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: 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.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2020

    Amazon puts new online grocery customers on hold, reconfigures Whole Foods

    Due to this unprecedented situation, Amazon was caught behind their retail rivals. While Target, Walmart, and Kroger developed their curbside pick up model over the past few years, Amazon was not focused on this delivery model for the Whole Foods stores and had not rolled it out to many stores nationwide. From an eCommerce delivery option, home delivery may have been a preference of many customers over pick-up but with the expansion of curbside pickup, there may be a shift where curbside gains a larger share of eCommerce grocery. While Amazon continues to have a larger share and will continue to grow in CPG ecommerce, the remaining larger players with thousands of curbside pick-up locations may capture a bigger share of the increasingly larger pie.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2020

    When should non-essential retail stores reopen?

    It is highly dependent on the situation in specific regions of the country. We should also be cautious and mindful about reducing the chance of a second spike after businesses are open. I would expect that the non-essential retailers are following and learning from the grocery, mass and drug retailers in terms of organizing the store, the checkout and putting precautions in place for store personnel and customers. We may see new cautions put in place such as temperature scans for all customers and requirements that everyone wears a mask for several more months. The ultimate answer will come from our health officials with state and local government and will create hopefully clear guidelines to help non-essential retailers make this critical decision.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2020

    Will selling groceries help restaurants ride out COVID-19?

    This is the time for restaurants to creatively find new ways to serve their customers. It is a time to test things and ask for feedback from customers. It starts with the takeout menu, gaining an understanding of what is selling and why. How we eat is changing with virtually no quick bites happening on the road. Providing unique or hard-to-find grocery items is certainly another avenue as restaurants may have access to certain products and ethnic brands that are harder to find in the grocery channels. There is also an opportunity to expand the restaurant's digital presence by providing quick cooking tips or offering online community cooking classes.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2020

    Is it time for ‘essential’ retailers to stop running in-store promotions?

    Retailers should be aware of the categories that they are having a hard time keeping in stock and minimize the deep promotions there. However, it is completely appropriate to offer TPR deals to consumers as they are facing some tighter budgets now and in the weeks and months ahead. Endcaps are more than ways to signal a deal. It can be a way to connect with the customer to solve their problems. For example, if the retailer was planning a spring cleaning display, they should still run that as that is something that many households are still doing right now as they have extra time at home.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Is Kroger’s pick-up only store a solution for grocers now and in the future?

    Supermarkets have in the last month shown significant flexibility in changing to meet the needs of their community. As one of the last acceptable places of social gathering, they are a point of potential infection. However, they have put in place numerous new policies and approaches that cater to specific customers and minimize health risks. In the LA area, there are more than 14 different chains offering some type of senior shopping hours. Additionally, every store that I have been to in the past two weeks has added the social distancing marks on the floors by the checkouts. Store employees are tasked with cleaning handbaskets, shopping carts, doorknobs, high traffic countertops and other areas of the store. Could they do more? Perhaps, but the grocers that I have seen are employing all of these strategies quickly. As more and more consumers opt to go to pick-up, the grocers will learn much more about delivery preferences. Can you better cater to your customers by answering: Do they want contactless, trunk delivery or does the shopper want to handle the goods themselves? Also, there will be insights captured during these times to understand which stores and which type of consumers have the highest incidence of pick-up. These insights may drive investment in certain stores more than others to make the experience more seamless and enjoyable. I think that chains that learn from the customer pick-up experience and continue to innovate will be better positioned to defend themselves from other online retailers in the coming years.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2020

    Retailers are going to curbside and delivery. Will they stay that way?

    There are too many variables to really answer this question. It depends on the financial situation that the retailers and restaurants were in before the pandemic started and the ultimate length of the pandemic. Retailers and restaurants that will succeed will have to master these new delivery options and be nimble and creative in developing new product and meal offerings than they had before the crisis. Example: While the grocery stores are out of pasta and pasta sauce, it creates and opportunity for restaurants to offer up meal kits or to sell family size pasta sauce containers. This crisis will create a crazy amount of new ideas and many of the best ones that made money and served the customers will stay long after the crisis has subsided.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Can Body Shop build a better workforce with an open hiring policy?

    This is an interesting approach that they are undertaking. I think that this open hiring approach has to be married up with a set of higher performance standards and a probation period to ensure that every one that is hired is fully understanding of the standards required for the roles. With excellence customer experience so critical today it is also important that the customer-facing employees are on board, are catering to the customer and are doing it in a way that reinforces the corporate values.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?

    The term that best defines the future of describing retail using multiple channels is "Unified Retail." Customers have adopted apps, websites, social commerce but what they really want now is a common experience that keeps track of them and their preferences across any method that they are interacting with the retail. Having this common and unified front that makes it simple for customers to discover, research, communicate, shop and buy is now what customers expect.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Should retailers brag about doing good?

    Brands and retailers that have a real vision and set of goals for corporate social responsibility and are actively pursuing those goals should absolutely share their progress and achievements. A recent Futerra study found that 88 percent of U.K. and U.S. consumers want companies to improve their environmental footprint. Against this backdrop, most brands and retailers should pursue specific opportunities in this area. This requires a commitment to improving sustainable sourcing efforts. It also demands a more comprehensive data strategy and better data management to capture all of the key product attributes as well as supply chain characteristics so the brand can measure its success accurately. By mastering this product data and sharing this data in a transparent way in reporting as well at the moment of truth online or in-store, retailers can help their customers make better decisions that are consistent with their own personal values. Retailer transparency allows for better business which enables their customers to help make a better world.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2020

    Will store closures worsen in 2020?

    As many of you heard at NRF, there is a growing gap between great and the rest of retail. If we are really honest with ourselves, many consumers had the feeling that they "had" to go to the grocery store, the drug store or the department store. Retailers have to make the consumers feel like they "get" to go to a great experience of shopping that is relevant to my life. As many said before, assortment, price and merchandising is not the answer. Drivers of the closures were bad experiences, "had to go" stores, overstored locations and growth of pure-play retail.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    Wegmans has a better website, but did it need one?

    Relevancy is a key for retailers today to ensure that they are among the select few retailers that customers today are thinking about as they plan their next trip/e-commerce purchase. In fact, a recent Deloitte study presented at NRF shared that relevancy was the number one determinant for consumers when picking a retailer, beating out price. And being relevant today means providing the right digital touchpoints for your customers to conveniently discover key products and services in your store in an app, on a website or through social media. Wegmans was wise to invest the time and financial resources on the website as it can be the starting point for many shoppers wanting to order online and pick up in-store. They have also simplified the purchasing effort for customers following a specific dietary goal by allowing customers to easily shop by attribute (Organic, Vegan, Family Pack, Gluten Free, etc). This is no easy task to maintain. It demonstrates their customer-centric approach as well as their ability to organize and master their data and use it throughout their enterprise to help their customers.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2020

    Does humanizing virtual assistants undermine consumer privacy?

    Yes, I think for most households the more comfortable you are with an assistant whether real or virtual the more you will share with it. While the adults in the house may be more guarded with sharing information, there will be children that have access to the smart speakers and will likely be very open with technology that sounds like a human friend. Companies willing to be responsible and committing to truly serving their customers should offer various levels of privacy and customization allowed by the virtual assistance so consumers have more control over their technology in the house and the data that is shared.

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