PROFILE

Brian Cluster

Director of Industry Strategy - CPG & Retail, Stibo Systems

Brian Cluster has over 20 years’ experience in consumer-packaged goods and the retail industry. He is the Director, Industry Strategy – CPG & Retail for Stibo Systems. In this role he supports the overall growth of MDM sales in CPG and Retail channel by understanding customer needs and by being the voice of the customer to product teams and throughout the organization.

Brian has a broad perspective across the consumer-packaged goods industry having worked for retailers, a food broker, a market research company and several manufacturers and now a software company. He has a strong track record of collaborating on strategy, building and delivering analytics to drive successful execution of category and marketing plans and business value.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Iowa, and an MBA in International Marketing & Finance from DePaul University.

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  • Posted on: 11/28/2022

    Do boring leaders make for better business results?

    Charismatic leadership has benefits in retail if the leader is starting a revolutionary new business in an business such as retail dispensaries or metaverse retail or other nascent verticals. These leaders can energize the company in the short term to achieve some hyper growth but it's usually not sustainable for traditional retailers. In my experience, most retail teams want a steady, knowledgeable, and trustworthy leader with substance who can realize goals. Skillsets that can be missing from a charismatic leader are listening and incorporating others' ideas. When leading from the front, there is an over-reliance on the leader in meetings and they may dominate the discussion thereby keeping the remaining functional leaders relatively quiet - minimizing their contributions. Charismatic leadership has it's place in key growth situations but should not be the dominant leadership trait for most retail presidents.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2022

    Do digital coupons discriminate against those who can least afford it?

    It's not discrimination because everyone has access to technology. However, with over 80 different apps on a typical smartphone, it is best for retailers to make the apps as intuitive as possible because many consumers may not remember all aspects of using each app. If you want to be inclusive consumer-centered design and UX research should be taken with all key consumer groups.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2022

    Do retailers need to add chief trust officers?

    Another C-level exec is not the answer. The Chief Trust Officer and the Chief Purpose Officer roles may not be needed - trust and purpose are the values of an organization that does business correctly. Data privacy, data security, and data quality/transparency are key consumer concerns now and should be part of the existing operational plans and plans for any retailer.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2022

    Is Trader Joe’s success formula becoming obsolete?

    Trader Joe's has a differentiated business model and is not near obsolescence. In fact, I think that it is one of the most agile grocers from an assortment perspective. With a small size, it is known for the continuous stream of seasonal items and new product introductions and the joy of product discovery. At the height of the pandemic, there were lines around the building demonstrating strong loyalty despite everyone else leveraging their e-commerce solutions. One of the biggest gaps is bringing back more of the sampling programs; the coffee, snacks, and desserts. They had a large taste and scent advantage over their competitors and it is time to bring it back to its full glory. E-commerce is not the answer now for TJ, it would definitely be less than the store experience and it may be best to stick to what makes them so different and interesting.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2022

    Is transactional data the key to understanding retail customer behavior?

    With so much data available to conduct an audit, I would be cautious to only include one slice of data. Consumers are increasingly omnichannel in their behavior from discovery, and research to purchase and delivery. Having only in-store POS data to audit is only part of the first step. Utilizing Behavioral data online, in apps and in-store are additional data elements that should be brought in to answer how are consumers behaving in-store, online, and across digital touchpoints. Purchase data is not real-time -- there are actual services to anonymously view the customer's path to purchase on a website ( what products and content they view, where they dwell, when they drop or convert). That is truly real-time.
  • Posted on: 11/02/2022

    Will Netflix send customers streaming into Walmart’s stores?

    The Netflix Hub will provide another reason to go to Walmart for the highly digital fans of trending entertainment. While their natural inclination is to shop online on Amazon, this may be a chance to interrupt that pattern and build loyalty among Gen Z. Overall this may not be a huge traffic driver but an opportunity to build engagement and loyalty relative to online competitors. The Netflix store-within-a-store appears to be different than a move to copy Target's strategy. I think that Walmart will use data and research to understand where they can become a bigger part of their customers' lives and provide unique experiences at retail while driving loyalty and sales. That said, technology and entertainment is such a pervasive part of everyone's lives, this could be the next store-within-a-store. What kind of partnership would work in consumer electronics to counter Target and Apple and uniquely appeal to Walmart's customers?
  • Posted on: 10/31/2022

    What are the biggest emerging threats facing online delivery?

    Porch piracy is the number one concern. According to a recent study over 220 million packages are stolen each year and 64 percent of Americans have been affected. The climate one doesn't make sense to me, it seems that as the volume of packages increase in general so do the incidents related to weather. Regarding piracy, there are numerous solutions from retailers' and consumers' points of view. One is more intelligent delivery windows. Why not offer evening delivery for those who work at home and incentivize grouping deliveries to one or two a week instead of multiple rush deliveries happening all day and night? Also, how might retailers and consumers work together to create a more secure delivery destination for their homes?
  • Posted on: 10/21/2022

    Does Lululemon need a teen strategy?

    Having several teenagers, I know that Lululemon are absolutely successful locally even though they may not have a typical national ad campaign targeting teens. Local shop managers have a strong community outreach with the high schools to outfit the teen athletes. Each teen athlete is fitted before making a final purchase with their Lululemon gear. That fitting becomes another opportunity to sell for items outside of their sport. The combination of appealing social media efforts, influencers and local outreach is a strong integrated approach that is very successful with the teen market.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2022

    Schnucks lets associates pick their own stores and shifts

    I applaud Schnucks for testing new ways to best attract employees and schedule their store in this challenging recruiting environment. This approach would likely require very good data on what employees are trained on, what are their preferred stores and business rules. Maybe a hybrid approach would be best where most employees are scheduled for their core hours and then there would be extra hours to pick up if they are interested.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2022

    What tradeoffs are consumers willing to make to stretch their food dollars?

    The grocery retail landscape has dramatically changed since the Great Recession of 2008. With the increase in the number of outlets for discount grocery and expanding dollar channel store counts, there are more options for consumers now. For example, Aldi has over 2,000 locations now. I would expect more shifting loyalty and trading down toward more affordable retailers such as Aldi, Lidl, and Grocery Outlet than in the last downturn.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2022

    Which data capabilities are still out of reach for marketers?

    Two keys come to mind that are likely root causes of the lag between data gathering and insights -- Data Governance & Focus. Retail has changed in the last few years as more e-commerce, emerging digital channels, social media, and RMN data are now joining the traditional in-store set of data for marketers. Data Governance is key here as this data needs to be brought into the organization, understood, classified, attributed, and finally delivered in a process-driven way to the BI tools for analysis/dashboarding. Marketers not only need to be data-driven but also data-enabled. Agreements need to be made about different data sets between departments regarding the current use and plan to make the data more accurate, trustworthy, and valuable. Marketers need to focus on their top use cases and work across the organization to increase the speed, quality of insights, and ROI of the work that they do. A unified data model may help ensure that everyone is on the same page: referring to the same hierarchies, locations, and channels and talking about customers in the same way.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2022

    Will circular commerce drive traffic to stores?

    Secondhand shopping is not a niche anymore. According to Morning Consult, 44% of Americans have bought a second-hand item in the past three months which is the highest among the 15 countries surveyed. If almost half of the population is interested, it is certain that the demand is there to drive traffic. The key for retailers is to create and execute a resale program that appeals to their target customers. As this market gets more crowded, retailers will need to stand out by branding the program, establish ongoing trust and also be successful in recruiting sellers to sell their previously used items. For Gen Z, this is not a fad -- and second-hand buying will simply be one of their considerations for finding fashion across their lifetime.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2022

    Is inflation the biggest back-to-school story?

    Back to school as a mega category is essential because parents want to provide the best opportunity for their kids to succeed and be ready with the right clothes and school supplies/tech. Parents are wise and digitally savvy and will likely gravitate to the lowest price leaders this year to ensure that they get a good deal so I expect the price leaders will gain share. With two weeks before school here in So. Cal, I don't see an inventory issue in this region, so I think price comparison and mixing in-store with online shopping -- and -- not cutting back will be the BTS theme.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2022

    The Nordstrom tire return story is true

    Values and mission statements like "we put the customer first" fall flat for many customers. The key is to share the HOW and share an example in the form of a story. Having a commitment to teaching associates these true stories helps create a foundation of pride in the organization and allows the teams to share these stories with their customers in a consistent way. As many said, customer service is a key way to differentiate and these stories can be instructive to the retail team about the values and entertaining and memorable for the customers.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2022

    Should ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates be reimagined to reduce waste?

    All of the various "use by," "sell by," and "best if used by" messaging should be evaluated since these are not necessarily related to absolute safety dates -- unlike the standard "expiration date." The variety and differences of these messages across categories are quite confusing to consumers. According to the USDA over 30% of the food supply is lost or wasted at retail and consumer levels. If some of that waste can be reclaimed due to clearer messaging/merchandising it would be a win for the retailers and consumers.

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