PROFILE

Chuck Palmer

Senior Advisor, ConsumerX Retail
Chuck is a retail strategist with a consumer behavior bias. He focuses on the nexus of consumer behavior, technology and creativity. With more than 25 years experience across the worlds of online and offline retail, retail strategy, operations, consumer behavior and in-store digital visual merchandising (digital signage networks). You can read his blog at www.ConsumerXretail.com.
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  • Posted on: 11/25/2019

    Why is Sephora paying associates to leave shoppers alone?

    Is this a response to a problem Sephora has made for itself? It seems like a dumb response to a nuanced issue, but operationally, it must be difficult to manage teams for the broad variety of consumer attitudes. I may be showing my age bias. From a consumer perspective, it empowers both consumers. Although we all know there are seldom just two choices. And even if a consumer chooses neither, it signals that Sephora is being thoughtful about how consumers feel in their stores. The numbers may not signal that introverts are a statistically significant group to warrant special treatment, but sending a message that a company cares about their customers resonates with many, many more.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    Will a purpose-driven site do good for Zappos?

    As we see success with "purpose-driven" brands and efforts such as Zappos' Goods for Good, we see more and more companies chasing the trend. I hope it's not a trend. I like that Zappos is positioning this as a section of their parent site; it gives consumers a way to organize choices on their terms. Elevating it to almost-brand status is an interesting move. Perhaps they are testing the long-term viability of the "do good" component of consumer decision-making? I have concerns about the authenticity of similar efforts. I like to think that consumers are voting with their wallets and will support brands that really do good, but the research shows that the simple perception of doing good is sufficient.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    Dunkin’ introduces online holiday pop-up

    DUNKIN' SCRUNCHIN’ HOLIDAY HAIR TIES ... What's not to love? I call Dunkin's holiday pop-up products "affinity merch." I know, not too fun or sexy, but my point is that first and foremost this tactic connects with consumers along the path that they share with the brand. In this case, it's a sense of fun and perhaps prestige with fellow Dunkin'-ites. This reminds me of Taco Bell's limited/pop-up hotel in Palm Springs or what Airstream is doing with AirstreamSupplyCompany.com. These efforts connect with core, loyal customers, signal to casual customers that the brand is super cool (or cheeky, or fun, or smart, or socially active) AND they get lots of press reaction and think-pieces like what we're doing here. This feels like fan service. I imagine there are folks out their that really do love their Dunkin' this gives them a fun way to engage. AND if they have a merchant-minded analyst in the mix, they'll present an assortment designed to yield particular data and insight. The best part of this for the brand and customer is the company should be using this sort of marketing to deepen the conversation and relationship with their customers.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    Dunkin’ introduces online holiday pop-up

    ...and it sends the signal to casual Dunkin' customers that something interesting is going on over there. In this case, it's fun.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Express Launches digital-first DTC wellness brand

    While Express has checked off all the boxes we think Millennials want -- comfort AND CBD? Sign me up! -- the one UpWest might be missing is the most important to thoughtful world-weary consumers: authenticity. I might be overestimating the cynicism today's consumer, but the brand sounds like a pastiche of other brands' successes. The foundation doesn't sound that different than a standard corporate philanthropy program -- donations -- and a Chief Comfort Officer? *cringe* I applaud the effort and experiment, but my gut tells me this will fall flat with consumers. I hope they give it time to find its footing with customers and listen to them. They have an opportunity to let their customers help them craft the brand they want.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    Technology disruptors are causing independent supermarkets to innovate

    As in any sector of retail, experimentation needs to happen specific to a retailer's unique set of assets and liabilities. With Amazon's announcement of launching its own full line stores, we see major disruption happening. Amazon is not going to let brands dictate how and what gets put in front of customers or the data that is created. Independent retailers need to understand that retail math has changed. It's not a new equation, but a new set of assumptions that they do not and cannot share with other retailers. They need to define who and what they are and stand on their own in the marketplace in order to attract the right customers in the right way.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    Will pairing nail salons with shoe stores be a good fit for DSW?

    When DSW started renovating their lab store here in Columbus, my observation of the first W nail salon was a bit of a head scratch. It didn't seem to emphasize pedicures. In chatting with the owners of the original business, the larger engagement strategy became clear. Also, I'm a dude. Not the primary target. The adjacent services concept became clear and I'm not surprised at the lift they are reporting. I wonder if it is a novelty or if they are truly giving women incentive to return to the store for more visits. I can see this as part of the overall loyalty program rewarding customers or being a reward for customers. They may not try on shoes with wet nails, but they can shop on their phones while getting their nails done, try on shoes at home or during the next visit. This seems to be another example of a retailer working on relevant innovations and investing in the ones that show promise. Now I'm wondering what I'm missing by not getting a pedicure.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    What will Amazon do with a conventional grocery banner?

    If anything, Amazon is a learning organization. Whole Foods is a niche player Amazon purchased to learn as much as it could. While the addition of the Prime Now presence at WF seems clunky, I expect the data they are creating is more valuable than margin. The advent of a full line traditional grocery makes perfect sense. It fits with Amazon's scale, and there is a lot of real estate and operational opportunity out there with struggling regional chains. If there is customer loyalty in this category, it's based on proximity and convenience. With the advent of Instacart, Kroger's Click List, etc., the retailer is becoming increasingly less important than the products and brands that people know. Can Amazon win that battlefront? Absolutely.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Why are retailers publishing paid-subscription magazines?

    Our desire to engage and have meaningful interactions has only increased as we have access to unlimited and (perceived to be free) content. It makes sense that generalized publications are seeing the end of their print runs. One of the key reasons these publications makes sense is their business model. It's a redirection of marketing spend into evidence-based (data) investment. It makes enormous sense that a brand like Away would do a magazine about travel. It would be a great way to test customer response to new products and offers, it keeps them coming back in between purchases and if they can find a voice with wide enough appeal, reach customers they hadn't before. Do they continue to buy ads in Conde Nast Traveler and Afar? Maybe. Until their publication starts taking readers away? I find it interesting that the reverse seldom really hits big. That is, a publication creating retail products. I think Real Simple and Martha Stewart continue to crank out the merch, but when Esquire offers dress shirts and cologne? Uh, no thanks. Got that covered with the real stuff. Content can be the powerful connective tissue between online and IRL experiences and purchases. It's a tricking thing to get the imagery, the voice and the merch just right.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Whole Foods to expand nationwide to drive Prime Now growth

    Let's remember, we're talking about a segment of a subset of the grocery and retail marketplace. Whole Foods has always differentiated itself in a variety of ways. They emerged as the leader of the "natural" food sub-category based on an aggressive buying strategy, elevating small natural and organic brands, slow growth and distinctive stores that leveraged the best of retail design--architecture and visual merchandising -- that elevated shopping and mitigated price sensitivity. There was (still is?) a certain prestige quality to shopping at a store that didn't look like your local Safeway or Kroger and had a variety of choices of food that were better for you and the environment. This of course is reflected in their real estate strategy -- the stores often anchor specialty, upscale centers, not necessarily in relation to the standard grocers. The club-y-ness of Whole Foods aligned nicely with Prime (even though it is essentially a mass proposition now) as a way to test and learn. We also need to remember standard retail metrics and SOPs don't apply when we are talking about Amazon. The value of the data alone transcends typical margin conversations. It is my hope Amazon allows Whole Foods to maintain the in-store innovations that made shopping there interesting. On a recent visit, I noted the Prime Now section of refrigerated cases and dry shelves has taken a "prime" position in the front of the store taking over some cafe seating. Those cafe areas have been instrumental in conveying a sense of comfort and encouraging community. The Prime Now space with it's off-the-shelf cases and racks and its pale blue and black scheme is visually jarring and off-putting. They are reportedly looking for larger than usual spaces. I hope this means new stores will have a more seamless integration of the new elements and they will leverage data to make each store, its staff and assortment as locally relevant as it can be.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    Store employees of the future will be affiliates, not associates

    The permutations of this concept are intriguing. I think we should disconnect the affiliate model from the store associate model. Perhaps associates are where the first affiliates are found, but I can see this empowering enterprising individuals to build their own careers. This works best in apparel, I imagine. I'm thinking about the proverbial star suit or shoe sales associate who, with more direct control over the digital marketing tools a large chain has to offer, could build a significant business within the context of a retail brand. Now expand that to different categories and allow that shoe star to sell cosmetics and gifts etc, you have a personal shopper. I can also see individual social influencers taking their monetization models to the next level and crossing retailers and brands, finding the best merchandise and prices for their customers. I'd love to see the results of Macy's experiment. I can see that yielding interesting insight into how this works. Given decreasing brand loyalty and the personal trusted engagement of influencers, I can see how this might play out.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2017

    What retail apocalypse?

    The news of retail's demise has been greatly exaggerated. I wonder if we are seeing a behavioral shift fueled by a strong economy? Retailers and brands are getting better at incorporating benefits to the flow of online/in-line behavior and customers are now more likely to try out some of these new techniques, like click and collect. It may be the combination of financial confidence, the calendar and the smoothness of logistics have allowed us more latitude in how we both procure the things we know and shop for new things. And if there is anything apocalyptic, it's real estate, not retail. I doubt customers this year are freaking out about less Sears stores or the dead mall closing. Consumers have plenty of options for goods and services; they don't really care about the portfolio of mall management companies.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2017

    What retail apocalypse?

    Ed, could you elaborate? I have to admit I haven't studied Bitcoin so I don't see a connection here. I might be thrown by your use of "mass adoption."
  • Posted on: 12/26/2017

    Is ‘brick mining’ valuable enough to justify physical stores?

    I believe we are at an unprecedented moment in retail. Our appetite for knowing our customers is whetted by the information we get from ecommerce. The more we can learn about what happens in our stores, the better. We have a unique opportunity to put real data points along the customer journey and validate what we know and think we know. Or better yet, learn something new that can affect assortments, pricing, presentation, staffing and maybe even operating hours. I advocate looking at the online/in-line continuum from the consumers' perspective. The original use of the term "omnichannel" referred to how consumers view their shopping and purchase behavior. They see it as one channel, or better yet, they see it not in the terms of channels at all, but in desire and need; procurement and experience. So we should be seeking to understand their experience with our brands and stores. With emerging technology, we'll be able to better understand our stores efficacy both from a customer experience and a square footage performance perspective. But as in any complex methodology, we need to build solid hypothesis first and seek the relevant data to test our ideas. In the end, it's not about the data, it's what we do with what we learn from the data.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2017

    Lululemon leans on personal development of associates

    Culture is not built in a day. Nor is it applied by an outside consultant. Believe me. Culture is built every day by leadership and when it's successful, it allows staff to grow with the company and in turn, the company gets to grow with the staff. Especially in stores. Letting your our staff become the best manifestation of the brand will inherently deliver unique customer experiences. Investing in your staff's personal and professional development is a no-brainer. It's the thing that differentiates Nordstrom from Macy's; Macy's now from Macy's of 30 years ago; and Crate & Barrel from everything else. Leadership either invests in their people and culture or not. These are the things that make a company sustainable over the ups and downs of retail.

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