PROFILE

Chuck Ehredt

CEO, Currency Alliance

Charles (Chuck) Ehredt is a seasoned entrepreneur and problem solver who built a career on turning business challenges into opportunities by aligning people with the right technologies. Now the CEO and co-founder of Currency Alliance, Chuck oversees a new way for international brands to collaborate through loyalty initiatives, so they can affordably capture a spectrum of customer insights that ensure better personalization and maximum lifetime value. As a serial entrepreneur, Chuck has launched 12 companies across multiple sectors and has helped fund 23 as an angel investor.

Chuck has also invested in 23 companies as a business angel investor and remains active as a mentor and coach for early stage companies or mature businesses trying to find their new product-market fit.

More information can be found at www.currencyalliance.com or linkedin.com/in/charles-ehredt

Serial entrepreneur at the convergence of FinTech and Marketing.
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  • Posted on: 01/22/2021

    NRF 2021: What did it take for consumer-direct startups to get through the pandemic?

    Values are essential in a disaster because most of the people involved are confused about what to do. A business, as well as individuals with deep-seated values, will always shine as honest because people will react based on what they value. That doesn´t always mean the values are good. In the airline industry, most brands became very flexible in extending benefits for loyalty program members, while others tightened the screws to avoid cash leaving the business. This has really resonated. Disaster planning is often a good exercise so a playbook is in the drawer when disaster strikes, but perhaps more importantly because the planning process forces the organization to take inventory of their values and see how they play out in various scenarios. Kudos to those brands that rose to the occasion. They had invested in establishing values long before COVID-19, but that paid off when their brand image remained consistent through their actions.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Convenience retailers aren’t letting the pandemic get them down

    Convenience stores adopted this name because they can be convenient. Since customers are time-starved, I envision those groups that can best tailor their offerings to the needs of customers will definitely come out of the COVID-19 situation stronger and grow revenue from customers that appreciate their products and services. Of course given the footprint of most convenience stores, they cannot be everything to every customer, but since 70 percent to 80 percent of monthly consumption could be made up from a narrow selection of items, there are opportunities for such stores to take marketshare from supermarkets - at least for customers who are a bit less price-sensitive. Online, however, convenience stores can sell with nearly infinite virtual shelf space. Whether they have the talent for extended e-commerce is a separate question - but definitely an opportunity.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Will becoming a fintech powerhouse make Walmart an even more formidable retailer?

    The payment experience is critical to building preference among customers, so investing in payment innovation is a wise move for a retailer with the scale of Walmart. Given their loyal following among certain customer segments, there will also be plenty of additional fintech opportunities to grow total customer share-of-wallet. Additional value-added services could include insurance products, investment products, savings products, etc. The more touchpoints a brand has with customers the better they are likely to understand customer needs and have the opportunity to meet them. It will be interesting to see if Walmart and Ribbit try to deliver their own solutions or aggregate best-in-class solutions from third parties.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2020

    Are retailers set up to scale the value of AI investments?

    AI deserves the attention it is getting but, for the algorithms to work, they need clean data - and too few organizations are dedicating the effort to clean up their data and generating single customer profiles. Without those foundations in place, a great deal of money will be wasted on AI as the ROI will be depressed by poor data management practices.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2020

    Which 2020 returns options will stick?

    This whole topic upsets me to no end. After the early 2000s recession, retailers started making it much easier for customers to return just about everything. They put most of the cost on the suppliers/manufacturers, so there was insufficient friction for consumers. This has led to mountains of perfectly good merchandise getting destroyed. What people don´t see is the supply chain cost involved in producing and distributing an enormous amount of goods that people with lower ethics return on a whim. I believe in such a pandemic, retailers need to provide the flexibility for their front-line staff to use their judgement in accepting returns but, overall, I really think some responsible retailers need to put more restrictions in place. Reducing the air conditioning in stores and reducing returns would have more impact on the environment than tweaking things around the edges.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    How is Nike excelling at driving loyalty with digital?

    Nike has been engaging their customers around passion and values for decades. These new digital channels are simply (great) examples of what brands can accomplish when they personalize around topics that are important to customers. Of course Nike invests heavily in the talent, apps, and campaigns - but this allows them to create a community of advocates that end up not being very price-sensitive. All marketers should follow Nike closely and piggy-back on the elements of marketing that could work in their own businesses.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2020

    It’s time for innovation or stagnation

    There are certainly companies that have stagnated during the past eight months - those that have plenty of excuses for not proceeding with plans. However I have to say that I've seen much more innovation in the past eight months than during any other period during the past 30 years. Much of that was driven by the adverse business climate caused by COVID-19, but I also believe leaders have been much more efficient with their time and used that not only to solve short-term problems, but also plan for the future. As for questions, I think the key ones are related to "What must my business know in three to five years' time to ensure we can keep customers engaged and feeling a high level of perceived value?" The answer to this question is almost always having a comprehensive view of the customer and the technology to serve them when they have needs. Innovating around this problem involves systems, but mostly it involves collaboration - among colleagues, but also among complementary brands, that together can deliver much more value to customers. I could go on for hours about the value of data, but the key is making sure you are not relying only on your own data to interpret the lifestyle interests of customers. Loyalty programs are the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to data sharing to enable each partner to better personalize engagement - enabled simply by issuing/redeeming each other´s loyalty currency.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2020

    Are stores going to turn into ghost towns?

    This is a dramatic question aimed to invoke emotion. Customers are full of emotion now due to COVID-19 but hopefully that will soon pass. When things stabilize, some customers will be embracing the store experience, others will expect delivery, and others will embrace a more hybrid approach. Whatever meets their functional or emotional needs. In that context, retailers need to optimize their assets to generate ROI - and that will include further optimizations to the supply chain (including the last mile). I imagine an element of the store will be fulfillment, but there are products that people really want to see, touch, and experience before laying out their hard-earned money. In such an ecosystem, retailers need to adapt and design their business model to be as agile as possible to respond to evolving trends.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2020

    Is Walgreens’ first-party data a good match for advertisers?

    With cookies disappearing, this type of network collaboration has huge potential for growth. Walgreens in particular has higher frequency with many of their customers than the grocery store - across a wide array of product categories. Therefore the insight they have about customer segments will make the Walgreens network very compelling to a large audience of advertisers (if it works). Of course, Walgreens can increase the dimensions of each customer profile if they are also tracking conversion with the advertisers and build a close enough working relationship to know what else customers are buying (which Walgreens may not sell - but still helps define lifestyle preferences).
  • Posted on: 12/07/2020

    Barnes & Noble counts on store managers running its business better

    HQ should define the commander's intent and broad rules of engagement, but if B&N wants to compete with the online channel for a product that is identical across all distribution channels, then the in-store experience will make the difference. Going to a bookstore should be part of our culture and the local managers - if given the right training and tools - will be key.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2020

    Will Gen Z be the ‘most disruptive generation ever’ for retail and brand marketers?

    The shift in nature, values, and behavior between generations is more like a curve (imagine a wavelength curve) rather than an abrupt change. Retailers can rarely survive on one generation and have always tried to adapt to the needs of multiple customer types. Gen Z is proving to be significantly different than Baby Boomers, but only modestly different from the Millennial generation. Of course, we have also seen people in their 40s. 50s, and 60s become quite comfortable with digital technologies in spite of growing up with little digital technology. Retailers will have to continue to do what successful retailers have always done: listen to their customers and adapt.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2020

    Does COVID-19 provide retailers with new opportunities to bond with customers?

    Every touchpoint between a retailer and a customer is an opportunity to build trust and affinity or destroy it. Each individual touchpoint may not affect the customer´s overall feeling in a dramatic way, but over time this is how relationships develop. For that reason, retailers that have reacted well to the COVID-19 situation have built appreciation - and not just via their marketing efforts, but with the hundreds of things they've done (often behind the scenes) to make the customer feel safe and valued. Next year, we may have a different situation. Next week, something great or terrible could happen in any community. Retailers should have scenarios developed for how they would respond in many situations to continue building loyalty across all their segments.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    Target CEO points to one-stop shopping as key to chain’s success

    Target´s results are because they are well-run but also, importantly, because they offer a marketplace where customers can most easily resolve their own needs. Commerce over millennia has evolved from individual stands selling few products, to souks and bazaars, to shopping malls, to giant e-commerce platforms -- as the most successful businesses find ways to expose their wares where the customer shops. Customers flock to marketplaces where they have choice - and Target delivers that in a comfortable environment where customers have felt relatively safe during the pandemic. Of course we can´t have dozens of retail brands copying the same marketplace model, so for most they need different strategies to stand out. But learning how to co-exist in growing marketplaces will be one of the fundamental objectives of many businesses during the next two to five years. Brands that don´t own the marketplace or sales channel need to find ways to stand out among the noise, while optimizing the competitive environment for their self interest.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    To furlough or not to furlough?

    A brand cannot build loyal customers if their employees are not also loyal - loyalty leads to enthusiasm for the work and solutions that can be delivered to customers. I applaud Williams-Sonoma for doing the right thing for their employees when the business environment was largely outside anyone´s control. Customers notice this too and will reward brands that have deep values. It is not more complicated than that. A brand is driven by values that resonate with all stakeholders, or by their financial statements - and this is visible across the panorama of businesses competing to grow. And the past 30 years has seen the majority of brands led by the wrong factors simply disappear from the landscape.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2020

    Walgreens reinvents its loyalty program, launches 30-minute pickup service

    Having lived in Europe for the past 17 years, I can't proclaim much first-hand experience with the Walgreens App or loyalty program, but for some reason I end up in a Walgreens on every trip back to the US -- so they have a degree of my loyalty by being present and dependable. I remember the case study of Walgreens in Good to Great -- where they perfected their flywheel and made a mint BECAUSE they delivered convenience to customers. I see these new announcements as a positive and hope the team can deliver. If there have been a lot of false promises in the past, let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they get it right this time. Walgreens has certainly earned a great deal of loyalty from millions of people -- even if not because of the loyalty program. Of course, with their frequency, the gold will be in the data -- which creates the opportunity to really personalize engagement. Imagine what insight they could obtain about customers by collaborating with complementary brands that also sell to their target customer.

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