years

    It’s the right move. Not just for sustainability reasons, but it gives H&M the chance to rethink processes to improve customer experience all around. It’s less about online/offline and more about curating the right content via the right channels that make sense to their customers.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2019

    Will a strategy built around changing people’s lives transform Lululemon’s business?

    I'm not sure Lululemon has ever been playing purely a price-based game. They're not worried about commodities. How else could a premium yoga brand grow selling $150 yoga pants during a recession? This seems like an extension of Chip Wilson's culture and purpose driven mission. Their future relies on people buying into the vision and lifestyle, just like it always has.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2019

    Will Walmart’s ‘Great Workplace’ test work for its customers and associates?

    It has potential for sure. If people have the ability to make a difference and then some responsibility for it, it can become a very generative and productive workplace (see what Chip Wilson did at Lululemon). It can start with compensation at Walmart -- but that vision is only fulfilled when the culture catches up.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    Will shoppable ads help Walmart’s Vudu compete with Amazon and Netflix?

    Free content will most always be a draw to some degree. And if the shoppable content is easy to use and meaningful to users, it will only add to it. Sounds like many brands have already bought in ... but Walmart has some catching up to do with regards to original programming. Amazon and Netflix are so far ahead in creating really great (sometimes viral) content -- it remains to be seen if Walmart can carve out a viable niche with "basic-cable" content.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2019

    AI-powered, voice-capable chatbot helps shoppers make the right choice in stores

    To me it's a question of where they can add meaningful value, and I think BevMo! has found a use case here with SmartAisle. It's something that (especially at this stage) isn't appropriate for all retail verticals or chains, but I can definitely see them complementing more sales associates in the not too distant future.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2019

    What’s really driving disruption? (Hint: it’s not technology)

    100% -- innovation + disruption has very little to do with technology and everything to do with our thinking (decoupling or otherwise). It's why Steve Jobs could take an invention from Xerox 20 years prior and create the personal computer industry. Or why RC vehicles were my favorite as a kid, but today we call them drones and they're doing everything from delivery to military duty. Technology is the enabler and sometimes the result -- not the disruptor in and of themselves. The biggest missing amongst retailers and brands today is an innovation culture, a group of people that can cultivate new ideas and perspectives beyond the status quo -- and execute on them. Labs, innovation groups, etc. can help, but they tend to be siloed. What we can do is bring that kind of "startup" thinking, self starting and exponential aims into the entire organization. Is it confronting? Maybe ... Does it work? Definitely.

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