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.

To learn more about Pilot and our brands please see below.


  • Posted on: 03/21/2023

    Would a TikTok Ban Cripple Influencer Marketing?

    It's time to diversify and plan out some alternative scenarios to TikTok. Just like brands can't rely on one retail partner, they should not over-rely on one social media platform for influencer traffic. The competitors have known about this potential ban for some time and are building capabilities to provide similar experiences for influencers and target audiences. Competitors that will gladly take up the audience would be Meta, Snap, YouTube -- as well as other media platforms and unknown up-and-comers.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2023

    Why data analytics teams must speak retail

    The struggle is real and the gap exists between the business teams in retail and the analytics team. There are plenty of skilled data scientists out there to use the tools, the problem lies in the translation between the retail business owners and the analysts. Fortunately, there is a standard that retailers can follow called CRISP DM that can be built into retail processes such as request forms and ongoing project work. The first step in this analytic process is called, "Understand the Business" and it is the responsibility of the analyst to understand the business problem and context, and to be able to freely ask questions to clarify. If retailers don't want to follow this process completely, they have another option which is to add a role of a data translator or project manager that can help bridge the gap between the business owners and the analytic/IT teams.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2023

    Is brainstorming better done electronically or in-person?

    I've seen brainstorming work in both an electronic version as well as in the physical space. Just like meetings, there are many purposes for brainstorming and it can cover everything from the mundane to corporate strategy. For large and complex issues, electronic brainstorming does not seem to fit the bill because it is hard to visualize all of the information in a virtual whiteboard while having multiple whiteboards in a conference room or offsite location. Electronic brainstorming sessions work well for specific items that can be tackled fairly quickly. Some keys to success are to have a clear goal, invite the right people, and set up some ground rules. Also, it is important to have fun along the way to ensure that creativity flows from beginning to end.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    How do consumer brands really feel about buying ads from retailers?

    Consumer brand spending on retail media networks provides the opportunity to reach and message consumers in a more relevant context, the retail experience. Having a more precise way to attract an attractive segment of retail/brand buyers is desirable. As more different marketing capabilities and options are built, brands will gain intelligence to understand which retailers and RMN product work best in certain situations. It's a must for any brand to be on key RMNs as the growth of these programs generates more consumer awareness and opportunities for the foreseeable future. KPIS are tricky and situational. For regular seasonal promotions, you may want to consider cost per million for impressions and cost per click and others. However, if you are launching a new item, the brand will be more interested in incrementally and new consumers reached. Smart brand leaders will have tools and talent in place to constantly monitor similar programs across retailers and over time to continuously strive for improvement and a better investment.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2023

    Does retail need a data-based rebuild?

    Retailers have traditionally been very linear in the use of data as a single sales channel. As retailers become omnichannel and use more advanced marketing and analytics, their approach to master data and transactional data needs to change. Data silos need to be minimized and data needs to be centralized and governed better so you can get the most value out of it. More functional areas and roles need access to the data so everyone can be enabled to do their job and also ensure that everyone is referencing the same data. Some of the most common use cases include efficient on-boarding of product data and supplier information. Doing this right and efficiently can help retailers more effectively share this information across all channels of commerce to the end-consumer.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2023

    PepsiCo’s retention recipe starts with technology

    Fortunately, I was able to see this session live at NRF. Most retailers and brands focus on the customer user experience but the increased use of various tech within the enterprise needs to be evaluated from an employee perspective. It is another way to retain workers because many little headaches can add up to something bigger for some employees. We are no longer in a situation where dedicated employees are happy working with an archaic user experience and clunky technology. They live with consumer-grade tech that works great. Two best practices include having annual surveys on some of the most commonly used techs and to partner with solution providers to configure/adapt the solution to how the employees use it and to reduce friction. The second best practice is to have a customer service line from IT allow for feedback from enterprise tech users and continuously monitor and have action items to improve their experience.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2023

    Is ‘quiet hiring’ the next big thing in labor?

    Quiet hiring is simply reorganizing the tasks and responsibilities for your existing employees, outsourced talent, and temp workers. It is an essential strategic skill for management to assess how the operation is going and, based on customer and market needs, readjust the approach to working among the team. The challenge is to know precisely what skills are of each of the employees, what they are willing to do, and gain an understanding of where (in which store) they want to work at what times. That is a lot of data to manage and if you don't have good management of employee data it can be quite hard to execute. One key to success would be to gain an understanding of the current skill sets and motivations for learning new skills. This gives the manager a more informed point of view before making wholesale organizational changes.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2023

    Rite Aid looks to become an Rx oasis inside ‘pharmacy deserts’

    This is a great learning opportunity for Rite Aid to enter relatively uncontested smaller markets that are in need of pharmacies. Many of the current drugstore footprints (15,000 square feet) are incredibly large for what is actually needed. There is also an omnichannel angle here as these new small formats can also be used as a BOPIS opportunity. This program won't have a big impact on the bottom line unless they take the learnings from the pilot program, make tweaks, and scale in 2024.
  • Posted on: 12/22/2022

    Should Barnes & Noble shift back to store-expansion mode?

    It is the right time to expand cautiously in areas that may have changed in the past few years. Many people have moved to different communities and have spent a lot of time on their devices over the past few years creating potential device fatigue. That opens up opportunities for books and B&N. It is encouraging that they are testing different merchandising strategies. Having a solid program to continuously learn what all different customers (generation, gender, economics, psychographics, etc.) want and aligning the local store to those needs will help them compete in the long run.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2022

    Is holiday music torturing retail workers?

    Based on my experience working in the office channel one holiday, it can be annoying to hear these songs over and over. Two ideas. 1.) Play some non-holiday music during the slow times of the day to provide a break for the staff. 2.) Extend the playlist so the songs are not played as frequently. Songs like "Santa Baby" are bearable as long as it is only once per day.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2022

    Will Walmart throw high-price suppliers off the shelf?

    Many American households are struggling and looking at options on how to reduce the impact of inflation. The grocery budget is one of the easiest to control and consumers may look at other retailers outside of Walmart such as dollar stores or discount grocery. As an EDLP leader, it is their obligation to blunt the raising costs and work with suppliers. Walmart will be effective in containing costs with suppliers and we will likely see some churn and changes on the shelves.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2022

    Will Super Saturday be the most super ever?

    It is true that consumers have been trained to complete their final round of holiday shopping on Super Saturday over the years. However, since Christmas falls on a Sunday, many companies have Friday, December 23rd as a replacement day off. This day (12/23) will be another big day as shoppers look for last-minute deals to top off their gift-giving. Retailers in the past few years have become more digitally mature and adept at implementing new consumer-facing digitally enabled programs. In 2022, retailers have shown greater flexibility in driving demand such as new store-within-a-store partnerships, better agile data management for omnichannel commerce, and digital tools to help consumers shop. There were plenty of challenges but most retailers faired well.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2022

    7-Eleven tops best grocery store list

    People are shopping at c-stores more frequently in the past years as a result of the greater adoption during the pandemic and continuous consumer-centric evolution. Some consumers were reintroduced to c-store in the past two years and have stayed to enjoy some of the quick convenient and affordable benefits. 7-Eleven and several other retailers have really improved their private brand offering quality and scale. The grab-and-go beverage section now includes cold-pressed juices and more sparkling waters to appeal to more healthy-minded consumers. From a food service perspective, you really can't beat them for a quick and cheap lunch option. I think that 7-Eleven has been successful since it stayed true to the goal of super fast convenience, and that is why they are popular. Their app is really easy to use and they have very fast checkouts in-store while offering more variety in their hot food offerings as well as their product line.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2022

    Will Santa place grocery gift cards under the Christmas tree this year?

    This is a key time for gift cards for grocers. Team members need to be aware of any promotional programs, understand how the cards are merchandised, and ensure that the gift cards are part of their customer communications. As this is a high-traffic time, it would be important to check the section daily and restock. Additionally, I also thought that if there was signage up for last-minute gift-giving ideas it would help the procrastinating shoppers and add items to baskets.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2022

    The sky won’t fall, and other retail predictions for 2023

    Not on the list is new formats that tie to returned goods and/or distressed products. For example, in the last 5 years, 5 below has grown 500 stores. Quick sell bin retail seems to be catching on locally in So. Cal. An example store such as Deal Busters in California which has a descending price model through the week. Prices on everything are $7 on Friday and gradually decline by a dollar until everything is $1 on Wednesday and they restock on Thursday. The high rate of returns provides opportunities for alternative value retail. People are attracted to the price despite the lack of aesthetics.

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