Zel Bianco

President, founder and CEO Interactive Edge

Zel Bianco and Interactive Edge have been helping companies, specifically in the Consumer Goods industry, run more efficiently since 1994. Zel’s focus is always on the needs of the client. He strives to be a real business partner to every customer — no matter what the size of the contract or the scope of the implementation. He wants to help companies eliminate the cumbersome and time consuming tasks associated with data management and organization in order to free up users time so that they can do what they were hired to do: generate insights to grow their business. Zel enjoys helping clients bridge the gap between category management and shopper insights. He collaborates with clients in the development of a process that streamlines the flow of qualitative data into customer facing presentations and reports.

As the president, founder and CEO of Interactive Edge, Zel is responsible for setting the company’s strategic vision and developing business alliances. He is also an industry thought leader who has enjoyed presenting at many industry conferences such as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the International Committee of Food Retail Chains (CIES), SAP’s SAPPHIRE and SAP’s TechEd Demo Jam. He has been honored to speak at both DePaul University and Michigan State University, and has donated the Interactive Edge XP3 software for use by students at both of their business schools. Interactive Edge and its customers have won numerous industry awards in areas including Customer Management, Visionary Innovation, and Demand Data Analytics.

Prior to founding Interactive Edge, Zel held senior account management positions in the advertising industry, at Young & Rubicam and other large New York agencies. He worked with many consumer package goods clients and was a part of the account management team that introduced the IBM personal computer.

More information about Zel and his solution for presenting demand data analytics can be found at the Interactive Edge website.

  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Where will Amazon go with its cashier-free concept?

    Neil, visit one and you will see and understand that a vending machine is no substitute for what these offer. Especially in a place like Chicago where you may not want to venture outside in cold weather to grab a salad.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Where will Amazon go with its cashier-free concept?

    I had commented a few months back that I visited an Amazon Go store in Chicago with my friends from the Category Management Association and Walgreens and we all walked away very impressed. We were purposely picking up items and putting them back to test how well this was working and then we each purchased a few items. I had entered the store without having downloaded the app so my purchase would automatically be applied to my colleague's purchases. When my buddy's receipt popped up on his phone, all items were correct and none of the items that we picked up and put back had been incorrectly charged. If they can perfect the technology to be scalable across any size format, especially when the store is really busy, then I think they have a big opportunity regardless of where the store is physically housed. This particular store which was in an office building in The Loop had almost everything you might need including very well prepared sandwiches, salads, and fresh fruit.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    Target has more to offer Amazon at this point. If the stock price continues to trend lower, and that may not be completely in Target's control, then perhaps it will make more sense. If nothing else, Amazon's deep pockets will allow Target to have greater flexibility to try different strategies or, at the very least, continue some of the ones they've already put in place recently. I just think it would be sad if Amazon acquired a second retailer that is one of the standouts in our industry. Too much power in the hands of Amazon may not be a good thing for the industry or the consumer.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    I would engage store associates to learn about aspects of retail they may not even be aware of. Things like the supply chain -- where does the product come from, how is it produced, etc.? Teach aspects of retail that they may not be thinking about, may not even have an interest in immediately, but may be glad they learned about as they move on to other jobs, even outside of retail. Those that happen to be more ambitious may want to learn about the assortment and how headquarters arrives at those decisions through category management analytics, assortment, pricing and so on. Yes, I realize that many associates couldn't care less, but wouldn't it be worth it is some of them start to love what they are learning and become leaders in retail someday, especially as the industry is changing so much? The focus has to be on how best to engage with the shopper, but expanding their understanding beyond the store floor might be a way to get them to be all around better associates while at the same time lose the look of boredom that communicates to the shopper that they would rather be anywhere else but where they are.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Millennial brand loyalty comes into question

    As stated, service and quality of product and, yes, price -- especially for those that are now parents. Prior to becoming a parent, Millennials are more about what's in it for them, (big generalization) but when kids arrive, they realize that they need to be a little more frugal to make ends meet so they look much more closely at price. As to loyalty, Millennials are very loyal, in my humble opinion, until something better or new comes along (which always does).
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Will a radical transformation lift or sink IKEA?

    Getting closer to where the typical consumer of IKEA products live makes sense. Having rooms set up to see how things fit together also makes sense. Getting through a shopping experience in their large format was indeed a slog and may still be necessary when your kids first move into their own place, but for fill-ins and smaller purchases, the new in-town format will work. Seems they have thought through the major changes and are in front of them in a very well organized way. Wouldn't expect anything less from the management of IKEA.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2018

    CVS’ new concept is about the health of its customers

    I agree with Neil. If CVS could pull off doing this in the same location, that would be better. Who needs to go to yet another location for health services and then another for rest of your list? One-stop shopping is always better especially as they have great locations. As to how to compete with Walgreens, speaking for NYC only, I see a big difference between CVS and Walgreens. Yes they basically have the same assortment for the most part, but the difference I see is the human factor. CVS really goes the extra mile as associates will always greet you on the way into the store and are always ready to help, be it the counter person, the pharmacist or store manager. I don't get that feeling at Walgreens. Now, having said that, it is a totally different experience when I am in Chicago. Hands down, the experience in Chicago at a Walgreens is warm and friendly. Can these two chains compete in a way that sets them apart? Perhaps, but in my book the human factor should win every time.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2018

    What if artificial intelligence is biased?

    Garbage in -- garbage out. If the data the algorithm is being trained on is not somehow scrutinized or scrubbed, it will likely be based on bias and bad assumptions.
  • Posted on: 10/25/2018

    Will organic food sales soar on the latest cancer research?

    It is only a matter of time before people will realize that everything that goes into their bodies matters. It used to be that you could eat organic vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry but worry that condiments and other ingredients that are used in cooking would sabotage the effort. Now almost everything you need to prepare a meal can be organic so if you can afford it, you can be true blue organic all the way. I don't think that this one study will drastically change a trend that is already hot. Those that practice good eating habits will continue to do so and those that eat poorly will either start to buy in or will ignore it. Exercise, sleep, not drinking too much alcohol, stress and many other factors of our daily lives will have a greater impact in the long run than if you are eating only organic on a regular basis. At the end of the day, those that tend to eat healthy are the ones that tend to take care of themselves and exercise on a daily basis to try to stay in shape.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2018

    Why haven’t CPG giants figured out what makes small brands so popular?

    Some have commented that it is a good thing that big CPG has acquired the smaller brands because they will show them the ropes and help them grow. To some degree, this may be the wrong approach as the founder of Function of Beauty has stated, "if we were to partner with Sephora, we would become just like every other shampoo brand." He knows that what makes his brand special is that it remains independent and laser focused on the personalized manufacturing process he has created. Yes, it makes sense from a financial perspective for the smaller brands to sell out to the large, but will they be gaining wealth and losing their "special sauce" in the process?
  • Posted on: 10/22/2018

    How should retail employers prepare for Gen Z workers?

    The most critical factor will be their social skills, especially if placed on the floor to sell. That position is already one where even the most seasoned salespeople sometimes feel awkward. Imagine someone of the Gen Z generation trying to make approaching a shopper feel natural. If Gen Z is going to start to feel comfortable on the sales floor or in most other positions the social side of life, not the virtual one will become a high hurdle that must be overcome. It will not be easy, but most Gen Zers are smart and will likely rise to the challenge if indeed they are, as the article states, eager and willing to get value out of the situation, even if at first they will feel completely outside their comfort zone.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2018

    New c-store concept is high-tech inside and out

    Paying via app is here to stay and will be a positive aspect of this chain as well as c-stores more broadly. I visited an Amazon Go in Chicago yesterday and was very pleased with the selection, assortment and experience overall. This is not going away folks. Accommodating electric cars, and scooters is also a trend that will continue to increase and must be planned for especially in congested cities like New York, Chicago and DC to name just a few. As was pointed out, Electric cars take significantly longer to charge than filling your tank with gas and therefore the real estate that the c-store sits on becomes an important consideration. With cars being charged, cars being fueled, scooters being charged, bikes being pulled out and so on, unless these things are planned it will be chaotic and even dangerous. Kudos to the small chain for being an innovator. I hope they succeed in a big way.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2018

    Cannabis-infused drink and food makers are high on grocery opportunities

    I recently attended Expo East, the Natural Products trade show in Baltimore. Even though this show is about a third the size of the one in Anaheim, the number of cannabis or CBD infused product categories was staggering. Many of these products are focused on relieving pain for specific problems where traditional methods (NSAIDS, Ibuprofen, etc.)have either not worked or where prescription pain medication has lead to huge addiction issues throughout the U.S. CPG manufacturers will most likely be the first movers to get in front of this opportunity while retailers will stay on the sidelines and wait to see what happens. The CBD wave is coming and those that take the risks will reap the rewards, if not in the U.S. for a few years, in other markets. We've already been contacted by CBD companies that are starting to plan their category management and shopper insight analytics and shelf management go-to-market strategy. Starting to look pretty mainstream to me.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Will foodie culture save the mall?

    Part of the foodie culture is experiencing the atmosphere of the actual place, like Katz's Deli. It is an experience. The butchers, the waiters, the photos of celebrities on the walls, etc. Yes, you can mimic the decor, but it's just not the same. Going to the farmers market at the mall sounds pretty depressing to me, but hey, I live in a city where farmers markets are plentiful and yet there are no farms or mountains nearby, so perhaps they will work at a mall.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Are retailers deaf to radio advertising’s potential?

    In a word, yes, they are. Radio is a medium that I place under the category of "as much as things have changed, some things have not changed at all." Radio can help to create and deliver a personality for a brand and target specific demographics at a relatively low cost. I don't believe it should be the only medium to use -- as it would be foolish to ignore digital, but those that place the entire budget into digital are foolish not to take advantage of placing radio into the mix. Plus, radio will allow people to keep their eye on the road instead of their phones.

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