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: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    Undoubtedly there will always be product returns due to changes in preferences or mis-targeted gifts that did not meet the recipient's needs. However there are some fundamental ways that retailers can help minimize the situations in which there are simple errors or misunderstanding of the product description or appearance. One technological and systematic approach to the improvement of the quality and completeness of product data is the use of a master data management software solution. This type of solution serves as a single version of the truth of product data that will feed into retailer websites and other marketing channels. By using this system as a foundation, retailers can set data standards in product attributes used by category, the number of images or videos used and more. MDM systems will also reduce the errors that are commonly seen online such as duplicate information, older product descriptions, and products placed in the wrong hierarchy. Enriching and improving the product data for the consumer at the point of purchase can help reduce confusion and errors in purchases - resulting in lower returns.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Will its ‘culture of recognition’ be a game winner for Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    Folks in retail are facing more challenges than other industries, especially workers that are on the front line facing many customer demands. In those types of conditions, managers have plenty of examples and situations to identify good and great performance actions. Recognition programs need to be central to building morale and retaining retail employees. Recognition programs can be old news, so I think that the hardest challenge of any store leader is to create, manage and execute a plan that is both authentic and that is valued by the employees.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2019

    How does Backcountry.com come back from its trademark battle backlash?

    Now more than ever, it is important for companies to be good businesses. Good business means being responsible corporate citizens, providing sustainably sourced products, reducing waste, respecting and serving their customers while at the same time making money. Company activities that not aligned to good business are hard to hide with social media and other reporting, so it is important for companies to be aligned to their noble mission and to be transparent to the market. The trademark battles described indicate that they lost their way in terms of understanding the backcountry/hiking/outdoors community and may have not considered the implications of their legal actions. I agree with what Doug Garnett shared and think that they will be able to recover and hopefully take this lesson going forward to better serve their customers and regain the trust of the larger outdoor community.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Kroger brings the farm closer to the table

    While is it is a worthy strategy to bring fresher produce to customers in a way that minimizes the impact on the environment and collapses the supply chain, I don't see this rolling out chain-wide. It looks like Kroger has targeted more affluent areas of Bellevue and Kirkland which in my experience are more organic and sustainability driven areas, but much of the country does not have that wealth or mindset and it may not yield the same sell-through. They will undoubtedly learn a lot through the 15 store test about what has worked and does not and adjust their approach locally. Along with the consumer part of the equation, I would assume that Kroger will have to offer different sizes of the in-store farms based on the size profile of the store which may also limit the ability to go chain-wide. As for the relationships with produce suppliers, I don't see this as a major area of concern because many retailers already have their own private brand produce and suppliers have learned to operate successfully with both cooperation and competition with their retail partners.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

    It's a genius practice of Trader Joe's to have kids find the stuffed animals. My daughters of 6, 13 and 17 love this practice of Trader Joe's and I love watching my older ones help my younger one. The hide and seek practice ties closely to their brand and goal of "dedication to the highest quality of customer satisfaction delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride, and company spirit." There are plenty of things that stores can do to help kids stay engaged during the shopping trip. Here are a few:
    1. Seasonal coloring/crafts;
    2. Teachable cooking moments -- making cookies, brownies, etc.;
    3. Healthy eating events for kids.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2019

    Will a curated online marketplace make Brooklinen a home goods star?

    Digital DTC brands with a strong loyal following and a strong sense of customer needs have a potential to create a curated marketplace in adjacent categories with similar and complementary brands. Spaces by Brooklinen will be a success because their spaces portion has been designed to flow seamlessly from the rest of the website. What also works for them is that the partnership brands are subtle and not overly branded which may have tarnished some of the website's appealing design. With the partnership’s three consumer-friendly aesthetics, they have made it easier for their customers to shop by thoughtfully grouping products by the three distinct styles.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2019

    Will customers get the ‘social proof’ they need from Fomo Storefront?

    The Fomo Storefront display is a novel innovation that will help bring awareness of the popularity of certain items to customers. This merchandising monitor may not appeal to all customers or all generations but I think that it will have strong relevance to Millennials. Last year, an Adweek study said that 69 percent of millennials have the fear of missing out. Many customer trips are very focused with a goal of finding just a few items. I think that the Fomo Storefront display can be used by consumers to quickly see what else is hot and trending in the store without having to peruse all the endcaps or special displays. Driving ROI on this display is highly dependent on high quality mastered data and rich, accurate, visibly appealing imagery to fuel it. Getting the data foundation right is essential to delivering the product information to the consumers on the screen in the most engaging way.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2019

    Will going fur-free move the needle on Macy’s brand image?

    Macy's will benefit from being the first major retailer to stop selling fur. This was a well-researched decision by Macy's based on feedback internally as well with their customers and perspective from society. It is likely that the consumers most sensitive to these issues will have a more positive view of Macy's making the first move. Macy's leadership in the industry will likely influence other department store retailers on this issue going forward. Not mentioned in the story is the fact that state governments are also looking at this issue legislatively. This month, California became the first state to ban the sale of furs effective, January 2023.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Should Amazon be charging for ‘curated’ toy guide placements?

    The $2 million dollar price tag for the ad on Amazon certainly reflects its strength in the toy category. For many brands, Amazon may represent more than two-thirds of total online sales. I think that this use of co-op advertising is in line with how these ad dollars have been used in the past. The only difference is that the co-op dollars will be spent for an online retailer for a digital circular.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2019

    Have esports become more than a game for Five Below?

    Five Below has made an excellent move here with their investment into and test of esports. With their under $5 price point, their margins and prices have likely been impacted by the tariffs and this entry into esports is a service so it balances their revenue. This will likely be a success in some stores and less so in others. But they will learn what works and what doesn't and improve from there. More importantly, they will likely gain better understanding of their core consumer -- the tweens and teens that love gaming.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    UK’s largest sporting goods chain calls for probe of Nike-Adidas dominance

    Brands that are aligned to their consumer's needs should be dedicating their efforts and their distribution to the channels and retailers that are favored by their consumers. Leading brands such as Nike and Adidas drive substantial traffic to retailers and likely would expect that the retailer's environment, customer service and merchandising complement their brand and make the purchase experience extraordinary. If retailers are not providing that high level of experience for these brands, then Nike and Adidas have the absolute right to move to retailers that better fit the brand's mission.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2019

    Why are grocers still missing the mark with small food brands?

    The current system of paying for space in the grocery channel puts the less financed smaller brand at a disadvantage. Since these brands don't have the established volume and profits from products already in distribution, they are impacted more by hefty slotting fees. Retailers have been used to working with established brands and making minor changes to assortment such as flavor or size changes. But consumer tastes are changing and many are less loyal than a few years ago. According to Nielsen, "A whopping 46% of consumers tell us they are more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago." So, what can be done? I would recommend that retailers consider a hybrid approach to new item introductions. Set up a two-option approach where brands can elect to 1.) Follow the established slotting program or 2.) Enroll in a new test-and-learn approach in a set of test stores to analyze the potential of new products. By offering a less costly test program for smaller brands, the retailer will open up their assortment to newer brands that may turn out to be high producers in their stores.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2019

    Google Shopping gets an upgrade

    Providing consumers an improved price alert solution will be the number one feature for Google for consumers. It takes out the laborious hassle of checking pricing on a large planned purchase over a longer period of time. This will be great for larger appliances, more expensive electronics or gift purchases. The feature that will be most appealing to retailers will be the benefit of greater visibility in the digital purchase journey for consumers. Consumers may be more inclined to stop by a local retailer if they know that product is available and only a few minutes away vs. going with Amazon and waiting for a one-day or two-day delivery.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Will becoming a UPS pickup/drop off point drive craft sales at Michaels?

    This was a smart move on the part of Michaels. As part of the first pack of retailers to add a shipping destination of the stores, they will likely receive a bump in traffic albeit less than an Amazon situation at Kohl's. The key going forward is to have a dedicated team to monitor the progress, continue to learn and communicate their learnings across all stores.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2019

    What makes consumers grumble most about returning online orders?

    My biggest complaint about the online returns process is the fact that many retailers still don't know how to package products for shipping. I recently purchased some laundry soap online from Amazon and when I opened the package only 50 percent of the soap was remaining. So my biggest beef is that there are some reasons for returns in online shopping that do not exist for the local store. Doing the mental calculations, the effort to repackage and send back the laundry soap and package it was just not worth it. Customer experience gaps remain in certain categories that online retailers need to address.

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