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.

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

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  • 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.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2020

    Do mobile shoppers disclose more valuable data about themselves?

    When consumers on average touch their phones over 2,600 times per day (Vanguard, 2020) then they feel that it is part of their being or a natural appendage. We consumers let our guard down on our phone because we are not thinking, we are just doing (swipping, texting, talk to text, etc.). Therefore, yes it does makes sense that people are more willing to share more when they have their guard down.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2020

    Is the future of retailing going dark?

    Yes, fulfilling a large volume of online orders in a store with tons of customers can be a challenge not only in terms of higher costs but also insofar as it may impact the experience of your everyday customers. More and more retailers will test and roll out a dark strategy in select areas, likely more urban areas. Business processes will continue to have to be agile as customer shopping behavior changes frequently during and after this crisis.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2020

    Do retailers need to go beyond ‘reopening playbooks’?

    The playbooks are likely very complete in terms of cleaning various areas of the store, handling of food, managing customers that are not following the rules, and establishing a protocol for employees and their behavior and processes. But I believe that in these trying times, there has to be a balance between the stick and the carrot. The retailers are asking the right questions and planning to make the store environment as safe as possible. But how might they make it more enjoyable for their employees which will reflect positively on the customer interactions? With all of this reporting and auditing, is there an opportunity for individual stores to have a reward at the end of the month, a "socially distancing employee party" or some other fun perk that recognizes their hard work and adherence to the new policies?
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Is it safe to bring back food sampling?

    Sampling will be back but it will be in a different form. Who would argue that sampling drives trial and can increase sales of products by hundreds of percentage points to over 1000%? What you may see is more self-contained packages at room temperature. You may also see products that are cooked in trays or another packaging that can be heated. It is just such a great tactic that persuades consumers to purchase, it won't go away, but it will be decidedly different.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is it time to move beyond ‘now more than ever’ COVID-19 commercials?

    While these ads certainly were in sync with the societal needs of March and April, households are now beyond the shutdown and the virus and are preparing for what's next. It's still going to be time to be sensitive going forward as households get active again and get back to work while still protecting themselves and their families. Brands need to continue to have a timely understanding of the pulse of their consumers. It's important to know what their customers are into now, what are their goals now, and to tie that back to how the retailer's/brand's unique offering can help them. With over 30 million out of work, I could imagine that there could be an opportunity to advertise how they can help folks re-enter the workplace with a refreshed attitude and wardrobe. Also it has been heavy in terms of emotion. I agree with Cathy H. that this may be the time to advertise that it is time to have fun again with a unique and new value proposition.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?

    Yes, it is absolutely needed to be mandatory for the foreseeable future. Compared to other health precautions, this is the easiest to implement and it protects the customers, the employees, and the general public. A more consistent and broad policy of mask-wearing inside of public buildings will continue to help us reap the benefits of a flattened curve of the infection going forward. This is a requirement in California and 95% follow the rule. Most stores have greeters outside the door that ensure that everyone has a mask. This is not such an inconvenience vs. longer store closures and other more drastic measures that could continue to impact the economy.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2020

    Tyson Foods chair says ‘the food supply chain is breaking’

    At the NRF session in January of 2020, the leader of Beyond Meat said that 52 percent of Americans are trying to include more plant-based meat foods in their diets. The reasons that were cited then were: health, environmental concerns, and animal welfare. Now add to the list worker safety and virus anxiety and there will be more consumers looking at alternative meat-like options. These plant closings are unfortunate but may not mean that the food supply is broken. It may indicate a more rapid shift toward more plant-based meats. I think that what we have all seen during this crisis is that consumers are flexible and will shift and adapt to meet their households needs. The question is what will this mean for the long-term demand for pork and other products.

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