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: 10/28/2020

    How can shop local be better incentivized?

    I'm pleased to see these efforts and comments. Shop Local campaigns are really important for businesses and can often only be executed by groups of merchants - ideally with significant contributions from the local government entities. Success depends on the customer´s experience and perception of value - which each store can contribute to, but it is really the community/neighborhood that creates it in the eyes of the customer. Modern technology can enable points schemes that were too complicated or expensive in the past, but I believe the most important thing is ensuring a nice mix or balance of retail offers (cafes, gift shops, clothing stores, convenience stores, etc.) with some elements of interest - such as outdoor art, a piano, a clean environment, parking, controlled traffic, etc. Such a combination requires first a vision, then commitment, some budget, and ongoing support. But the tide can rise for everyone. It is about creating loyalty among the merchants, as well as with customers, to keep them coming back.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Can Gap prosper without mall stores?

    I can´t comment on the strategy, but I hope it is a real strategy (i.e., a long-term plan) rather than a reaction to COVID-19 or investor unrest. Gap seems to still be popular but no longer stands out for its line of clothing, and they have not been able to spot the next trend that would endear younger generations like they did 20-30 years ago. Endearment (aka "loyalty" based on the combination of product, experience, and value) is what got parents who grew up with their comfortable clothing to blindly buy the same style of clothes for their own children during the past couple decades. But that wave has passed and the group not only needs a real strategy but the foresight to catch the next wave, or ROI will be depressed until the strategy and foresight materialize.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Trader Joe’s and Wegmans satisfy, others falter, through the pandemic

    The results of this new survey are not much of a surprise. Retailers who hire people with job ownership and who care about other people will always be able to rise to the occasion because it is in their DNA. The loyalty built over the years kept customers engaged and patient even when inconveniences surfaced. The lessons here are mostly related to building and maintaining a company culture that is customer-centric. Of course changing a company culture is hard, but without the right culture it is equally hard to build for the long-term because you have no idea what percentage of today´s existing business volume will return next year without massive acquisition campaigns. Leadership based on the right values is just as important today as it has been for centuries.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    Amazon will pay you to know what you bought somewhere else

    This program is a land grab, and the quotes in the article could be deceptive for those brands that fall into the same trap as thousands have in the past decade as they abdicated control of their sales channel to the Amazon marketplace. Brands should be learning what customers buy from complementary retailers so they can better understand the customer´s lifestyle preferences and improve personalization, I applaud Amazon for being so savvy but remain skeptical about whether this insight will benefit other brands using Amazon (or just Amazon). This insight is best obtained at much lower cost through multi-brand collaborations in loyalty programs - and brands should be actively considering what unique insight they can obtain from loyalty program partners.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Has Shein reinvented teen e-tailing?

    Whoever the people are behind Shein, they know what they are doing. The cost is low enough that parents can´t complain, the styles are contemporary and not the typical shoddy product that has been popular, the brand sounds like it has nice connotations, and the omnichannel messaging stays on point. This is what any brand needs to do to stand out clearly in the eyes of customers and build a loyal following. I also like that they have not relied on heavyweight influencers but rather gone more widely. If the clothing holds up to 20-30 washing cycles, then I think this won´t be a flash in the pan.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Will FAO Schwarz make Target a bigger player in toys?

    This is an interesting move for both brands. FAO Schwarz needs some volume to keep production and shipping costs down and to some degree to get the brand recognized by new generations of shoppers. Target needs to stimulate additional dimensions of loyalty to keep top of mind when customers need just about anything. Toys, of course, will probably be over-purchased this year as families try to compensate for their children´s happiness in a very unusual year given COVID-19, but consumers will also be second-guessing whether it is wise to buy toys offline where they may have been touched by hundreds of people before being brought home. When I sold toys to Target, the biggest surprise was how easily they let customers complete returns - for no other reason than their child was tired of playing with a toy after two or three days so they wanted their money back to buy something else that might also get returned. So given the backdrop and complications in the sector, I imagine this collaboration will be good for both brands and consumers. Brands must collaborate so together they can deliver more value to customers and keep them coming back.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2020

    Neiman Marcus begins its new life outside of bankruptcy

    I shopped at Neiman Marcus 20-25 years ago when I could identify with the people who worked there. They were middle-class professionals who aspired to a more aspirational lifestyle (like me). I then quit visiting as many employees became snotty. For them to build a "platform" for luxury, they need to identify the characteristics of their target customers (not only one segment) and deliver value and experiences that makes them want to come back. Loyalty is built on these experiences and the perceived value obtained during each touchpoint. Most of the information I've read about their new plans seems focused on rationalization from an operational perspective and not connecting with different customer segments from an emotional angle. I don't think enough customers will stay engaged -- paying premium prices -- unless their emotions are engaged and the experiences are rewarding.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2020

    Retailers and brands shortchange cross-platform analytics tools

    This problem has been solveable for years, and I remain shocked that organizations that call themselves "customer-centric" have not already enabled a single view of the customer. It is easy to find excuses, but customers and investors are running out of patience and will vote with their money on brands that get this right. Of equal importance is the customer insight you can get from complementary brands - that might be partners in a loyalty program. Most brands only know what a customer buys from them - but that data is hugely biased about the customer´s real lifestyle preferences. It is only when you know if they put premium gas in their cars once in a while, earn points far from home on a regular basis, buy one shirt for $200 or three shirts for $200 that you start to get a sense of who the customer really is and how they may respond to different types of offers. Brands must look beyond their own walls to really understand their customers - and the easiest way to achieve that is through loyalty collaborations with complementary brands that are also relevant to their customers.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2020

    Patagonia wants to ‘Vote the a**holes out’

    Brands have to stand for something or they won´t appeal to anyone. I think Patagonia knows what they are doing even if personally I would not get my company involved in politics. Keeping their company involved with environmental issues and promoting causes that get customers, employees, and others to think about the serious nature of our elections may be the ultimate goal, but this message may be too direct. Those customers already loyal to Patagonia will probably revel in this message and that may be a large enough customer base to keep the brand healthy. But for most brands trying to find their voice and align with customers, politics is just too dangerous an arena.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2020

    C-stores focused on being even more convenient during the pandemic

    People are time-starved and this is likely to get worse - independent of the COVID-19 situation. I think in a few years we will see more specialization among different types of c-stores to cater to different types of customer needs in a way that delivers real convenience to the individual or their family. Given the modest store footprint they won´t be able to be everything to everyone, so they will differentiate based on product or service selection. With convenience and specialization, a customer´s frequency with one or several of them puts the operators in a good position to build a loyal following - and for that reason, they will also need to step up their game in loyalty marketing.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    How big is the staycationer opportunity?

    Staycations will always be relevant for some portion of the population but will trend up or down depending on the broader economy (or in this case, COVID-19 and trying to reduce exposure to the virus). A similar trend that retailers should be conscious of is the opportunity to engage with people who are choosing to live for two to 24 months in a particular city or area to get to know it more profoundly, but with the full intention of then moving on. I live in Barcelona, and we see many professionals (many also with families) coming for six to 12 months. They continue working (remotely) but want the experience of living in various parts of the world. With modern technology and company cultures become more flexible, this will increasingly be pursued by people throughout their adult life - and not just waiting for retirement. For the retailer, being visible on community websites in foreign languages can be key in luring a family to one supermarket over another - even if the revenue gain only lasts 12 months. Same for other niche retailers. When people come into your market, they don´t have relationships with anyone, so you may as well welcome them so they are motivated to build one with you.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2020

    How can indie retailers build lasting brand equity?

    This is a pretty easy question. If the product or service is not delivered with a good customer experience or at good value, then the retailer was dead anyway. It was just a matter of time. If the store concept has legs, then on top of value and experience they must have a purpose (beyond making a profit) that resonates with a large enough customer base to support the business, and they need to be certain that every associate can deliver on the brand promise in a consistent way. For an indie retailer, that means deep specialization and knowledge around what they offer and the context for why this matters to customers. That is how sufficient loyalty will be built with customers to survive. Fortunately in the context of loyalty, such a retailer is able to deploy emotional mechanics on top of transactional mechanics to build a community of people who are passionate about the brand.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2020

    Will hiring locals help stores drive better results?

    Look no further than Tractor Supply Company. When you walk onto one of those stores (for their target customer), they see people just like themselves. This enables a great level of empathy between the brand and customer, as well as increases the probability that the service provider actually knows what the customer is looking for. Does this produce benefits? Just look at the enterprise value creation by TSC over the past 70 years. On a side note, I remember shopping periodically at Spencer's, the exotic gifts retailer, over the years and while the majority of employees there did not seem to have much in common with me, I think they had a great deal in common with their target audience. In Europe, the cost of multi-nationals taking profit out of local communities has been tremendous. People still shop at the multi-nationals (in many cases begrudgingly) because of value, but I believe would flock to local merchants if the selection and cost was in line with the behemoths. This looks like a smart move by Footlocker - in trying to align values with their target customer.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Should grocers go full steam ahead on new store openings?

    People can only eat so much and the number of people in six months will be roughly the same as six months ago. Therefore, I would think longer term demand can generally be predicted based on pre-COVID-19 trends. Having said that, where that demand will be over the next three to five (or 10) years depends much more on macro-trends and changing customer habits. Families are becoming smaller, so there will be fewer once-a-week, fill-up two shopping carts type trips. In fact it is not very economical to even cook for two or three people, so more demand might go to picking up smaller orders closer to home. I think retailers like Target opening smaller format stores closer to work and residential hubs makes a great deal of sense for them. Brands in North America might look to those in Europe for what the landscape might look like over the next decade and they might look to South Africa for how loyalty program design and partner mix ensures capturing maximum share of wallet in a crowded market.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2020

    Can airport retailers weather the turbulence?

    It seems to be that for any retailer to survive they need to have something unique that keeps the shopping activity up. That could be price, location, unique product, or exceptional service. Perhaps if the airport cuts their significant fees for the retailers they could compete on price, with an eclectic mix of product - but I can´t see that happening. Historically, they survived based on location and to a lesser degree on convenience for the traveler who had time to kill, but if nobody is in the airport, those two factors are lost. What could change that mix is if the airport´s loyalty program is involved with a broad mix of partners and very attractive redemption options (i.e., getting content at low wholesale cost). Then the total package could persuade some frequent travelers to allocate their money to such a service.

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