Herb Sorensen

Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass; Shopper Scientist LLC

Herb Sorensen is the winner of the 2013 Charles Coolidge Parlin Award and the 2007 EXPLOR Award, both from the American Marketing Association. He was also listed among Fast Company’s 2004 Top 50 Innovators.

Herb began his career as a chemist with interests in quantum mechanics, electronic structures and metabolism. From the faculty of Colorado State University in 1971 he moved into the business world as a board certified clinical chemist, subsequently establishing his own consulting and laboratory business providing product development and other services (including consumer surveys) to the packaged goods industry.

Since the late 1970’s Dr. Sorensen’s market research has focused on shoppers at their points-of-purchase. Hence, the continuing interest of his “in-store research company” in shoppers and their relationships to the stores they shop in and the products they buy.

Herb has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, a master’s degree in biochemistry and nutrition from Nebraska and undergraduate majors in chemistry and mathematics. He has been an active member of the American Marketing Association and other associations for many years. His papers and presentations have addressed a wide range of topics, most recently his electronic shopper tracking system, PathTracker®.

Other Links from Herb Sorensen:

  • Posted on: 06/16/2021

    Amazon scales its Just Walk Out tech for a full-size grocery store

    ... Is that 2 years, 3 years...?
  • Posted on: 01/14/2021

    Is Amazon on its way to becoming America’s favorite grocer?

    My earlier comment on "The Amazonification of Walmart," dating back to 2007, is possibly even more relevant today. The issue remains the same -- Amazon is focused on the immediate close of the sale, at the point of purchase. While bricks-and-mortar retailers have trusted their 100 years of super-success, from letting the shopper sell to themselves (self-service,) at the exact point of purchase (the shelf,) and then doing the checkout at the exit. The process for all parties hasn't moved a lot, but my team today is focused on the semi-automatic mental "click," (auto-triggering,) that drives a very large share of routine purchases of a very small suite of merchandise, commonly referred to as "The Big Head." Amazon leverages this focus online, but seems oblivious to the potential at Whole Foods.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2021

    Retailers give customers refunds and tell them to keep items

    This seems like the most logical solution. The returning "shipper" simply returns the product to a reliable recycling agency, like Goodwill, and the retailer writes off their loss as a contribution to Goodwill, or whoever the beneficiary is. There are probably many good, non-profit beneficiaries that could help facilitate these things. And maybe even the original purchaser could be requested to make that return delivery, taking the return shipping out of the picture. Possibilities! ;-)
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    Facebook and Apple battle over the internet’s future

    This is one of the most important discussions I have seen in a LONG time! Google and Facebook reap billions of dollars of profits by selling access to "everybody" to "whoever" is willing to pay! It's not a nefarious game, just one largely played out of sight from most of the world. Obviously, many of my fellow commentators here are more aware of the "behind the scene games" than I am. I actually believe Glenn Terbeek, with his "Agentry Agenda: Selling Food in a Frictionless Marketplace"(1999) was well ahead of his time.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is there a secret sauce to Kroger’s online success?

    This discussion on Kroger's "merging of bricks and clicks" is very helpful. However, it remains to be seen how far back to the past norms of shopping things will return, as the pandemic recedes into memory. I'm reminded of Kroger's (Fred Meyer) "experiment" with scan-and-go technology several years ago. It's possible that the pandemic will make a permanent, major shift in shopping. But I am skeptical. The immediacy and 360 experience of local, in-store shopping can be supplemented. But shopping in a physical "everything store," (Amazon's tag) is a permanent attraction of the bricks environment.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2020

    Can retailers avoid a late holiday delivery ‘apocalypse’?

    Excellent comment! I have noticed the "special parking" at the entrances of a number of retailers, designed exclusively for "click and collect," right at the entry. I've also noticed the RARE use of these spaces by shoppers, to actually "click and collect." The investment, preparation, and inconveniencing of regular shopper-visitors is obvious. It's hard to imagine this being anything but an occasional benefit/virtue-signaling by the retailer. It's hard to beat the actual in-store experience, largely managed by the shoppers' subconsciouses, for a very large share of their purchases. But then, that's a whole 'nuther story! ;-)
  • Posted on: 12/03/2020

    Are endless aisles more trouble than they’re worth for retailers?

    There are many good comments in this discussion, but I call attention to: "The Misguided Bobbing of the Long Tail" - July 28, 2009 After presenting some stark data about the long tail, I will explain why it is so valuable. It is possible to have a more ideal bricks-and-mortar store with a dominant single path, with maybe a few hundred large "choices of three" displays with the Top THREE SHOPPER CHOICES interspersed along the path. See also, "How to Close Every Sale" (Commentary on Joe Girard's book) - October 6, 2011. And notice that Joe Girard is cited by The Guinness Book of World Records as "The World's Greatest Salesman." The proper place for a huge long tail is unobtrusively displayed BETWEEN these "few hundred" choices of 3 displays, or even as close "side trips." I am reminded of Stew Leonards, a long time, single dominant path store, with 1800 items achieving as much as $100 million annual sales, in a supermarket size store. I observed a Stew Leonards with a substantial liquor store appended right beside the checkout area! All hail the LONG TAIL! ... But focus on the BIG HEAD ... what shoppers most often buy!
  • Posted on: 09/03/2020

    Is Whole Foods’ e-grocery business headed down a dark path?

    In fact, Amazon has not exhibited any of their online genius, as in "Selling Like Amazon ... in Bricks & Mortar Stores!" - October 25, 2013. Instead, we are still waiting (reasonably,) for the addition of Amazon GO! checkout-free technology to "bricks" retailing. But the development of their "checkout free" continues apace, with Amazon intending to provide it to other 3rd party bricks-and-mortar retailers.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2020

    Is Whole Foods’ e-grocery business headed down a dark path?

    In chapter one of the second edition of "Inside the mind of the Shopper" (2017) there is a section titled "What Does the Ideal Self-Service Retail Store of the Future Look Like?" After noting that "Retailers need to realize that a large portion of their store is already dark in the sense that shoppers make very little use of it," I laid out a detailed, step by step process for incorporating more explicitly "the dark store" in the store of the future.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2020

    Is Amazon about to buy J.C. Penney?

    I think this is ignoring the anti-trust issues that are facing Amazon. Retaining the J.C. Penney name would at least provide some PR cover. Plus, the intention to license Amazon GO! technology to non-Amazon retailers would fit right into all this!
  • Posted on: 04/28/2020

    Will the new normal look a lot like the old normal?

    It is a curious question indeed. Briefly, retailers basically paid zero attention to all my research over the years. Not that they never listened. But I remember one of my long-time "friendly" retailers, in an internal presentation to their senior team, the challenge from one of the team, "But our target demographic is the STOCK-UP SHOPPER!" A tiny slice of their actual business. This confirms my accurate depiction of retailers as "merchant-warehousemen," making their profits from supervising "brand-on-brand" mayhem (competition) in the aisles. Unfortunately, brands hardly are able to focus on the shopper, given the roaring cacophony of competitive "communication" they are immersed in. None of this detracts from the absolute genius, and societal benefit of self-service retail. Amazon's Whole Foods is no significant advance, but Amazon GO represents the cutting edge of a vast change that will sweep bricks-and-mortar retailing. But it is still short of getting to "the mind of the shopper."
  • Posted on: 04/20/2020

    DTC brand sales soar in a time of social distancing

    You still have to MOVE the merchandise, and IMMEDIACY and the 360 experience of "bricks" will continue to trump online (DTC). However, online does allow immediate connection of the mind of the shopper to the mind of the seller. AND connection to the infinite "long-tail," all the merchandise in the world! So "awareness and growth" are exactly right in describing what is going on. However, maybe bricks retailers will learn to focus more on the shoppers, than just on their suppliers? (And the 40,000 items in 40,000 square feet of their floor space.)
  • Posted on: 04/14/2020

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

    This is simply an expansion of the "dark store" concept discussed on page 43 of "Inside the Mind of the Shopper!"
  • Posted on: 04/14/2020

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

    In other words, maybe retailers will actually pay more attention to their shoppers than to their suppliers, and their own management of 40,000 items in 40,000 square feet of store. They've done a GREAT job in managing SELF-service, aka the sell-to-yourself shoppers business. The shoppers themselves have done a GREAT job in selecting the FEW items they need regularly. Half of ALL shopping baskets contain only five or fewer items, ONE being the most dominant purchase. But why care about all that, when the retailers' real obsession is with the "stock-up shopper" -- a tiny minority of their regular customers?
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

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

    I highly recommend this discussion, for anyone seriously interested in the BOPIS (buy-online-PU-in-store) option.  This clearly has significant relevance, globally, during this Corona-virus challenge. I do think BOPIS will get a permanent boost from this challenge, but I do NOT think a retailer paying their staff to "do YOUR shopping FOR you" makes much sense.  SELF-service shopping (the standard today) is essentially a FREE service shoppers provide to retailers.  (SELF-checkout advances this to payment at the exit.) Robotic warehouse automation will likely eventually make BOPIS a major phenomenon at retail.  But it will never replace the immediacy and 360 experience of personal shopping.  Adding in/at-home delivery to BOPIS will continue to grow, but cannot impact the permanent bricks advantage of "immediacy/360!"

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