James Ray

LoyaltyCIO, Client Service Associates
Retail omni-channel and CRM systems guru, interim IT executive & management consultant; husband; father; boomer; championship winning club racer & pro driving coach!
  • Posted on: 04/15/2022

    Will Amazon have to ground its drone program?

    I’m a fan of the drone delivery concept in limited, special situations today, but it’s an idea before its time. One hundred years ago I can only imagine the idea of a retailer with dedicated vans delivering packages to everyone’s house didn’t seem very practical or scalable, yet in major metropolitan areas that’s exactly how it is today. There is enough scale in high density area to make the vans work, but the truth is, dedicated delivery vans still don’t work for people living in remote areas. One hundred years from now maybe drones zipping here and there delivering stuff will be normal, but more likely a better idea for logistics will have been discovered and implemented by then.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2022

    How far should retailers go with the use of computer vision?

    The way I rationalize the acceptable uses of technology is to ask myself if the world’s best retailer had his/her eyes on the consumer and reached the same merchandising conclusions, made the same transaction decisions, etc. then I’m OK with it. Where I have great discomfort is in the recording and subsequent replay of audiovisual recordings. I believe live camera in real time is OK, but don’t agree with preserving recordings of the consumer for perpetual replay and reductive analysis of their actions and behaviors. I anticipate the USA advances the “right to privacy” legislation greatly limiting government and commercial businesses right to record and preserve audio/visual recording of citizen/consumer activities.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2022

    Should Facebook’s eroding user base worry Meta much?

    Worry is probably the wrong word; they are well aware and know/knew it was coming. Like too many shopper loyalty programs I’ve known, once the scheme begins to mature and customer acquisition is no longer the primary concern, management reduces the value proposition for their loyal customers and instead start focusing on monetizing the customer’s visits. As advertisements and thinly veiled marketing questions masquerading as legit users increasingly disrupts the real Facebook “customer” experience, I predict their users will continue to abandon the platform in ever increasing numbers. My guess is a stale Facebook is now in the cash cow category and Meta management plans to milk it until it’s dry or dies, and by then they will have other cows in the dairy producing milk.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2021

    Print catalogs help customers unplug for the holidays

    Catalogs still work in my house, they collect in our bathroom and the credit card statements provide evidence of their efficacy. One of them had me shaking my head wondering who brands their online/catalog business, FATFACE?
  • Posted on: 07/13/2021

    Will ‘Scan & Ship’ give Sam’s a leg up on club competition?

    The test will no doubt “work” because a diversity of customers have various needs. Some will try and enjoy this option, especially those who don’t want to lug heavy/bulky purchases around while they shop various retail venues during the day. But because Sam’s Club is most often a destination shop and few shoppers arrive by bus, I think the majority of shoppers would prefer the store be in-stock and they take their purchases home same day. Scan & Go seems like a solution to a root problem called poor inventory availability; basically it’s a return to showroom shopping. Who really needs or wants to travel to a store location to scan and order when it’s easier to shop online and get rapid delivery at home?
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Will stock ownership work as a loyalty program perk?

    I’m not a big fan of paying for member enrollment in a loyalty program where every inactive membership involves some level of cost for the program operator, but when transaction rewards are a fraction of the value created by then transaction, then the math can work. The question quickly evolves to how low can the reward value be and still motivate loyal shopping behaviors or better yet incentivized a favorable changed behavior. In concept I like the idea of using fractional shares in the company as the reward, but I’m skeptical the average consumer would prefer it to other common alternatives (cash back, free stuff, discounts on future purchase, etc.). Most consumers are notoriously short-term oriented and long-term investing in stock is a long term play. In my opinion effective loyalty programs must have a decent level of attainability, meaning valuable rewards can be earned by most shoppers within a reasonable time AND the value received can be redeemed easily and at any time the consumer desires. If someone gave you one share of BrandX big box retailer, what could you do with it? Even if you had a brokerage account and knew how to “cash in” it could be an expensive headache. I’m certainly interested in watching this idea, but I’m not especially optimistic!
  • Posted on: 01/18/2021

    Does a Staples/Office Depot merger now make more sense?

    The FTC was wrong about a proposed merger of these two back in 1997 and I don't see them changing their mind this time either.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    Can a box of pancake mix be racist?

    It's all too common for consumer product names and logos to accidentally offend a particular gender, race, religion, or age because the ISMs are a plenty. When a single consumer complains, we have to assume they are the tip of the iceberg and many more feel similarly offended. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are easy examples of unintended racism, and the potential list is long. Does the Eskimo Pie logo offend Arctic aboriginal people?
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    The pandemic has changed retailing, maybe forever

    One of the unexpected windfall gains for many chain store retailers with ecommerce and BOPIS capabilities is their acquisition of CRM data acquisition has surged. Traditional retail in-store shoppers who never previously self-identified or opted into digital marketing opportunities are now having to do so in order to complete their purchases. The future marketing value of these customer names and addresses is yet to be determined, but if managed well it will be substantial!
  • Posted on: 04/02/2020

    How will this change us?

    Retirees working part-time for essential retail business are declining to work. Those in the older ages range with underlying issues like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease don't want to work face-to-face with the public if it puts them at greater risk of Covid-19.
  • Posted on: 12/09/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    The only technology idea I can suggest is to expand the customer reviews model and facilitate more online discussion by customers about sizing and fit. For clothing apparel it’s just too difficult to predict how the size fits and retailers don’t seem to want their customers discussing this for fear of too much chatter about poor fit, poor construction, poor materials (sheer, scratchy, or actual colors not matching the display photos), etc. When I buy hard goods it’s often difficult when shopping online to obtain basic facts about products like the size, weight, construction material, and various other specs that should be available depending on the item. Many retailer’s web sites are capable of disclosing this information, but it’s very inconsistent and often unavailable. I’m pleased to see more online grocery retailers are showing more images of the product, including the nutrition facts table.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    It's never been more true, successful retailers must thing globally and act locally. In IT, think about scale, but deliver the solution optimized for for each one!
  • Posted on: 06/19/2019

    Can Sam’s Club’s new app really cut tire shopping down to 5 minutes?

    I fully believe an app can help consumers make the best decision quickly on what tires to buy, but the problem will be is that tire retailers actually make more money by selling you more expensive tires than you need plus additional cost services (tire re-balancing any time during life of tire), warranties (puncture & blowout), etc. Upselling the customer takes time and requires skill, the app likely won’t do that as well as skilled humans without it being obvious the app is padding the retailer’s wallet.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    The answer to these questions has always been about what does the customer want! An increasing number of consumers prefer to do it themselves; I am one of them. For a big shop, it’s not convenient because the space to scan and continue isn’t adequate, but for a half basket or less merchandise, it’s preferable.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Walmart’s checkout pilot puts shoppers in the fast lane

    I learned many years ago, every bottle has a neck! Everyone's definition of "fast" is different, hopefully they can fulfill their customers' expectations.
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