Susan O'Neal

CEO, Dabbl
Susan O’Neal is the founder & CEO of Dabbl. Dabbl captures inefficient national media dollars and gives them to consumers to spend in their favorite retailers. After 20+ years in brand strategy & loyalty marketing, O'Neal realized the marketing strategic and tactics she used to create relationships between consumers and companies wouldn't go over very well in the world of real, human relationships - she would have no friends! This inspired her to get curious. What if you could help evolve a consumer relationship the same way, using the same values as our most loyal, trustworthy personal relationships. The result is Dabbl. Since launching its first white-label retail solution with Wakefern in August 2017 ("Downtime Dollars"), and its own consumer-facing app ("Dabbl") in January 2018 - the company has driven over $1MM in value to consumers, and driven $3.5MM in incremental retail sales. O'Neal’s experience in the field of consumer marketing is uniquely suited to this challenge, including consumer research, branding, targeted marketing, promotions, retail loyalty and digital consumer engagement as a Consumer Analyst (Grey Worldwide), B2B Marketer, Business Strategist (Catalina Marketing) and General Manager responsible for the P&L of two different digital coupon destination properties (Q Interactive/Coolsavings, CouponNetwork).
  • Posted on: 11/13/2018

    Do grocery stores have a customer engagement problem?

    A year ago I, on this panel, I warned that while traditional retailers were competing for "trips," Amazon was competing at the level of item-specific demand, picking items off the traditional grocery store list one by one. Grocers' over-focus on trip frequency, I warned, was leading to a false sense of security. Share of requirements is really the only metric that matters, and if you can't measure it against an accurate "total spend" then just watching the overall spend of your customers will give you a clue. If your weekly spend with a customer is staying the same or increasing, at least you know you're not likely to be losing share to a competitor. So with this in mind -- I have some questions about the study -- hoping someone on the panel has the answers? The study specifically references "trips" -- are those exclusively in-store trips or do they also count curbside pick up and delivery orders? What is concurrently happening to weekly spend -- is it declining proportionally as well? Assuming weekly spend on groceries is staying the same (or increasing), then decreases in weekly spend that take into account all the ways a customer might transact with that retailer definitely represent lost share. If someone created a gain/loss bridge -- on either weekly spend or trips -- to whom are those sales going? Are they simply fragmenting to multiple retailers (specialty or discount) or are they going to Amazon?
  • Posted on: 11/07/2018

    What are the omnichannel challenges facing e-tailers opening stores?

    The physical manifestation of the digital world's idealized retail brands could be an extremely powerful way to extend their reach, share of mind and loyalty. That said, it's also highly risky -- doing it poorly might have a "Wizard of Oz" effect, and bring the whole brand down. My advice -- go and grow slowly at first, make sure the physical manifestation of your brand is evolved from but not exactly like your online brand and once you know it works, hire people who know how to scale it efficiently and consistently.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Gap sends its Visa cardholders to Amazon and Target

    Any time purchase power is increased in one retailer over another, there is disruption. It happened when a retailers started increasing their customer's purchase power by launching store credit cards in the early 1900s. It happened when Walmart increased customer purchase power in their stores with their EDLP strategy. Anything a retailer does that serves to increases their customer's purchase power in a competitor is not good.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2018

    Should the outdoor industry welcome selling on

    Walmart has a significant opportunity to offer overall better terms and solutions to premium brands - not just within outdoor, but across multiple industries. As long as they can provide the traffic to rival Amazon's sales, suppliers who have seen a significant percentage of their volume move to Amazon have a great deal of reason to give Walmart a chance. The better Walmart gets at understanding and catering to small business and brand needs, the faster those premium sellers will move to Walmart and abandon Amazon to bots and resellers.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2018

    Shoppers may finally be using retail apps

    Amazon has helped create the expectation of a quality retail app experience and functionality. Thank you Amazon. Credit to Walgreens for really leaning into their competitive advantage with the prescription management. What the top apps really do well, however, also points to the future -- and that is the app as a means to more holistically manage my relationship with that retailer. From buying products to managing subscriptions (prescriptions), rebates, returns and other means of optimizing purchase power. These things all promote and enable cooperation and co-investment from both parties in the customer/retailer relationship. I hope the coming year also sees more opportunities for retailers to invite brands more efficiently into that symbiotic partnership.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2018

    Do CPGs need their own voice for Alexa?

    The author and the study he references make a good point that audio elements are more important than they used to be given the rise of contexts that don't allow for visual cues to trigger the emotional, perceptual or factual cues created by traditional video and print/display advertising. However, because "voice ordering" presumes a preference already (this is why it's called "voice order" instead of "voice browsing"), it is not nearly enough and could be an expensive distraction from the real urgency of brand marketers. That real urgency is this, to use their advertising budgets (both creative & media) to cultivate *real* relationships, and *verified* brand preference such that their brand preference manifests in the form of a consumer either saying or typing *their preferred branded product name* when they "voice order" or "search" the infinite shelf.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2018

    Three reasons why Gen Z ignores your loyalty program

    The three reasons Gen Z ignores your loyalty program are also your three opportunities for competitive advantage. When you tap into customers' current smartphone habits (which includes goofing around for 3 to 5 hrs a day), deliver a light, interesting experience (that makes exploration and discovery fun and fruitful) and partner with them to co-create your relationship advantages -- your digital customer engagement is broader (15 percent+), younger (18 to 44), more frequent (4.6 times per week) and economically beneficial (18.4 percent increase in weekly spend).
  • Posted on: 08/15/2018

    Why is translating analog customer service to digital so complicated?

    All of Elaine's points are absolutely spot on. They're also incredibly daunting. Even if you have deep wells of cash to throw the topic of "customer service," the one-sided nature of today's definition of "good customer service" in the digital era isn't very inspiring. Imagine a painting of the all-powerful customer threatening to take her business elsewhere if the groveling retailer doesn't give her exactly what she wants, in the size and color she wants, exactly where she wants it, in less than 24 hours -- every time. Many retailers I talk with are so demoralized by the high hurdles of authentic loyalty (the kind of loyalty that might, say, forgive a mistake or an inefficiency) that they have to actively "not care" beyond the boundaries of their job description and budget. This is no way to life a life, no way to build a career and no way to compete! But what if we evolved of the concept of customer service and took it up a notch? In fact, I'd like you to consider the possibilities of evolving "customer service" toward an ideal of "customer partnership." We all have experience with partnerships. They involve compromise, they are multi-dimensional and allow more white space for creativity -- and a higher level of mutual, personal satisfaction (which is the most important "customer service" metric after all). For example, if you can't logistically get your customer anything she wants exactly when she wants it, what can you reliably and consistently give her that no one else can? How can she co-invest in your mutual relationship? It's a different way to approach a theme we've been seeing repeatedly here on RetailWire... the idea that "less is more," or Carol Spieckerman's recent post on "Retailer's New Cobbling Economy." Net-net, take a step back -- connect with what makes you unique and special, a big part of which is that you even have a customer relationship to start with -- then be confident, be focused, be you.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2018

    ‘Less is more’ when competing with Amazon

    The power of Amazon's infinite shelf is that whatever the customer wants, Amazon has it or can get it for them -- quickly and efficiently and likely at a great price. Amazon doesn't even try to manage or even strategize assortment as a competitive advantage, they simply annihilate anyone else's ability to make assortment a competitive advantage (similar to the way Walmart used EDLP to significantly harm any other retailer's ability to claim "value" as a competitive advantage). There is virtually NO barrier to any product making it onto Amazon's virtual shelf (compare that to what it takes to be carried by a brick-and-mortar retailer). The ONLY way for a traditional retailer to compete (with Amazon) on assortment is to leverage their own customer data to get really, really, really good at category management and merchandising (has anyone invented the term "precision merchandising" yet?). More broadly accessible competitive strategies are to focus on getting closer to the customer, co-opting them so to speak, to maintain their preference (assortment is one factor of preference, others include location, services, lifestyle considerations) and then finding unique and innovative ways to enhance the customer's ability to spend more at their preferred store.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    Can AR help shoppers get where they need to go?

    Yikes, there are two reasons to go in a physical store: 1.) you want to browse and look at the merchandise (inspiration, quality control) or 2.) you want something immediately (efficiency). Customers who prioritize efficiency will just go online. This is not a good use for AR in retail.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    Hy-Vee opens fitness-focused grocery store concept

    This is lifestyle selling and merchandising. It's on trend, it's differentiated and it's customer-centric around their healthy lifestyle customer. It's also a very expensive way to go about it. Hard to tell, however, if it's smart given niche market plays have high cost/benefit ratios. Most lifestyle brands are direct-to-consumer because the business economics demand it and the niche customers they are going after aren't often geographically concentrated. They solve this problem in part by co-locating with Orangetheory though, so we'll see. I'm intrigued.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2018

    Can on-demand sales stabilize Blue Apron?

    Commenting as a working (often traveling) mother, primary HH grocery shopper and cook. If I don't meal plan and prepare (or instruct) my family walks around dazed and confused wondering what they're going to eat. To complicate matters further, there could be anywhere between two and nine for dinner -- depending on who is home on each night. Plus we live out in the country -- my ONLY order-in/take-out option is Hungry Howie's pizza. The subscriptions never worked for me because my meal plan needs change every week -- an inflexible number of meals and delivery options made my one trial very short lived. That said, if I could order with one day or even two days' notice and still have the convenience of home delivery, that would work. It would be better than take-out or delivery even if I have to plan it two or three days in advance. Given more than 70 percent of HHs with kids have either single working or dual working parents, I doubt I am alone. With a little more flexibility, families with kids are a huge market opportunity.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2018

    Retail’s new cobbling economy

    This article makes my heart and head hurt for retailers. Everything Carol describes is true and accurate and -- no fun, for sure. It makes me think of advice I once received from a mentor, he said "when you feel pressure to hurry up, that's usually when you need to slow down." In this case, that is absolutely correct. Any entity with limited resources (and that is, by the way, nearly all entities) has to be very intentional about how those resources are deployed. The "intention" part takes time and thought, looking at the situation and ourselves as objectively as possible. If retailing is, at its essence, about making the right products conveniently accessible and affordable for customers -- how can a broad and open-minded view of technology help them do that better than they could before? Of the possibilities, which one or ones are most likely to yield the best benefit for that retailer -- given their customers, given their competition, given their resources? Think out the work involved with your answer, then put your team's horse blinders on and work out that thinking.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2018

    Kellogg urges retailers to cater to ‘brick & order’ shoppers

    A lot of good insight in here, and I agree with all of it. I'll just add one enhancement to an existing thought and one unique additional thought. The enhancement is: Think less about utility and more about fun. With respect to "developing an enhanced online presence", I urge retailers not to over-think the utility aspect of online engagement and experiment with what we at Dabbl call "digital downtime." This is the three to five hours a day the average smartphone user spends goofing around on their phone -- looking for mild distraction, entertainment or a sense of feeling productive or smart. Additional new thought: Compete for the micro-moment and the micro-purchase. In the digital environment we are ALL are competing for micro-moments and micro-decisions -- with everyone and everything, all the time. Amazon's super power is being there during that micro-moment of item demand, which is always one item, and closing that sale right away. If you compete in the digital world for a list of times (aka "a trip" or "an entire order"), your share of spend is atrophying as we speak. Be prepared to be there at the point of item-level purchase intent (whether generated by an ad, a recipe, a social media post, a consumer review, an article, etc.) and then close that sale, for that item, right away. Most online pure-plays struggle with making money on low items/order -- even Amazon, although they struggle less and less as their share of spend (and margin leverage) improves. Traditional "click and collect" programs have an advantage here, to accept items dribbling into the basket and waiting for curbside pick up (or delivery once it reaches a critical mass). But for now, don't worry about the logistics -- worry about capturing the micro-sale because failure to capture that will render the logistics question moot.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2018

    Will Amazon’s PillPack acquisition disrupt the retail pharmacy business?

    If only I had a penny for each time I heard a retailer say that "it won't scale" or "I'm worried for everyone else but we're fine" in the face of Amazon's latest crazy move. Now, especially after reading the comments on this post, I am adding to that list "there goes the consumer-pharmacist relationship" as if PillPack could succeed without creating something better than that relationship. If you want to succeed against Amazon, you have to stop being so emotional about it all. Amazon competes in the most defensible places and expands from there. If you are a historian or player of the Chinese strategy game Go, you will recognize their strategy this way: "start in the corners, where two sides of the board can be used as boundaries. Once the corners are occupied, the next most valuable points are along the side, aiming to use the edge as a territorial boundary. Capturing territory in the middle, where it must be surrounded on all four sides, is extremely difficult." So what does this look like in retail-speak? For decades, retailers competed for the consumer (i.e. the whole loyalty craze of the '80s and '90s). Retailers then evolved to start competing for the "trip" (or the "order" or the "visit") which is where (most) still are. Even the way they are approaching e-commerce is trip- (or order-) centric. Meanwhile Amazon has had its eyes on the ITEM/CONSUMER NEED MOMENT -- making sure that as soon as I think "huh, I need X" they are able to close the sale FOR THAT ITEM (sometimes even removing the need to have the thought "I need," as is the case with PillPack and Subscribe & Save). Amazon does not wait for a collection of item-specific needs to reach a critical mass and compete for that trip. Amazon does not try to play the game of "hey, if I add more shorter purchase cycle products to my store/site I will get more trips and then I win!" Amazon simply waits around for me to need something (if it hasn't already gotten my permission to place the order before that moment), then makes it super easy and simple for me to buy it. The acquisition of PillPack is one of many moves Amazon is making in the area of competing for specific needs (their only serious competition coming from direct-buy brands like Quip).

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