PROFILE

Karen Wong

Co-Founder & CEO, TakuLabs Ltd.

Karen Wong is a retail strategist and thought-leader on operations innovation and leveraging data for growth. An avid entrepreneur, Karen has 15+ years of experience running ventures in Canada and East Asia. As a founder of both ACE POS Solutions Ltd. and TakuLabs Ltd., her passion is developing technology to help retailers easily scale their businesses across all channels. Her companies currently work with more than 6,000 retailers in North America and are building out next generation unified commerce solutions to help retail chain stores move to the cloud and allow merchants to use their own data to sell more.

Karen is proud to work together with local schools and universities to offer internships and mentoring to tomorrow’s marketing and IT leaders. Karen is a voracious reader and tech enthusiast always looking for new approaches to problem solving.

To learn more, visit: takulabs.io

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  • Posted on: 03/08/2022

    Will REI’s membership soar with its new lifetime program?

    It looks like REI is doing what MEC couldn't do with their co-op membership base. It looks like great value even if I'm not in their target "younger" target audience. ;)
  • Posted on: 03/07/2022

    What does Russia’s war on Ukraine mean for U.S. retail?

    For now, the immediate impact will be the trickle down effect from Europe. Supply chain and demand are both being significantly disrupted there, not to mention the far-reaching impact of this on Europe's overall energy policies.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2022

    Do indie grocers need a big tech upgrade to compete with chains for customers?

    Technology that gives you true omnichannel features that leverage POS data. That means modern, cloud platforms that let you easily sell in-store and online across all locations from shared inventory and customer data. The biggest problems today for high-traffic brick & mortar retailers are all related to optimizing digital commerce. Unless a merchant is large enough to have separate DCs, if you're fulfilling from store, you have to be able to showcase, market and sell online from store data. The best cloud systems will do this automatically. Yes, many are still lacking the deep functionality of on-premise systems but a lack of a "single source of truth" and omnichannel functionality will kill you faster today than not having back office tools.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2022

    What is it about Amazon’s retail profitability that we just don’t get?

    Traditional retailer metrics aren't really relevant in an omnichannel world to begin with. Attribution was a lot easier in a predominantly single channel world. In the case of Amazon, their digital businesses are so large, it's less omnichannel, more omni-division. The profitability of retail itself isn't really a relevant metric by itself. As others have pointed out, using retail as a loss leader isn't really new. Retail is core to Amazon because its success and profitability of business as a whole is built upon the growth of retail. All of its more profitable areas -- AWS, ads and FBA -- require retail to thrive.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    It's not the customer's job to care about the cost or efficiency of a business they are buying things from. Naturally, all that they care about is quality, cost and their own experience. Behind the scenes, it can be complete disaster, but if you have enough money, the customer can always be right. I have 2 colors of the same rug in our place because the retailer insisted I keep the one in the wrong color at no cost rather than ship it back. I have read compelling arguments about how physical stores are dead weights compared to fast-growth digital channels. But if the majority of the revenue (and most likely, the majority of the margin) is in the low-growth channel, surely turning that business around makes more sense than stripping out the growth engine. Several years into this pandemic, it's clear that physical channels are strategic to the long-term profitability of many successful brands. As so many DTC brands have shown, digital-only channels often make for wonderfully unprofitable growth. But for me, the biggest concerns I have with these arguments is data integrity and data governance. Truly seamless customer experiences and data-driven businesses need a single source of truth. Supplier agreements aside, the data processing agreements to manage increasingly regulated customer data and standardized inventory data across multiple companies and systems would be something to behold.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2022

    Will JD.com’s robotic shops shake up retailing in the West?

    There's a time and place for this type of technology provided there's enough capital and a large enough market of time-strapped shoppers to support it. I can see demand increase as average technological skills continue to increase over time, but it's great for consumption, not so much for discovery.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Will 15-minute cities truly bring back local retail?

    Isn't this usually why some choose to live in urban cores that are traditionally more walkable? If there's a way to design this into more communities everywhere, who wouldn't prefer it? A version of this was tried in Toronto with the Distillery district. Artists and independents were invited in to rejuvenate the area. Today, it's a bustling residential area with a popular "main street." The problem now is keeping that mix as rent is going up and SMBs are getting pushed out by national chains with deeper pockets.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    From the consumer perspective, if all things are equal, it would make sense that most shoppers would prefer home delivery to BOPIS. But in many cases, it isn't equal. There are shipping fees and delays. Where shoppers might prefer to choose their own products (e.g. fresh meat/produce), it makes sense for online ordering to lose its appeal. But for packaged goods, BOPIS is still attractive if it's executed well. Availability is always a concern, especially in the current supply chain environment. You want to know something is available before you head out the door. If you're serving local shoppers, the smartest retailers are those who encourage nearby shoppers to use their BOPIS offering. It's more cost-effective and offers the same data-driven analytics as traditional e-commerce.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2022

    Is retail ready for the phygital future?

    So the metaverse is already going to replace "traditional" e-commerce? The only thing consistent today is that shoppers want to discover and buy across all channels, even from the same brand. While a retailer will likely be physical-first, online-first and eventually metaverse-first, it's going to be a mix of all throughout the entire customer journey.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2021

    Would grocers benefit from ghost kitchens?

    This is a no-brainer given the success of in-store Starbucks. Few grocers except for Whole Foods have been able to leverage prepared foods in a way that attracts foot traffic. Why wouldn't grocers leverage ghost kitchens if they can bring in brands that can bring more foot traffic and keep more customers in the store while they're shopping? A great way to support local restaurants, too.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2021

    Will grocers turn to Amazon as an alternative to Instacart?

    It's a good opportunity for Amazon to try to make inroads. If they are successful, it may create a "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality but I'd be inclined to say that trading Instacart for Amazon is like trading a fox for a wolf in terms of data. And I definitely wouldn't expect Amazon to pull back its own grocery expansion. This is another way for them to learn/optimize using the data of others and cover some of their infrastructural overhead, similar to what they did with AWS to begin with.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2021

    Why did Nike buy a crypto collectables studio?

    As somebody with a partner who is avidly into crypto, the metaverse is actually a more tangible, understandable extension for the average consumer. I have also been actively looking into metaverse options for my team as an alternative to Zoom/Meet fatigue. We miss working together in a space but the team is spread out everywhere now and we haven't even met half of the people in person. Wherever there is an opportunity for public display, there will be an opportunity for fashion. You only need to look at social media to see how much people are willing to do/spend to project a certain image of themselves. It will take time for critical mass but I wouldn't bet against NFTs, especially since they can deliver authentic scarcity, the key component of exclusiveness. People said the same thing about the internet, cloud computing, e-commerce, etc. Nothing really changes, only the medium in the long-term.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2021

    Vietnam’s factory closures will hit apparel and footwear supplies in 2022

    I've been back in North America for almost 5 years now but when I worked in Asia, there was a lot of geopolitics in the manufacturing industry in Vietnam. A lot of good manufacturers there, but the proximity to China meant that Vietnam was the equivalent to the "last port of call" for a lot of Chinese manufacturers and many production lines were reliant on Chinese supply chains for complementary materials/components. The wages were slightly lower than those in China but the "country of origin" issue vis-a-vis trade tariffs was the major attraction at the time. I haven't been directly engaged in manufacturing or sourcing over the past several years, but I suspect that Vietnam faces some of the same trends that China faced as its standard of living increased and economy turned to regional/domestic consumption. Regional diversification was the only option then and it will likely continue.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2021

    Should Macy’s de-omnify?

    It always amazes me to see investors easily speak of splitting (or merging) businesses without understanding the systemic processes involved. Even if you ignore the difficulty with data, there are corporate governance issues. Turning an internal transfer/transaction into orders between businesses is literally financial engineering "making work."
  • Posted on: 11/18/2021

    Is physical retail entering a new age?

    From what I see, a lot of stats consider BOPIS e-commerce. It's getting increasingly harder to clearly attribute sales by channel when you have digital pre-shopping and guideshops.

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