• jbarnes
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Digital and Physical Commerce Thought Leader, enVista
As CEO and co-founder of enVista, I have built a retail software solutions and consulting services firm with the depth and breadth of capability to truly optimize and unify both physical and digital commerce end-to-end, from order capture thru fulfillment and from source to consumption. Hundreds of the world’s leading brands, including Sephora, Best Buy, Tory Burch, Tractor Supply, Advance Auto and Urban Outfitters, have leveraged my expertise and the capability of enVista to drive efficiencies and cost savings, improve profitability, customer service and competitive advantage and transform their operations. I am a regular contributor to RIS News, Total Retail and other industry and business publications, serve as a Forbes contributor, and regularly speak on trending retail topics at NRF’s Big Show, Future Stores, IRCE, and partner and supply chain conferences plus I currently sit on the executive board of US Auto Parts.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2020

    Build vs. buy: Is that still a question in retail IT?

    I will apply the pareto principle (80/20) rule. The advantage of leveraging third-party solution providers is scale, innovation and their R&D. For example do you really want to develop and AI (ML/Predictive Analytics) platform with your own data scientist? No doubt you can move faster with third parties who are focused every day on their technology and as a retailer take advantage of their platforms -- especially if they are truly cloud native. I always ask retailers, what is your secret sauce and what is it that you do that makes you different and that no one else can do? That is where you focus your internal IT teams and business analyst (the 20 percent) and let the third-party software and solution provider focus on the 80 percent. I think that so many retailers are sitting on monolithic and bifurcated applications to run their business and they are simply stuck. Hence the need to move to platforms that are cloud native with a common data model built with integration at their core. Salesforce buying Mulesoft was the best acquisition they have ever made -- which no one talks about. It is why they are now in the position to uncouple and re-couple bifurcated systems while adding value with business process objects.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Is the Walmart/Instacart pilot a sign of big delivery news to come?

    I posted (below) this over 3 months ago on LinkedIn. I predicted Amazon would be the obvious choice to buy Instacart. My mistake -- Walmart is now in pursuit and if so, watch out. Keep your friends close and enemies closer ... ART of WAR. Walmart wants customer data (behaviors and insights) to predict and determine how to service their customer (position inventory optimally). Instacart provides them the data to optimize their supply chain. Instacart - Strategic Friend or Foe? To Instacart's credit they saw like many entrepreneur led organizations a need to solve a market problem: fulfill & deliver groceries because grocery store chains were not focused on e-Commerce in 2012. Let Instacart worry about e-commerce fulfillment and the chains will focus on brick and mortar (was and has been the strategy). For those of us old enough to experience the first “” boom, there was a company similar to Instacart in the late '90s called GSI Commerce that had a similar business model. GSI Commerce managed the experience, however, it was expensive and could not pivot fast to enough based upon changing customer behaviors (omnichannel). Retailers pulled these capabilities in house to manage the E2E experience. The difference between GSI Commerce and Instacart is that GSI did not own the brand. However, Instacart does. They have done an exceptional job building customer brand loyalty on the backs of grocery chains' item assortment, inventory and customer. Instacart is not a fulfillment and delivery company; they like Amazon have shifted their business model to 100% about the data and technology and that's what makes them now a potential foe. Could you imagine if Amazon owned Instacart?
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    What does new "normal" mean? Humans have incredible coping mechanisms and we are survivors by nature. Retailers will survive as they will be required to change and adapt to consumer behaviors. No one predicted we were going to have a pandemic. The real question is, what do we do about it? Retailers and brands will need to shape how they engage with their customers by adopting new paths to purchase and customer journeys that are different. Retailers who can provide options to suit consumer emotions will come out winners.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Pandemic ‘fast-forwarded everything’ for nation’s largest cannabis retailer

    Until our federal government and banking institutions pass laws and policies to allow the cannabis industry to operate and trade like other retailers, they will operate as if they were in the 19th century. It is difficult to move to a digital strategy when the use of cash is the only means to trade. Granted, cannabis retailers have gotten creative by creating shell merchant accounts to fly under the radar of processors and banks, but these are not legitimate solutions to move into the 21st century and beyond.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    Will retail employment return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon? The answer is no. The retail and/or commerce landscape is changing. It was changing prior to COVID-19 but it is now accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Understand, the customer is now in control and drives the journey and experience they want vs. the retailer "thinking" they are in control. That does mean you cannot NUDGE a customer or educate the customer regarding new "paths to purchase" but if the journey is not driving value for the customer, then the customer will not engage. Brick and mortar is not going away and retail jobs will be restored. However, not at the same levels as before the pandemic. Two reasons: 1) digital commerce and optional fulfillment methods will continue to rise at accelerated rates, and 2) economic recovery is predicated on our ability to get this pandemic under control and put people back to work across all industries.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    Beyond behaviors, the challenge is "consumer emotions". COVID-19 has created emotions that have created positive and some negative behaviors. Case in point: the paper industry had an extremely sufficient supply chain that balanced supply with demand. The demand variability was low allowing the industry to create a "pull" supply chain based upon a very predictable demand signal. COVID-19 created an emotional state of panic for toilet paper. Can you simulate the impact of these emotional buying patterns? The answer is yes, using a wide variety of AI solutions and DATA (lots of it). However, even if you can predict them by running simulations using data from past events (pandemics) the real question is can you pivot your supply chains to respond to the drastic change in consumer emotion and behaviors? COVID-19 has exposed the inefficiencies that already existed (grocery retail) and has accelerated other industries to adapt to new and improved "paths to purchase" processes and technologies. Retailers are struggling with "the new normal" and how COVID-19 has and will continue to impact demand. Machine learning algorithms require a mass amount of data to evaluate and learn patterns. The cliché "garbage in garbage out" is fitting because if the data (structure, or unstructured) is not the right data the output of any AI engine can and will create erroneous results. Hence the need for manual intervention and evaluations. COVID-19 is an unfortunate event that has "made retail data murky" but COVI9-19 has created exponential demand for specific merchandise and retailers. Retailers now need to be concerned with calculating new levels of demand (LOD) and those that are not using statistical based forecasting tools vs. AI will be at a disadvantage.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    What white people need to know

    The injustice and inequity that exist in America is not limited to the grocery industry. It is prevalent across all industries. To create equality and justice requires a mindset that is driven by actions which start with education. It takes corporate leadership to care and want to do something about it. I cannot speak for the grocery industry, but the CEOs of this industry need to wake up and take action to create a corporate culture of of equity and equality, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, and disability. If you are looking for where to start on how to build "social value" then I suggest you reach out to Peter Aranda the CEO of Consortium. He is a great resource on how to build "social value." Consortium for Graduate Study in Management was founded in 1966 and is a 501 organization dedicated to ensuring the equal representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in management careers in the business community of the United States of America.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Can remotely managed mobile-marts safely bring groceries to areas in need?

    This is a great idea and very similar to using refrigerated lockers. If the goal is to create another "contactless" customer journey (path to purchase) for consumers in remote areas then leveraging the "meals on wheels or grocery on wheels" is an awesome idea. Note this solution has a limited SKU assortment and is really focused on convenient related items. Refrigerated lockers is a more affordable means and effective way for grocery retailers to deliver groceries in remote areas where the closest grocery store chain is 30+ miles away. However, the mobile aspect of moving the merchandise to the customer or what I call "crowd selling" is brilliant.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Has the pandemic changed shopping behaviors forever?

    Consumer behaviors have and will continue to be shaped as result of the pandemic. Brands and retailers that are proactive with respect to the health of their consumers and associates are creating brand loyalty. What would you prefer: "I care about your health and we are taking the necessary measures to insure that you are safe" vs. the alternative?
  • Posted on: 07/06/2020

    Will Wegmans need a post-pandemic makeover?

    I am fortunate to have worked with Wegmans as a consultant over the years and have observed their strategies. Wegmans is interesting as they don't think of themselves as a traditional "center store" grocery retailer. They see themselves (mindset) as a retailer whose objective is to provide quality food, "conveniently" to their customers at an affordable price. They realize they are competing on time and against Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and not necessarily against other grocery retail chains. They are relentless when it comes to operating margins and quality of their private label brands. The closure of services that require close contact of humans and safety risk due to COVID-19 as mentioned in the article are obvious decisions. They, like other full service grocery store chains, have no choice. Wegmans is innovative and they will and have already started to transform the digital experience. Expect Wegmans to leverage their resources and assets to compete just not against brick and mortar, but QSRs, and other related grocery e-commerce providers. With respect to their item assortment and SKU rationalization, this may only be temporary as they look to pivot to a focus on digital. My prediction is, they will become the "digital destination" for consumers looking for unique gourmet items and expand their assortment, not contract it in the future.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2020

    Are automated freight trucks ready to carry retail’s heavy load?

    As a logistician with a deep technology background, I am excited about this technology. The technology is not new, but it has not been adopted to our interstates. To put this in context, I would equate this to flying an airplane. If we can fly a plane without pilots for 95% of the flight, then we should we be confident we can move freight on a highway network. I don't envision that we will see driver-less trucks. Like a pilot, the driver will be required to take off (get on the grid) and to drive the last mile. A pilot's job is to manage a "system" of inputs and outputs. This will be similar for truck drivers which could be an opportunity for drivers to make more money, as the skill to manage a truck requires a higher skill set. As far as safety, there are going to be accidents and deaths and we need to plan for this grave reality. No different than the airline industry (86 accidents and 257 deaths in 2019 which was down by 50% compared to 2018). The DOT will be required to govern, standardized and insure that public safety is the first and foremost priority. This will require our highway infrastructure to be modernized, which creates more jobs. The benefits outweigh the risks on so many levels for retailers, distributors and commerce.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2020

    Do Americans want retailers to keep their social distance after COVID-19 is gone?

    I think most of us have heard the quote that "breakthroughs many times are a result of breakdowns" So if this is case, then why don't we consciously create breakdowns? COVID-19 has created breakdowns and has exposed sub-optimal processes and technologies to serve customers. As we know, the grocery industry was overwhelmed with demand and the initial experience was horrific (high substitutions, long wait times and frustrated customers). The result of these break downs have accelerated retailers to pivot to digital and social distancing fulfillment execution options (BOPIS, BORIS, curbside pickup with contactless payments). These are not new ideas, but are now relevant because retailers need to survive. Retailers are now required to expand their customer journey offerings and experiences driven by customer demand. COVID-19 has shaped the buying behaviors of consumers and if the retailer can provide the same or better experience digitally with social distancing fulfillment vs. physically (brick and mortar) then expect to see social distancing services to become more main-stream. As far as breakdowns creating breakthroughs, maybe we need to slow down to speed up and get out of our daily routines and biases that we have as retailers and listen to what consumers want vs guessing.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    How to hire people who do not look like you

    If diversity is the goal, then you need to measure it and be accountable as an organization that you are consciously creating a "diverse culture." This goes beyond recruiting or hiring practices. This is about consciously creating "equity" which will require an investment and then moving to "justice" which means fixing the system to offer equal access to tools and opportunities.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2020

    Is same-day delivery a sign of better things to come for Staples?

    The goal of same-day delivery for Staples (and any company for that matter is lofty). Many companies in specific industries (automotive and healthcare) do it today but these are also considered essential verticals; where time matters. If you can compete on time (same-day delivery) and do it profitability by building it into your cost to serve operating models than do it. Note Staples also has a significant last-mile delivery fleet. I am assuming the partnership with Instacart is a function of expanding capacity and in-store fulfillment and not about profitability. Staples will have to make a build-or-buy decision and run the economics. Short term it's a great move to take market share from Amazon who is failing to meet the needs of customer demand. Mid to long term they will need to evaluate if they in-source or out-source and how they optimize last-mile delivery.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    Should Amazon, Walmart, others be held liable for workers sickened by COVID-19?

    My condolences to any associate who is working in today's environment and has contracted COVID-19. We will require legislation reform as it pertains to worker safety due to this pandemic. To hold employers liable is going to be tough as the burden of proof is not straight forward. Trial lawyers for employees are going to have a field day filing lawsuits against employers and this is why legislation reform is required.
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