Karen S. Herman

CEO and Disruptive Retail Specialist, Gustie Creative LLC

With two decades of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management, and strategic marketing, Karen Herman is passionate about good design, design strategy and design innovation. She works with architecture firms, retailers, creative agencies, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small-to-large size businesses to design highly specialized brand experiences, interior spaces, short-term retail destinations, interactive displays and collateral materials. Karen has completed many small-to-large scale projects ranging from under $1M to over $300M, in the US and abroad.

Karen’s first design consultancy was in business for 13 years and clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace and MediaPost Communications. In 2011, she completed the Kauffman FastTrac New Venture Program for Women and received an award during Global Entrepreneurship Week for her concept video on Strategic Stores. In 2013, Karen launched Gustie Creative LLC, a design and strategy firm that creates end-to-end sustainable design solutions and specializes in Disruptive Retail. In 2015, she designed the highly innovative Live Media Trading Room for Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Karen’s latest entrepreneurial venture is Founder of Create Disruptive Retail, a mobile design platform that offers Disruptive Retail resources and solutions for brands, businesses, agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Karen is the author of The Definitive Guides to Disruptive Retail and enjoys hosting DisruptShops in North America, South America, Western Europe, and the Caribbean, to facilitate Disruptive Retail for brands and businesses.

Karen supports design innovation as a Judge for Shop! Design Awards 2020, a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust and a contributing writer to Simply the Best magazine.

Other Links From Karen Herman

Design Blog:

  • Posted on: 05/29/2020

    Has this digital fashion platform figured out personalized recommendations?

    This is fabulous. Let's start with the super smart rollout of The Yes. The app is available on iOS for the iPhone exclusively, it is only available in the U.S. and for women's apparel. Brilliant positioning and timing, considering where we are with the coronavirus and its impact on retail. The Yes generates highly-curated, personalized recommendations of brands and trends that are user specific and refined use by use. This offers immediate discovery, investigation and selection for the user and connects them to a variety of brands, from startups to established names. Very promising. I just wish the app was available for Android, too.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Bookstores could be in store for a post-lockdown boom

    I'm all-in on the benefits of retail therapy that offline, brick-and-mortar retail offers and I definitely expect a resurgence in popularity and increased sales at local bookstores, as they reopen. We are social creatures and a bookstore, independent or big box, is the perfect place to escape boredom, explore new ideas and enjoy buying something that makes you happy. To be successful, the bookstore needs to reassure customers that it is a safe place to shop. Clear and simple visual messaging is key here. Having hand sanitizer convenient to find and use is essential and I'd like to see complimentary cloth face coverings available, or create a workshop where shoppers can make their own. Clearly identifying social distancing in-store with graphic signage is helpful and reassuring to shoppers, too. This is too good of an opportunity for bookstore owners and operators to miss. Go for it!
  • Posted on: 05/26/2020

    Should Apple and other stores require shopper temperature checks?

    Definitely think that retailers should take temperature checks of associates as a standard daily practice and wearing cloth face coverings and having hand sanitizer readily available in-store should be the norm for associates and customers, without exception. Add in social distancing, and if all of these precautions are followed, I'm less concerned about taking temperature checks on customers. I do think that in tech retail stores, such as Apple, there is more direct engagement with products and it does warrant a higher level of assurance that customers are healthy.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2020

    Can influencers connect during a pandemic?

    The true value that Influencers can offer for marketers at this time is to bring an authentic brand message to their audience. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a need for social media to be a source of support, guidance, and relevant information. It's become a lifeline in many ways as people stay home and authenticity is key to maintaining brand affinity.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2020

    Will socially distanced shopping launch robot delivery for the masses?

    Robotic delivery works at a hyper local level to provide instant delivery and convenience to consumers and I definitely think it provides value far beyond being a novelty. It clearly serves as a solution in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as once again, our fast and efficient smartphones enable us to click on a mobile app and use GPS technology to have what we want, delivered when we want it, if the retailer is on the app and part of the robotic delivery program. In the future, I'd love to see small brick and mortar retailers actively beta test this delivery option, at a hyper local level.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2020

    How can retailers bring the best of digital commerce to physical stores?

    I visited Perch in NYC and explored all of their AI-enabled retail technology that is built into custom displays. It detects the products that shoppers pick up, offers dynamic digital content and measures shopper interactions in real-time. At that time, Perch was working with Sephora and I demoed AR lipstick on a digital display. Perch has grow to work with Macy's and other leading retailers. Today, retailers can partner to introduce new technologies in-store or work with in-house technology teams to create a "store of the future" concept to test in limited locations. Ultimately, gaining feedback from shopper interactions is vital to developing in-store retail technologies that stick.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    Agree with your comments here, Dave. Integration of efforts between retailers and/or with mall management is key and can drive more sales and help generate a positive experience for shoppers.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    Recently I met with the General Manager of a newly renovated Simon Mall and we discussed what's ahead. The renovation itself is telling. It includes gathering spaces throughout the mall that encourage relaxation and conversation, while offering discreet charging for devices. VR dining experiences are coming and will appeal to digital natives and entertain digital immigrants, too. With Disruptive Retail, I'm working to bring in pop-ups, certainly at in-line spaces but also in the cart and kiosk areas. This is where retailers can create interactive and engaging online-to-offline retailing that captures shoppers who are in the mall for entertainment or dining. People are looking for connection and the mall offers a community. Integrating online-to-offline retailing is key.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Will Barneys find success setting up shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue?

    I love this deal in the works between Authentic Brands and HBC. It looks like a win-win and a great opportunity to optimize a small retail footprint with a Barney's store-within-a-store format in select Saks locations. (This is a format nicely used by Kiehl's Since 1851, as one example.) The Barneys brand in the luxury space has always been strong and a Barneys store-within-a-store should resonate with a younger, hipper demographic by offering direct interaction with merchandise and ease of purchase. It also offers discovery for the typical Saks shopper who may not yet shop at Barneys.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    Will shoe swapping be the new shoe shopping?

    Shoes are an important fashion accessory for men and women and I do not believe that traditional shoe retailers will be impacted by shoe swapping platforms such as Shoe Bank. I see this service fulfilling a need for a limited range of consumers but I'm most concerned that it could impact charitable donations of new and used shoes to nonprofits such as Soles4Souls.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2019

    Barnes & Noble College goes to school on Gen Z

    The Gen Z shopper is highly visual, hyper-connected and socially responsible. This is the first generation of shoppers that is digital first. Retailers need to invest in understanding their needs, as BNC is doing quite nicely. This is important, because the Gen Z shopper is contributing to the popularity and growth of experiential retailing and sees offline, physical shopping as a destination, an experience, and a place to connect, learn and indulge their particular interests. I think BNC is spot-on in their efforts.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    How profitable is online selling?

    Online selling alone limits a brand's opportunity to engage consumers. Most digitally native brands today are developing online-to-offline retailing strategies to maximize their omni-reach. Pop-up stores are the most popular entry into offline retailing and give online brands and businesses an easy way to disrupt their way of doing business and reach new consumers. Disruptive retailers such as Amazon and Tesla have online-to-offline retailing strategies. Consumers enjoy the Tesla pop-up store and the Amazon Treasure Truck. These forms of disruptive retail are unique and memorable brand experiences that directly engage consumers and work to build a brand relationship, something online selling alone cannot do.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2019

    Will miniature Meijers be a big hit?

    A few features of this second small format, neighborhood grocery store concept from Meijer are very appealing to me. I like the fact that the company invested in updating their IT operations and offers a shop and scan smartphone app. This makes discovery of hyperlocal products and learning about vendors and artisans a fun experience for the customer. I like the management focus on an agile operation that will work to accommodate "in-the-moment" customer requests. And I like the fact that value and low pricing are highlighted.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Great points here Ken and I'm glad you've made the important distinction between voice shopping and smart speakers. I agree that we will be using more sophisticated in-home devices with screens and speakers (I use voice on Xfinity with a remote all the time) and voice assistants will have better integration into mobile and desktop browsers. Eventually, smart speakers will be left behind.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Yes, I am confident that voice assistants and voice commerce will play a significant role in the shoppers path-to-purchase in the future. Voice commerce is frictionless and makes shopping faster and easier. Adaption by consumers is important and already taking place, as Jaimie Chung states ... “New users are testing out the shopping-related features of their devices, and early adopters continue to utilize voice to search for products, ask for prices, and more.” Today, brands and businesses need to create content for their products and services to be found through voice commerce. When 5G rolls out and all of our connected IoT devices are super fast and most smartphones are AR enabled, voice commerce will be a significant factor.

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