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: 12/22/2020

    Is free at-home pick-up of online returns practicable?

    Customers definitely want low-friction returns. When Amazon, Walmart, Happy Returns, etc. reduce the friction for returns, they increase confidence which drives more sales. Reducing friction for returns absolutely has to happen as more sales shift online. Currently the economics of returns for online purchases don't work and are not sustainable. We tend to see 30 percent returns for online apparel versus 5 percent for in-store. So the cost of those returns is huge, even more so when we add the extra costs for these no-box, no label options (to say nothing of the ecological disaster). The solution here is NOT to make it harder to return stuff. We absolutely need to continue to focus on reducing friction. The solution is to get better at selling consumers the right stuff that they won't want to return. We're still in the first inning of digital commerce, and we're frankly not very good at it yet. But it's easy to imagine many solutions to the "selling stuff that consumers want to keep" problem: better product content, 3-D product images, lidar-based body measurements, virtual mannequin try-ons, and most importantly Big Data/machine learning to match browsers to products with the right variants, etc.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Were record Cyber Monday/Week sales enough to help retailers salvage 2020?

    The overall retail metrics are going to look decent for holidays but that will obfuscate the fact that there are clear winners and losers. If you're in electronics/toys retail, high e-commerce sales will offset slow in-store sales to yield modest growth for the season. If you're a grocery or DIY/home retailer, you're going to benefit from a lack of spending on restaurants and travel and have a great holiday. If you're an apparel retailer, a mall-based chain, or a department store, it's going to be a very difficult year. One problem with digital forecasts this holiday is that we have $9 billion a month in spending that used to happen in restaurants and that now is happening in grocery stores, and an unprecedented portion of that is online grocery. So when we look at overall e-commerce activity leading into holiday it looks very high, but it's actually not holiday spending. So it inadvertently elevated the holiday forecast.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Are garages optimal delivery drop-off points?

    Amazon Key in-garage delivery is a cool amenity, but it's a niche use case. Porch piracy is a real (and growing) problem for e-commerce, but in-garage delivery only solves it for a small portion of the population. Porch piracy in single family residences best suited for in-garage delivery is probably the category of delivery destination most in need of a porch piracy solution. In most cases, more specific delivery instructions (leave boxes on the side of the house) can be just as effective as in-garage delivery for single-family residences.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Will pop-up e-commerce fulfillment centers help Walmart manage demand?

    Pop-up e-DCs for Walmart make a lot of sense. Seasonal e-DCs/FCs are not a new idea, Amazon used to rent the 3.8 million square foot parking area under Millennium Park to use as a holiday FC in Chicago. What's interesting about the Walmart announcement is that they have "productized" the pop-ups into their RDCs. As COVID-19 shifts more shoppers to digital, and digital becomes even more important to Walmart, they are going to need to rapidly expand their e-DC capacity. One of the best ways to do that is to leverage Walmart's enormous existing RDC network.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2020

    Are Chewy and PetSmart better off apart?

    I don't think it will work out optimally for either entity, but the writing has been on the wall since the Chewy IPO. Chewy and PetSmart needed to be a fully integrated entity. PetSmart was a digital laggard before the acquisition, and any progress they were trying/hoping to make in digital got quickly waylaid by Chewy's digital team. When they IPOed Chewy, they were left with two siloed organizations that couldn't leverage each other. The pet category is now digital-first. 1.6 million new pet owners were created by COVID-19 and all started their experience getting their food/supplies online. Digital share in pets went up over 10 percent as a direct result of COVID-19. So to compete in pet moving forward, you need a robust digital experience. PetSmart is further behind digitally than they were pre-Chewy acquisition, and now saddled with a ton of debt, so it's going to be hard for them to play digital catch-up. Chewy is going to need to complete with strong omnichannel offerings from Walmart and Target that have significant cost structure advantages by fulfilling from stores. It's a missed opportunity for both.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    How can retailers differentiate curbside delivery?

    Retailers have done an amazing job offering curbside pickup at all, often deploying the experience in a fraction of the time it would have taken them pre-pandemic. However there is still huge room to improve all those experiences. The following strategies can help:
    1. Geo-fencing to know in advance when the customer is arriving, can make the pickup experience much more seamless for shoppers, but it's much harder than it sounds (many customers drive in close proximity to the retailers parking lot many times during the day, when they don't intend to visit).
    2. Express traffic routes to pickup areas (don't make customers wait behind shoppers trying to park).
    3. Clear visual indicators of if/when a customer's order is available for pickup, and progress indicators if it's not ready.
    4. Opportunities for impulse purchases at curb-side. Do I want a cold drink for the drive home?
    5. Put my groceries in the trunk for me, but let me inspect the produce you selected at my window side before I accept it.
    With in-store traffic likely throttled for the next 18 months, curbside will be a critical component of shopping experiences. Retailers have a real opportunity to win new customers with a differentiated curbside pickup experience.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    No, retail employment is going to trend down for the foreseeable future. We were already over stored pre-pandemic (24 square feet of shopping center space per person in the US vs. 4 square feet in most of Europe). Economic pressures of Covid are accelerating the right-sizing of our retail footprint. We'll probably see 25% of all retail stores in the US close over next 2 years. On top of that, the trend in stores is to have fewer, higher skilled employees. The lowest value jobs (inventory, floor cleaning, and even checkout) are being replaced by automation. Retail wages are going up, but they expect those more expensive employees to be more customer facing. So we have a perfect storm of fewer stores every year, and fewer employees per store. Given that retail is the largest private employer in the US, this will result in a significant economic shock.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    I love this move. The entire ecosystem is under a lot of stress right now, and associates in particular have a lot of emotional stress on their shoulders. They deserve to be home on Thanksgiving. It's a particularly easy year to make this decision as associates interests are in vogue and comparative sales vs last year are going to be be less relevant anyway, but I still imagine it was a tough decision to make. Walmart is going to give cover to a lot of other retailers to follow suite. Given everything going in the world, we could all be a little nicer to each other this holiday season.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    What roles will store displays play in retail’s new normal?

    As most retailers' in-store traffic is down 20-50 percent, and will likely be down at least 20 percent for the next 18 months, in-store displays will simply work less hard than they used to. Now that retailers are having to live with artificial caps on their maximum capacities, the whole strategy around the in-store experience has changed. We used to want to maximize traffic and dwell time. Now we want to maximize conversion and basket size, while minimizing visit time. This means in-store displays have to strike a tricky new balance. Increasing basket size means we want displays to drive unplanned purchases, but minimizing visit time means that we don't want experiential displays that increase dwell time. In practice, given the new in-store traffic realities, most retailers are simplifying the shopping experience. Fewer SKUs, less discovery, more efficiency.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Does Microsoft need stores?

    In 2009, Microsoft really was at a disadvantage versus Apple, as Apple had very successfully built a direct-to-consumer channel with its own Apple stores. Microsoft was trying to pivot from a B2B to a B2C company, and was mostly dependent on wholesale partners to tell its story. So opening a chain of retail stores had significant upside, and followed the successful Apple strategy. In 2020, Microsoft needs a direct-to-consumer strategy more than ever, but B2C no longer requires stores, and it certainly doesn't require stores in malls (which are experiencing rapidly eroding traffic). Also wholesalers, like Best Buy, are far more open to Microsoft stores-within-a-store in 2020 than they were in 2009. So Microsoft can deploy a Microsoft-owned experience to Best Buy's traffic, which has much better buying intent for Microsoft products than a Class B regional mall does. The majority of Microsoft stores probably had a challenging ROI pre-COVID-19, and then when you lop off 20-50 percent of their traffic thanks to COVID-19, they just don't work. So Microsoft is smart to pivot, but they still have a lot of work to do to build a great digital D2C presence on the web. Even in this new world flagship physical spaces still make sense, and Microsoft is keeping five or six flagship locations. Microsoft was actually running a great flagship experience store in the San Francisco Metreon in 1999 (two years before Apple owned its first store).
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Can Kanye West make Gap cool again?

    I admire the effort, but I'm a bit skeptical. Gap needs to define who they are and what their value proposition is to customers. I'd want to start with the answer to that question, and then develop marketing campaigns and/or sponsorships that aligned with that. Unless Gap thinks its new positioning is "we invented leather jogging pants," YEEZY may not be perfectly aligned. A lot of what works for the YEEZY brand is scarcity, so it remains to be seen if the YEEZY/Gap product will be limited edition product (which means customers have to come for YEEZY and then discover and love non-YEEZY product), or if the YEEZY/Gap product will be ubiquitously available, in which case it carries a real risk of eroding the YEEZY brand.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2020

    Will a smaller Macy’s be a better Macy’s?

    The apparel industry and the rural regional mall concept were both facing tough headwinds before COVID-19. COVID-19 dramatically increased the challenges. It's an awful time to be selling something that nobody wants (apparel) at a place no one wants to go (malls). The NYC Macy's flagship is a concept that can certainly endure as an iconic shopping destination for tourists, but it's going to be really difficult for Macy's to invent a new purpose for the non-NYC stores.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2020

    Would Amazon and Google benefit from publishing fake consumer reviews?

    Ratings and reviews (and more generally social proof) are at or near the top of most consumers' decision trees. Reviews are among the most important attributes in influencing purchase decisions. As such, research on best practices is evolving rapidly. In the early days of reviews some manufacturers filtered out negative reviews, leaving only the best reviews on their site. Consumers quickly caught on to this practice and voted with their wallets for more trustworthy sites. Today there is a large body of evidence that consumers actively want to see negative reviews and that their presence acts as a "trust symbol" for the entire review system. Increasingly, fake reviews are a significant concern. Per the findings of this study, it may be that publishing and (importantly) labeling the reviews as fake may serve as another trust symbol for authenticity (this site is policing it's reviews), and as a deterrent to bad actors -- publicly shaming those that it catches. However, I'd be careful about blindly following the study's advice. The study was conducted in 2014. A generation ago in terms of digital shopping experiences. Consumer awareness and sentiment for fake reviews is wildly different today than in 2014. Fake reviews are much more prevalent today, and the process of black hat reviews (writing obviously fake favorable reviews on a competitor's product, specifically to get caught and erode trust) didn't really exist in 2014. Today, publishing and simply tagging fake reviews is a process that could easily be exploited by bad actors. Instead, I'd consider displaying but obfuscating fake reviews. E.g. "This product received 3.8 stars with 4,233 reviews (107 potentially fraudulent reviews excluded)" may be a better approach to benefit from the trust without being as vulnerable to abuse. Trust is increasingly the most important commodity in commerce. Retailers are right to be exploring new ways to earn and retain consumer trust. By today's standards the INFORMS study had a number of sub-optimal practices. As previously mentioned it's dated (six years is an eternity in digital commerce). The test subjects were recruited from Mechanical Turk (random paid workers rather than consumers with real restaurant shopping intent), and the experiment was augmented with a consumer survey. Stated preferences from surveys are all but worthless in shopper marketing where 94 percent of all purchase decisions are made subconsciously. Nevertheless, the fundamental premise that trust in reviews is critical, and that non-obvious tactics may yield the biggest gains in trust is a valuable and important lesson.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2020

    Dick’s goes off-price with two new clearance concepts

    Retail inventory is generally a perishable commodity that gets less valuable over time. A significant portion of Dick's mix is apparel which has historically been highly seasonal (people buy ski apparel at the start of ski season, not in the summer). Worse, many of the occasions that would drive sporting good sales didn't happen because of COVID-19 shelter-in-place conditions. Kids didn't have hockey season, people didn't buy new NBA jerseys, etc. So Dick's, like most of the rest of retail world, is sitting on too much inventory that's misaligned with customer demand. Add to that the fact that Dick's wholesale partners all made too much inventory that they are undoubtedly looking to unload. Thanks to COVID-19, we're at the very beginning of the mother of all liquidation seasons. Those retailers who can best reach their customers, especially digitally, are in the best position to succeed in this liquidation. Traditional discounters like TJX are not very good at digital, so it creates a whitespace for some line like Dick's to launch new omnichannel liquidation concepts.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2020

    Has the pandemic proven Instacart’s business model?

    I was not that bullish on Instacart pre-pandemic. The transition to digital grocery was inevitable, and Instacart was a great solution for helping retailers that didn't want to make their own investment toe-tip in digital grocery. But as digital grocery grows in adoption, retailers simply can't outsource something that important to a third party. Much less a third party that runs a marketplace that can complete with the retailer. For that reason, I've expected and observed most major retailers move away from Instacart to their own in-house solutions. Obviously Whole Foods/Amazon moved off. It can't be part of Sam's Club, Costco, or Aldi's long term strategy to outsource the majority of their customer experience to Instacart. So Instacart needs to pivot to smaller grocers and particularly independents that will continue to want to outsource. Pre-COVID-19 Instacart was moving to smaller operators for that very reason. COVID-19 dramatically increased bigger retailers' dependency on Instacart in the short term, but makes it even less likely that Instacart is the long term solution for those same clients. Unfortunately, COVID-19 probably will also force a lot of the independent grocers that could have been Instacart's new clients out of business. To me Instacart is the grocery version of GSI. In the early days of e-commerce, retailers didn't want to be bothered with this tiny thing called "e-commerce" so they all outsourced to this random little startup called GSI-Commerce. Toys "R" Us, Dick's Sporting Goods, Ralph Lauren, Sports Authority, Ace Hardware, etc. Over time e-commerce become a big deal and each of those retailers had to move away from GSI and develop their own capabilities. GSI pivoted to smaller retailers, and narrower services (logistics, payments, fulfillment) for larger retailers. That mostly worked; today GSI is Radial and is still a valuable solution in the e-commerce ecosystem. The GSI founder, Mike Rubin, owns Fanatics, as well as a piece of the 76ers and NJ Devils. So it worked out for him!

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