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: 10/19/2020

    Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?

    A recent published report shows that Amazon has 39 percent of the total retail e-commerce business in the U.S. with Walmart in second at 5.8 percent. The power of Amazon at this moment can not be denied. This an incredibly tough time for retailers and I applaud them for working together to create this campaign. Hindsight is 20/20 but this should have been done years ago. The messaging is good but I think the message of the value of customer choice should have been messaged more or a statistic of the number of book stores that have closed over the past few years could also be very effective. I would like to see a follow-up on this article about how well the campaign went.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2020

    Is Petco really a health and wellness retailer?

    Petco does embody health and wellness for pets. With the recent announcement of the ban of shock collars, they have put another stake in the ground to further cement their industry leadership and positioning with their actions. The concept of health and wellness can be further expanded to the physical, nutritional, and mental health of pets supported by their services, advocacy, and product offering decisions. I agree with several here that a slightly refined and targeted tagline such as " Petco: the health and wellness company for pets" would help reduce confusion.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s continue thriving without delivery and curbside pickup?

    Trader Joe's has made the uncommon decision not to go digital in terms of eCommerce, pick up in-store or curbside pickup. And it has been the right decision for them and their strategy. In a land of many-times cookie-cutter grocery retailers, it is important to align with your strategy and play to your strengths to remain distinctive. In visiting various retailers on the West Coast, I believe that Trader Joe's employees are among the best in customer service, communication, and engagement. And, I personally go to Trader Joe's for the fair prices, unique products, fun experience, and great customer experience. Anything to take away from this would be detrimental to Trader Joe's and their customers, unless it offers tremendous upside in customer experience and sales.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2020

    Is it okay for retailers to ease up on cleaning their stores?

    Retailers should evaluate all of their cleaning practices to make sure that they are best suited for the business and the safety of their employees and customers. High touch areas like pin pads, checkout counters and bathrooms are absolute musts to clean going forward. However in a rush to contain the virus there is likely some low traffic cleaning that was instituted that may not need to be completed going forward. Retailers that have shown to be very flexible in their operations will evaluate and revise policies but should remain vigilant in the additional and most critical safety and cleaning activities until the virus has passed.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Has COVID-19 revealed pickup’s pain points?

    Curbside can be a challenge for specialty big box retailers in the pet or office channels or other specialty retailers with smaller staffs. It can also be both an executional and a technology opportunity. From an executional perspective, the retailer may have five people in the store with two at the register and two in the back, and a manager. Many of these retailers are fairly thin spread and are challenged to complete a curbside order within a few minutes when they already have a few customers inside the store that they are supporting. From a technology perspective, it may be helpful for the local retailer to select a busy mode to allow at least an hour for an order to be ready by the curbside, and then when they slow down in the store they can switch to the un-busy mode which would allow for almost immediate pickup options. While software companies focus on the consumer experience, the ordering system also has to be very seamless and easy to use for retail employees. Success for all depends on good and rich product data, good inventory data and a streamlined process.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Will Walmart’s online wellness hub produce healthy returns?

    Walmart is being bold with this effort to bring more awareness to the health crisis that is facing American consumers. This underlying health crisis is obesity. Many times this can be controlled and education may help a segment of consumers to take the necessary steps. There is a Harvard study out this year that cited that 40% of Americans are obese. And there is a linkage from obesity to the COVID crisis because obese people are more likely to have diabetes or some type of heart condition. Those pre-existing conditions can increase the impact that the Coronavirus can have on people. There is a linkage there and grocers, food manufacturers and mass merchants and online retailers all can play a role in providing health education and solutions to help consumers make more informed decisions to improve their health. Walmart should be applauded for this effort because they are getting to the root of the issue and trying to provide solutions to help society at large.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2020

    Why is being stuck indoors boosting outdoor product sales?

    Since many work-frome-home employees are literally tied to their desk eight to 10 or more hours per day, the last thing many people want to do is to travel across town to go inside again. The outdoors provides many more options for fitness than a typical gym. After the pandemic subsides, I believe that there will be many who relish the outdoor workouts and many will retain these activities while others will go back to their gyms and other indoor work out activities. Outdoor retailers can benefit by going back to creating local events, tours and other activities that accentuate the social and physical benefits of outdoor recreation. After this extended quarantine, some people will be cautious, but I believe that others will be interested in more meaningful connections via outdoor adventures.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2020

    What didn’t Jeff Bezos know and when didn’t he know it?

    As CEO of a company for 26 years and as one that helped build the company from the ground up, Mr. Bezos has a great deal of knowledge of how things work and the processes involved in bringing in new sellers. He should have been more forthright in the answer and should have specific steps that the company plans to take to address the issue. I find that the counterfeit issue is the most disheartening because it impacts the brands and ultimately the consumers. According to the OECD, counterfeit goods account for 3.3 percent of all goods sold online and we may all have counterfeit goods in our house right now. For consumers to trust Amazon more, Amazon will need to do a better job evaluating new sellers through better data and third-party validation, monitoring existing sellers, and having a process of rapid enforcement.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    How can retailers differentiate curbside delivery?

    Curbside pickup can be confusing for many consumers that are trying it for the first time or going to a different store than they normally do. The process has to be crystal clear so the shoppers are prepared when they arrive at stores. Customers should receive a simple step by step set of directions of what to do when they arrive at the store so they can make the store visit as frictionless as possible. By getting the communication right and actively seeking to improve the process, retailers will be able to get this process down and start to move to "surprise and delight" once the basics are streamlined.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    How can retailers cope with anxiety about the future?

    Two of the easiest ways to reduce and better manage anxiety in uncertain times is exercise and learning skills for a stronger emotional/mental mindset. While these two things may be hard to do in the store setting, due to customer needs and the needs of the business, the off-hours investment in these things can certainly help staff and store management during business times. One idea is to start a virtual exercise club where you as a store manager or chain executive strive to reach fitness goals individually or as a group. This can be rewarding and in a team setting, it can create some bonds outside of work hours. The second idea is to provide your employees with mindfulness or calming app. These apps provide stretching activities, music, yoga classes, bedtime stories, and meditation and any or all of these activities may benefit many store employees. Both of these have been provided by my employer via our insurance provider and I and many of my co-workers have enrolled and benefited.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s shake off its racist branding tag?

    No, this is a temporary event that has impacted several retailers and brands in this wave. Their branding is whimsical and was not intended for any harm and an overwhelming majority of consumers understand that. Using Joe in different languages helped described the product based on the food's traditional origin and heritage in a fun and unexpected way that ties to their light-hearted approach to packaging. Trader Joe's has responded accordingly and already has the wheels in motion to rebrand the products. Two of their core values of Kaizen (getting better every day) and Produce Wow Experiences will guide them forward through this branding crisis.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Is retail’s contactless future here now?

    Contactless payment is here to stay. In my own personal experience, the apps as well as the chip cards have been very successful to use for consumers as I rarely see any complications at checkout. To build on what David Naumann said about QR codes, we are seeing a resurgence of these codes which honestly many said would really not catch on a few years ago. Contactless technology obviously will be used more broadly than only retail as people adopt new ways of being contactless and more digital. Something as simple as handing a new contact a business card now seems awkward but, fortunately, you can use the Linkedin QR code for an initial one-on-one exchange of information.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Can remotely managed mobile-marts safely bring groceries to areas in need?

    Yes, this mobile market may provide a healthier alternative than other smaller format stores that are superettes or c-stores with limited food options in food deserts. Households in food deserts can be lower-income and less likely to buy grocery online so this will be a great alternative. The key is to go beyond the standard vending machine offering and include healthy meal solutions, dairy, fruit, and vegetables. It may be interesting if the community could provide feedback on email or text to describe other needs that are not currently available in the mobile market.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Tanger Outlets brings personal shopper services online

    It appears very relevant for now and for the next year and will build loyalty among consumers that are interested in shopping but want a new guided experience beyond the plain marketplace approach. This is the right time to experiment and learn from what will take as a good value and what does not work. A venture into new ways to serve digitally, turning any minor setback into learning and fuel innovation for the future. It is likely that the economics won't work unless there is an annual commitment and this is provided for a core/heavy shopper.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2020

    What can retailers do for 2020’s graduates?

    Along with Nikki and Dave, I also have a daughter that graduated High School this year. In many ways, retail is the foundation of many careers across the world whether you are still in the industry or not. For many, retail was their first job and their first opportunity to understand the value of hard work, working as a team in a professional setting, and customer service. My first job at retail was at Jewel Osco working for Daymon Worldwide and I still circle back to some of the experiences. The first way that retailers may help the 2020 graduates is to develop a special program where they may hire HS graduates for several months in the Summer with the purpose of helping to train them in work life and all the essential skills of retail. This will provide the recent graduate some more practical skills and give them more confidence and they can continue the job during school or reconnect with the retailer during the next break. Recent High School graduates that are going to college are now going off to live on their own for the first time. I think that it would be interesting to see a special 2020 graduate virtual series on some things to think about in preparing for college supply purchases. Perhaps a department store, Mass Merchant, or even a pure-play retailer could provide rich educational content about bedding, kitchen accessories, and other key purchases they can be better informed about these life choices.

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