PROFILE

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.

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  • 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.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2018

    Walmart expands test of pickup-only grocery store concept

    I’ve seen the one in Bentonville and although it that city is the headquarters for Walmart, the wide variety of venues showcase how this concept can work in other markets. Having options available for the busy shopper/consumer is smart and Walmart is smart to continue to test and modify as they continue to innovate. This also effectively solves the perishables challenge.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2018

    Hershey delivers category insights directly to retailers via tractor trailer

    Agree with many of the comments but you will never please everyone with this type of tactic. There will be those that say "why are they spending money like this? I'd rather they provide lower costs to me". It is true that this is a good way to get attention, which is what a well thought out billboard is supposed to do. It does allow the Hershey team to get awareness for what they doing. What matters is what the retailer hears and sees on the inside of the trailer. Although the Hershey team may not be able to solve every problem on the spot, I don't think that would be reasonable for realistic for retailers to expect. If the time spent is perceived as productive and valuable, it will lead to a second and more detailed engagement that will likely take place in a more traditional place. This opens the door and for that, I applaud Hershey for a creative initiative that is not the same old, same old.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    Are grocers shortchanging flexitarians?

    Grocers should not underestimate this trend. I've just returned from the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore and was amazed at the variety of products and categories that offer plant-based options. Everything from cookies to energy bars to pizza and beyond. Some that were not to my liking, but most were absolutely delicious and changed my mind and opened my eyes to what today's consumer has available to choose from. As to the second question, grocers who do not integrate these offerings in a serious way will risk losing the shopper who is serious about what they eat to a natural grocer and that customer may never come back to the more traditional one.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2018

    Gap CEO says retailers not turning in-store data into action

    The main reason for this has been that retailers have not been willing to share their data on a regular basis. Yes, there are areas where they can create value internally but when combined with the data that and expertise that their suppliers bring to the table, a great deal more can be gleaned to generate benefits for the retailer, the supplier and the consumer. This needs to change in order for real value to be created.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2018

    A tale of two retail real estate markets

    I agree with Bob that there are many factors to this dilemma, but greed is certainly the main one here in Manhattan. Many of the landlords here are big and really don't care if they keep a storefront empty until someone with deep pockets or a tenant that is willing to sign a long-term lease comes along. Can you blame a retailer for not wanting to sign a long lease in these uncertain times? This trend is not only true in retail space but in office space as well. The co-working trend is alive and mostly well here in NYC because landlords have always been too greedy with what they charge for commercial space, given that they are allowed to charge you for square footage that you cannot possibly use -- including the lobby space, the vestibules, the elevator and so on. I had one lease where the landlord added a surcharge to bring electric power from the basement up to our floor. This does not happen in other markets. Garages charge $100 dollars to park your bike for the month. Until local ordinances are passed that force a landlord to rent space that has been vacant for more than say six months to a year, this will not change. Pop-ups are part of the solution, but more retail experiences that are engaging is what is truly needed but at a price point where a retailer has a fighting chance.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2018

    REI finds an audience for used gear

    It confirms an idea I’ve been kicking around that most people have no problem buying high-end branded products that are not perfect if they can do so at a significantly reduced price. I need a pair of hiking shoes and don’t hike enough to warrant spending a big number on a new pair. This meets my needs perfectly. There is a market for high-end goods in every category that are perfectly fine to wear and use but may have a few stitches out of place. Every manufacturer has goods that cannot be sold at full retail because of a slight flaw. Why not makes these available to those that don’t care they are not perfect? Will it hurt their higher-priced offerings? There will always be consumers that want and need their purchases to be flawless.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2018

    Do CPGs need their own voice for Alexa?

    Ad agencies have seen their reason for being questioned in the face of advertising becoming more about data science as opposed to brand building and creativity. This is an opportunity to get back in the game of using good creative to build their clients' brands. This is a good opportunity to stop complaining about how the agency business has changed and get back to good hardworking creative.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2018

    Is the time ripe for Google stores?

    This will continue to confirm the strategy that in most cases, you need a physical retail location in order to provide a total customer experience. Those running from maintaining a physical location should take a little comfort in this trend.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2018

    Gallup poll says consumers prefer to shop for their own groceries

    Let's face it folks. Online shopping for groceries is a moving target. Will it continue to grow or will it stay flat and perhaps even decline? Even the experts can't say for sure. I do see a day where online shopping for non-perishables will be the norm but not for perishables. While Walmart's use of 3-D imaging on each piece of produce is certainly a development to watch, I think that people who care about what they eat will continue to be very picky about their produce, meats and fish. In many markets, like NYC, these items are too expensive not to. This is backed up by some of the percentages outlined in the Gallup poll. Those with lower incomes are not going to risk receiving perishables that are less than satisfactory. Heck, sometimes you end up with produce that looks less than perfect even when you selected it yourself because you were in a rush. Do you really expect store associates to do a better job at this than we would do? And if the consumer has the ability to reject an item, where does that leave the consumer who needs that item for a recipe for dinner, or the retailer who needs to absorb the cost to replace it? At the end of the day, online shopping for groceries will grow but at what cost? It will be interesting to watch which retailers jump in with both feet and bet the farm, and which ones stay on the sidelines to see what happens first and then jump in as they have gone to school on someone else's nickel.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    Hy-Vee opens fitness-focused grocery store concept

    It makes total sense to those that are really trying to integrate their fitness routine with eating healthier. Gyms typically have monitors that showcase healthy choices from nutritionists that members can now easily shop for after their workout. Good idea for those that are like-minded and determined to eat right so that their workout pays off. I see this trend continuing, especially in markets where a healthy and active lifestyle is more of the norm instead of the exception.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2018

    Where does art end and retail begin?

    It's all about display. When consumer products are displayed in a way that is pleasing to the eye, they can be seen by some as art. Some high-end retailers do indeed fashion themselves as museums -- displaying very few items on fairly stark shelves with men in black suits watching over the merchandise. Retail is becoming art and art is becoming retail. Pop-up stores and pop-up exhibits will co-exist is my prediction.

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