PROFILE

Jason Goldberg

Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Publicis
Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg is the chief commerce strategy officer for Publicis. Jason is a 4th generation retailer, who launched his first e-commerce site for Blockbuster Entertainment in 1995. In the subsequent 20 years, he has served as a principal customer experience architect for top retailers including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. With a focus on e-commerce and digital marketing for omni-channel retailers, he has worked with over 100 clients on the Internet Top 500 and has been responsible for billions of dollars in on-line revenues.
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  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    The face mask rule is now simply a suggestion at some H-E-B stores

    From a medical standpoint, we're only barely safer today than were were in March. We are nowhere close to herd immunity, our therapies are only nominally better, and obviously there is no vaccine yet. We're slightly less likely to overwhelm our healthcare system than we were in March, but even that varies wildly by region. We have made huge scientific progress, but almost NONE of that has translated into it being any safer to go shopping in June than it was in March. So it's crazy that retailers are having so much trouble (self-imposed and government mandated) instituting moderate safety protocols that we know work. Customers aren't allowed in most stores without shoes, but it's totally fine for a coughing/sneezing shopper to spend an hour in a store without a mask!?!? A customer would be arrested for urinating in the store, but somehow it's a violation of customer rights to not let them spread coronavirus droplets? We've landed in this bizarro land, where you have to wear a helmet on your motorcycle or a seatbelt in your car to get to the store, but don't have to wear a mask in the store. Does anyone think it's a violation of their rights that their restaurant chef has to wash his or her hands before cooking your dinner? Anyone think your surgeon's rights are violated when he has to wear a mask while operating on you?
  • Posted on: 06/03/2020

    Is the future of retailing going dark?

    Stores are likely to have less customers in them (at least during peak times) for the next 18-24 months due to Covid-19 concerns, so the calculus about the store’s role as a discovery experience vs. a fulfillment experience has changed. With more shoppers permanently doing more of their shopping online, the store's value as a discovery experience is lower. Combined with the fact that we are so over-stored in the US (24.5 ft sq. of retail space per capita vs. 4 ft sq. in Europe), we are clearly going to see retailers close or repurpose a lot of stores. Dark stores will be part of that game-plan, but I really don't think they will be a long-term part. In the long run a store designed for consumer discovery just isn't an efficient layout for pure fulfillment, so we'll see "dark stores" evolve into distributed fulfillment centers (with significant automation vs. human picking). And the cost of real state zoned for retail is generally higher than a space exclusively zoned for commercial. So, over-time I'll think we will see distributed fulfillment done with more special purchase mini-fulfillment centers rather than dark stores.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Is it safe to bring back food sampling?

    Sampling will be individually pre-packaged/sealed vs a bulk tray. The big question is if we encourage in-store consumption (requiring customers to take off mask) vs. at home sampling. Since a much larger portion of customers are going to be curb-side/e-commerce for the next couple of years, we'll see a rise in individual packages for at home sampling. You may just find samples in your grocery bag from your curb-side order that are based on what you bought/purchase history. The bigger open question around food in-store is, will we ever see self-service bulk items (those bins of nuts), olive bars, salad bars, etc... again? I suspect it will be a long while, if ever.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2020

    Will Facebook Shops launch social commerce into the mainstream?

    Pampers launched a Facebook e-commerce store in 2010, so this year marks the 10th anniversary of social commerce not working in North America. At the same time, social commerce is wildly popular in other other parts of the world, such as WeChat and Weibo in China. Even Taobao and JD.com, two dominate e-commerce platforms, have largely become social platforms in the last few years in China. So are American consumers fundamentally different than Chinese consumers? Are Chinese consumers just more digitally disrupted than those in North America? Is there something different about the executions in the North America than Asia that make them less popular? The biggest problem with social commerce in the U.S. is lack of a ubiquitous digital wallet. Two digital wallets, Alipay and Tencent have almost 100 percent consumer penetration in China, and represent 16 percent of GDP spending in China. Digital Wallets in the U.S. are far less ubiquitous and represent less than 1 percent of GDP spending (although COVID-19 is helping adoption a bit). Simply stated, China leapfrogged credit cards for digital wallets, while the west is still addicted to social commerce-unfriendly credit cards. Facebook is not likely to be the answer to the digital wallet problem. "I really want to trust Facebook with all my banking information," said no consumer ever. Until the digital wallet problem is solved, social commerce can grow in North America but will remain niche. There are clearly some advertisers on Facebook who will improve conversion of their ads by adopting Facebook Shop. But Facebook Shop is still a flawed solution for many product categories (products with complicated attributes, promotions, bundling, suggestive selling, personalization, etc.). Some of the promised but not yet available features of Facebook Shop (messenger, WhatsApp, and IG integration) may ultimately be the most useful. Remember however, that Facebook Shop is a marketing tool NOT a commerce tool. It should be thought of as a tactic to connect with new audiences (for a fee) who can buy your product. It should not be the destination where you send your customers, and it certainly should not be a replacement for a native e-commerce site for a small business. You don't own your Facebook Shop -- the customer is Facebook's, not yours. If the customer does save payment information, that information goes to Facebook, not you (and will instantly be available to any competitors also on Facebook Shop). Facebook can (and likely will) change the rules about who can find and use your Facebook Shop, based on maximizing profit for Facebook. In short, you don't own the land your Facebook Shop is built on, you are a digital sharecropper. Use it when it can provide a cost effective audience, but don't solely rely upon it.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Are store brands set for a big growth spurt?

    This is not a new trend, but rather a continuation of an existing trend. Private label has been gaining share at the expense of national brands for the past several years, and that trend is only accelerating due to COVID-19. Scarcity during the pandemic has forced customers to be less brand loyal, and economic pressures/falling consumer confidence is shifting consumer behavior to more value-oriented brands. At the same time many national brands turned off or curtailed marketing efforts, sacrificing share of voice. Many of those consumers who were forced to switch brands during the pandemic will become permanently less brand loyal. What brands really need to be concerned about is the subset of private label called "exclusive products." These are retail invented brands that have unique value propositions (vs. just being a value oriented knock off of a national brand). Over the past 10 years, retailers have been way better product innovators than have national brands or challenger brands, look at the success of Target (5 new billion-dollar brands in the last two years), Kroger (best selling organic food brand in America), and you start to see the scale of the threat to national brands. Exclusive products are a major pillar in almost every retailer's COVID-19 survival playbook. It's getting harder and harder to make a living selling other peoples' stuff. If brands can't figure out how to get more customer intimacy and start winning on product innovation again, we are going to see the separate concept of brands and retailer fade away, as the retailers (aside from a couple of giant aggregators) become businesses that mostly sell their own exclusive products.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2020

    What will Applebee’s and Boston Market learn from their virtual restaurants?

    This is already a common practice, and these "virtual restaurant" concepts are likely to be a more important part of the future so all three companies are smart to be testing. Although they need to be careful how they execute to avoid appearing deceptive. HelloSalted, a recent Shark Tank contestant, is essentially a house of brands that offer delivery-only restaurant concepts through marketplaces (DoorDash, UberEats). Their restaurants are Cauliflower Pizza, Moon Bowl, and $5 Salad Company. The basic idea (pre-COVID-19) is that a higher percentage of restaurant orders are consumed off-premises and purchased via a marketplace, but the margins are very challenging. So why not have a delivery-only restaurant that avoids a lot of the overhead costs of on-premises to focus on unit economics for delivery? Instead of having one consumer-facing brand, they make different brands for every concept to improve SEO on the marketplace. It's really no different than VF Corporation being one of the largest apparel companies in the world but selling under brands like Vans, The North Face, and Timberland. No one says The North Face is trying to trick them by not using the VF Corporation brand. Or that Swiffer is being dishonest by not calling themselves P&G. The key is that the consumer resonate with the B2C brands vs. the house of brands. This is trickier when the parent brand is also consumer-facing like Applebee's. Ironically Applebee's is a consumer brand owned by a house of brands (Dine Entertainment which also owns IHOP). It may have been smarter to launch Neighborhood Wings as a Dine Entertainment concept rather than an Applebee's concept. With the rapid shift to at-home consumption, the idea is almost certainly here to stay. Why open a new on-premises restaurant concept when most of your customers are going to want to-go food for the next few years? Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has a well funded startup called CloudKitchen providing entrepreneurs with the infrastructure to execute delivery only restaurants. It's very likely that we'll see the marketplaces themselves launch cloud-only restaurant concepts in the same way that Amazon sells its own brands on Amazon. The key is that you need to earn and keep the consumers trust. This is totally possible for "houses of brands" to do as VF Corporation, P&G, and Gap have proven.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2020

    Can influencers connect during a pandemic?

    Influencer marketing is an important tool to help consumers discover products and make purchase decisions digitally (something we struggle to offer via other digital shopping methods). However, pre-COVID-19 influencer marketing was disproportionately focused on travel, beauty, and apparel, three categories that saw their demand fall off a cliff thanks to COVID-19. Compounding the short term problem, many retailers actually turned off their affiliate programs during COVID-19, as they didn't want to pay influencers for the minimal amount of sales they were seeing that probably weren't incremental. However other categories like food and home influencers actually have done quite well during COVID-19 as consumers have been consuming more minutes of digital content, and increasing their spend on home and at-home meals. In the long run, COVID-19 accelerates the death of old models, like a few experts annually dictating tastes from the Paris fashion show, and transitions that influence to a fleet of micro-influencers that cater to a much narrower, more specific audience. It probably also means the end of one-size-fits-all seasonal trends.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2020

    Was the $3.3 billion Walmart spent on Jet.com worth it?

    It was very clearly a good acquisition for Walmart. At the time the deal closed (Sept 2016) Walmart's market cap was $225 billion, today it's $355 billion (a 36 percent increase). Walmart's market cap had some volatility but was basically the same in 2000 as it was in 2016, so the acceleration from 2016 to 2020 is very significant. Jet/e-commerce isn't the only reason for the growth, but it is a major contributor. It's also inaccurate to think of the acquisition as only benefiting Jet.com. At the time of the acquisition, Walmart e-commerce was about $12 billion year, had 1 million SKUs, and was growing at 10 percent (less than the industry average). Today they are well north of $20 billion per year, have 40 million SKUs, and have grown at 40 percent for the past two years. Clearly Walmart.com and especially the Walmart.com Marketplace are way better as a result of the assets and talent they acquired from Jet. It's not surprising that the consumer facing brand "Walmart" is much more powerful than "Jet," so the brand retires but the core of the marketplace, infrastructure, vendors, partners, and people live on as Walmart.com.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2018

    Will rising costs throw a wrench in e-commerce operations?

    No one should be surprised to see shipping rates going up. E-commerce is growing at 16 percent/year, UPS/FedEx/USPS are growing in capacity at 4 percent/year, so do the math. Shippers have a constrained supply and will try to maximize revenue. Warehouse space in the U.S. is now more expensive/constrained than retail space. As cost structures change, it changes the value equation. Maybe last year I optimized my checkout funnel for maximum conversion (instead of upselling), but now I'm willing to risk losing the single SKU order in favor of cross-selling them to a more profitable three SKU order. Maybe I'll more aggressively promote my in-store pickup service. It's why Amazon has made a huge investment in building out its own last mile infrastructure. UPS/FedEx own between 120,000 and 160,000 vans, Amazon already owns 25,000 vans, and they are not even serious yet. Amazon Flex and Amazon Delivery Service give Amazon ways to outsource the last mile that do not rely upon traditional carriers. Cowan estimates that Amazon currently fulfills 58 percent of their demand with USPS, 25 percent with UPS, 5 percent with FedEx and do 12 percent themselves. Expect to see the mix change this year.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Will the Kroger/Walgreens pilot lead to something really big?

    Digital order ahead with curbside pickup is a huge trend sweeping the U.S. So distributing that pickup experience to more convenient locations makes perfect sense for Kroger. In the U.K. (where the trend is a bit more mature) it's common to see petrol/gas stations as grocery pickup options. Walmart and Amazon are both experimenting with pickup-only locations. Adding Rx distribution is an added value (if it can be done in a low friction way). The devil will be in the details (do I have to go in the store to opt out of consulting with the pharmacist to get my prescription with my groceries?). It's also a continuation of another smart play we are seeing Kroger run, which is to evolve from private label to owned brands. Simple Truth is the #1 organic brand in America, and now Kroger is expanding it globally via Tmall (Kroger is a retailer in the U.S. but in China they are now a food brand). So adding Simple Truth to Walgreens is also a smart play for Kroger. It's less clear how big a win this is for Walgreens. The main value proposition around buying everyday essentials and food from U.S. drug retailers is that it's convenient while you're picking up a prescription. Drug doesn't win on assortment or price. So as more consumers shift to at-home or curbside pickup for prescriptions, that's bad news for the retail side of drugstores. Outsourcing the digital shopping experience to Kroger is probably not a long-term win for Walgreens.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2018

    How much do e-tail algorithms need humans?

    Humans are hard-wired to believe that we have some inherent advantage over algorithms, in the same way we were certain the sun revolved around the earth until science forced (most of) us to believe otherwise. The basic product recommendation engine on Amazon (which is not a hybrid) drives 35 percent of Amazon's revenue. Netflix and Spotify's non-human curation have won over millions of consumers. Amazon is rapidly replacing merchants with data scientists in its "hands off the wheel program" and driving greater profitability AND customer satisfaction simultaneously. Digital native vertical brands like Rockbox have already disclosed that their algorithms substantially outperform their human stylists. Conflating the pros and cons of Amazon Book retail stores with the long-term success of data-driven curation/merchandising makes no sense. Is the failure of the Amazon Fire phone also proof that data based merchandising doesn't work? I know it's not a popular opinion (and in many cases goes directly against our cognitive biases) but data-based curation and merchandising is already better than humans in some cases, and its lead is only going to get bigger. The open question is simply the timing. I certainly wouldn't turn my cancer diagnoses over to Watson today, but I'm pretty confident that my three-year-old will enjoy a lifetime of much better healthcare as a result of data-driven decisions.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2018

    Amazon rolls out Prime Now deliveries from Whole Foods

    While this isn't surprising news the devil is going to be in the details:
    1. Will Prime Now be delivering the complete inventory of the local Whole Foods, or a select subset? The Whole Foods in-store inventory isn't currently online, so this would be a meaningful infrastructure enhancement.
    2. Will pricing be the same as stores?
    3. Can Amazon profitably do this for most rural markets? A Prime Now flex driver can have five or more deliveries in their car as they leave the fulfillment center. You can't do that with perishable fresh items (especially with flex drivers using their own vehicles without refrigeration). It's much more expensive to make one delivery at a time, and hard to believe Amazon is going to subsidize those costs forever.
    4. Will curbside pickup be next? While it might not be profitable to deliver fresh milk to the whole U.S., curbside pickup can be profitable and consumers love it. Once Amazon has the infrastructure to digitally merchandise the entire Whole Foods inventory and pick the orders, why wouldn't they offer curb-side pickup? How will they differentiate the price of pickup vs. delivery?
    5. How fast can they get out of their Instacart agreement? Rumor has it that Instacart has some level of exclusivity for delivering fresh from Whole Foods in some markets. Is that limiting where/how Amazon can deploy its own Prime Now?
    I'm excited to see the answers to these questions. It's a truly disruptive time in grocery.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Will a CEO without department store experience transform Hudson’s Bay business?

    Lack of department store experience does NOT mean she is destined to be unsuccessful. Hubert Joly had no retail experience (much less consumer electronics retail) and yet he proved to be the exact right leader for Best Buy at a major inflection point in that retailer's history. Department stores are facing a lot of headwinds. Apparel has eroded as a spending category for consumers, much of the real estate portfolio is seeing significantly curtailed traffic, consumers have less enthusiasm for the department store format overall and then of course HBC has unique debt challenges. Add it all up and it's highly unlikely that bringing in an experienced department store leader to follow the traditional department store playbook would be successful. I certainly agree that CVS has its own market challenges and Ms. Foulkes didn't single-handedly solve them there, but in fairness she did run one of the most successful elements of that business. All that being said, HBC has a ton of assets and there is no reason those assets can't be leveraged to help HBC survive and thrive in the new retail world. She's taking the reigns of one of the most storied brands in retail and I, for one, wish her nothing but success.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Macy’s launches in-store pop-up concept for brands

    It's a reasonable concept for Macy's to try, but not a game changer. The model of branded shop-in-shops is basically the standard merchandising approach for department stores in Europe, and branded pop-ups are certainly not new to Macy's. What's unique here is that the brand is the seller of record rather than Macy's. Potentially that makes it easier for Macy's to bring in more interesting, emerging products which could be beneficial to Macy's traffic. B8TA is a retail marketplace concept with several stores in the U.S. They host shop-in-shops in a number of Lowe's stores which are essentially the exact same concept we are talking about here. Those pop-ups put a lot of interesting, new products to surprise and delight shoppers in Lowe's stores, and there is no reason to believe the Macy's version couldn't see similar success. The real question is, what level of support/effort is Macy's prepared to offer? How will Macy's curate the sellers? How much merchandising flexibility will each marketplace seller have? Will the brands have an opportunity to be promoted in Macy's marketing efforts?
  • Posted on: 11/20/2017

    How open are consumers to AI-driven shopping?

    These kinds of studies are silly. First of all, "stated" preference studies for shopping behaviors are almost always wrong, as most shopping decisions are made continuously. For example, Admaster does a poll of Chinese shoppers before Singles Day every year. Per the "stated" preference survey 84 percent of shoppers planned to shop on Singles Day in 2015, only 71 percent in 2016 and only 64 percent in 2017, so Singles Day should be shrinking every year. Yet Singles Day grossed $14.3 billion in 2015, $17.8 billion in 2016 and $25.4 billion in 2017. Even worse, in this case the study asks consumers to evaluate a tactic they can't even see/experience/consume. How does a consumer know if the great outfit in their latest Stitch Fix box is the result of a stylist that really knows her or an AI algorithm? Lastly, the definition of AI is constantly evolving. Aren't all the suggested products on the Amazon and Tmall PDPs actually generated by AI? AI, and more specifically deep learning, is a game-changing capability for commerce. But it's a back-of-the-house tactic, not a customer-facing experience.

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