Manish Chowdhary

CEO and Founder, Cahoot
Manish Chowdhary is the Founder and CEO of Cahoot. Cahoot is a peer-to-peer network where merchants collaborate to decrease delivery times, increase margins, and boost customer satisfaction without compromise. Cahoot harnesses a vast nationwide network of trusted and verified merchants selling identical products to fulfill orders more efficiently. Manish is an innovator, thought leader, and a sought-after speaker for all facets of ecommerce. Manish has founded multiple industry-leading companies starting from his dorm-room at the University of Bridgeport, CT where he earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering. Manish’s specialties include ecommerce strategy, business methods innovation, supply chain and logistics optimization. Manish is a 40 Under 40 Competition Winner and holds an Honorary Doctorate, the highest honor from his alma-mater University of Bridgeport.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    Is Amazon Go heading for a hard stop?

    Honestly, I think the biggest thing is that they don’t really incentivize customers to try the store as much as typical Amazon launches. Like offering free 2-day prime shipping is a huge incentive for customers to abandon their offline stores AND other online stores that charge for shipping. If they want to create a big buzz and bolster the number of users to get people used to the concept, they should do major discounts on popular items. This might be an unpopular opinion, but isn’t that what unicorn hopefuls are doing?
  • Posted on: 09/10/2019

    Nordstrom Local hopes for big returns from the competition

    This is a fantastic idea that benefits both parties! Back then, Kohl’s wasn’t exactly celebrated when partnering with Amazon for returns. However, within three weeks Kohl’s saw a 24% lift in in-store traffic and is now rolling out the program nationwide. To their competitors, Macy’s and Kohl’s customers would be introduced to a service-focused retailer like Nordstrom Local. If services is where Nordstrom’s headed, their services could be a great addition to other retailers’ return and pick-up options. Especially given their emphasis on building relationships and great service. On the other hand, Nordstrom benefits from this by establishing them as a one-stop post-purchase service. This is paving a way to secure their position as a “service store.” Returns could be a starting point, wherein the long run customers can pick up, return, repair, and alter goods from any retailer. Nordstrom can offer its services to other retailers at a fee, and this could end up being a new source of revenue that plays to their strengths. The new retail environment requires fresh strategies and Co-opetition is clearly one of them. In my opinion, collaboration is the future for retailers as players pool resources to compete against Amazon and Walmart.
  • Posted on: 10/27/2017

    When are text messages welcome from retailers?

    The answer is a simple one -- ask at checkout. All of the travel sites ask, "would you like text notifications about flight status?" and similar questions. There's a good reason why delivery notifications are high on the list of situations in which text alerts are desired. Many customers want to be home when the package arrives. This is one reason that date-certain shipping is becoming commonplace. Text messaging and text messaging plus chatbots will continue to increase in importance ... for messages that consumers deem important.
  • Posted on: 10/25/2017

    Amazon to begin making in-home deliveries in 37 cities

    If there is one company that customers will trust with a service like this, it's Amazon. That said, allowing any individual to enter the home without the owner's presence is a huge hurdle. If the concept is to thwart porch pirates by leaving deliveries inside the home, then who would prefer to give access to the entire home? Should I take my chances with one package? Or with all of my possessions? People are much more likely to use this with their cleaning services, who likely already know where the hidden key is, than they are to use it for deliveries. Google won't be able to follow suit. The trust hurdle will be far greater. Would Google follow up with Google Maps Home View? -- Go from the satellite view to the street view to inside the home? Doubtful, but that's how Google's intentions may be viewed by many.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2017

    Can Barneys tap into ‘drop’ culture?

    Thumbs up. Experimentation is the key to retail survival. I was in that flagship store one week ago. The general demographic of the store is ... not youthful. In targeting a more youthful demographic, this is a great experiment to introduce new customers to Barneys. This is an acquisition channel reaching shoppers they'd never find through their traditional offline and online marketing approaches. As long as the event is well-executed, and Barneys is prepared to learn from the test, it will be a success in the long run. Whether it's adopted for the future or not, Barneys will gain insights that will help it adapt, learn and improve performance.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2017

    Should the holiday selling season be retired?

    We see that the holiday opportunity is declining, however the key quote from this article is: " ... 40 percent plan to shop in-store on Black Friday." That is a colossal number of shoppers. Is there any other day of the year that comes close? Why would a retailer want to miss out on that foot traffic, assuming that those shoppers include a retailer's target segments? The path to more evenly distributing sales over the course of the year is to sell something consumers need frequently regardless of season. AKA groceries. There is no other path. Retailers should optimize for the holiday season -- not de-emphasize it.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2017

    Amazon has plans to deliver packages to car trunks

    Amazon, with half of online retail in its hip pocket, smells blood and is putting its foot on the gas with a flurry of new test initiatives. They can afford to. They can afford to fail on a few tests because they've won so big on the tests that have succeeded in the past. One look at this forum is proof that Amazon is attracting attention at every turn, and potentially distracting retailers. How many Amazon questions per week do we answer? Which moves are the equivalent of the U.S. Star Wars initiative in the '80s? And which moves will succeed? If porch pirates were a threat to e-commerce, then e-commerce wouldn't be the fastest growing retail sales channel. If I'm worried about an unattended package, then I'll be even more worried about sending a delivery person into my unattended house. Or my unattended car trunk. This sort of initiative is proof positive that Amazon is testing every possible improvement. Because they can. Will solutions to the problem evolve? Of course. But whatever that package is worth, the value of the items in my home is much higher.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2017

    Are store brands a ‘fundamental defining piece’ of the retail experience?

    This is a giant "it depends" question. Is it fundamental for all retailers? No. First, a retailer must already excel at its core mission -- typically to deliver a superior value-to-price proposition, with value including the shopping experience and, ideally, an emotional connection to the brand. Without that as a starting point, there's little point in developing private label brands. REI is a good example of a retail brand whose core customers feel a deep connection to the brand. Should REI launch private label mountain climbing gear? Not clear. The products would have to be superior to, and safer than, current offerings. Does it make sense to offer private label apparel, tents and the like? It sure does. Brand affinity, lower price, low risk. Yes. Is it fundamental to their business? No. Costco is a good example where private label brands are fundamental to the core offering. Kirkland, in my opinion, changed the private label game by delivering products that are as good, or better than, name brands. It fits on every dimension. Cost-conscious shoppers have an even less expensive option. And as stated in the article, Kirkland keeps name brands honest. That said, for most retailers, private label is an add-on opportunity, not fundamental. Aggressive promotion? No. Private label brands should be elevated by quality, not promotion. For example, Kirkland. It's a long game, and there's little point in spending promotion dollars competing with the manufacturers occupying the lion's share of shelf space. Quality is the promotion. How will Millennials change the game? Not much differently than any "new" generation that came before them. Value-to-price matters. Brand affinity matters. That affinity is generated today through different forums (e.g. social media influencers), yet in the long run, quality matters more than shopper age or generation. As shoppers have moved online (Millennials or not), retailers have had to find new ways to create affinity. Omnichannel excellence will make a bigger difference than private label offerings. The exception? Companies like Casper and Warby Parker who have gone after an entire value chain with great products with operations designed to dramatically cut costs. That said, it won't be long until they are known as "Casper by Amazon" or "Warby Parker by Jet."
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    What marketing lessons can we learn from Amazon?

    I believe that Amazon's leadership in the Ps is actually an outgrowth of its relentless focus on the Cs. Customers: Amazon has always been fanatically focused on customer satisfaction, regardless of near-term profit impacts. More than any other retailer, with the possible exception of Nordstrom, Amazon chooses paths that turn shoppers into loyal lifetime customers with their return policies, shopper experience and the astounding investment in infrastructure. Company: Back to customers, the company has a deep culture of customer focus at nearly any cost. The core belief/strategy is that if we always give the best experience we will gain customers for life. They develop a tech infrastructure that is so much better than all others that they rent it as an additional income source. They develop a commerce infrastructure that is so much better than all others that they rent shelf space for additional income. Competition: Amazon doesn't seem to look to competitors for inspiration. If there's an opportunity to do something five times better than the next best thing, Amazon will pursue it. The Ps are all an extension of this. And they've selected one over the other depending on the moment in time.
    • Price: They sold the same new books at lower prices (which required operational excellence).
    • Product: The addition of new categories (remember the books only days?), bundled services to create Prime, and on and on
    • Place: They've created the best online shopping experience bar none. What will happen now that they have brick-and-mortar to improve upon.
    • Promotion: Interestingly, promotion does not seem to be a huge lever for Amazon. The "product," which is simply, the best overall online shopping experience (including returns) across the most categories.
    The answer is in the Cs not the Ps
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    What does all the noise around Amazon’s ‘Seller Flex’ program mean?

    Seller Flex is only a minor step towards Amazon collecting data to understand whether building a delivery network is a viable opportunity. In the short run, Amazon will have one more new advantage over 3PLs, theoretically passing on a portion of its low/lowest negotiated rates onto marketplace merchants. Of course, along the way, Amazon will gain all the data it needs to understand the market opportunity of building its own carrier network. We already know about their work testing drones, so it's an obvious move. That said, they are not taking control of the last mile -- rather, they are brokering the last mile. Using this model Amazon could quite possibly help the entire ecosystem, creating efficiencies for carriers and merchants. Brokering distribution is a far cry from owning distribution. In the broader story of Amazon, this is a very deliberate baby step.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2017

    Can AR trigger TRU’s turnaround?

    Amazon and Walmart have, together, sapped the strength out of Toys "R" Us. Lower prices fueled by lower cost structures have been their weapon of choice. They are beating Toys "R" Us at their own game -- price and, in Amazon's case, selection. Toys "R" Us is well positioned to provide significantly more interesting and entertaining shopping experiences -- their NYC flagship store is a great example. Will a killer app increase foot traffic? Yes. Will it be big enough to move a significant portion of foot traffic to the stores? Maybe. But if they do, and the stores are overcrowded, the AR apps will be a nightmare and result in bad customer experiences, possibly worse than otherwise. Also, during peak shopping season, do moms and dads want to bring their children toy shopping with them? Most don't. Toys "R" Us is smart to test an approach that cannot be replicated by Amazon and Walmart. That said, it's unlikely to succeed. If there was an easy answer to this question, Toys "R" Us wouldn't be in bankruptcy in the first place. It's a price match and convenience game that can only be won with a lower cost structure and higher volume. Or by creating experiences that will bring customers in for hours, with an inevitable purchase or two. AR may be a start. But it will take a near-amusement park experience to generate the uptick in traffic that has been lost to people looking to spend less time, and less money, shopping.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2017

    Retailers lack of trust undermines predictive personalization’s potential

    Given the low prioritization of personalization, there is clearly an adoption issue. Why? There can be many reasons: 1.) Because retailers do not believe in the value; 2.) Because retailers don't trust the recommendations; 3.) Implementation is too expensive or distracting; 4.) They see other initiatives that can generate much higher ROI. Trust is just one possible reason. In order to generate adoption, technology providers must prove: 1.) Clear ROI; 2.) Technology and recommendations that stay "on-brand"; 3.) Related to #2, no downside brand risk. Testing must be easy to implement. A simple API, and the ability to randomly test a relatively small percentage of the shopping universe -- e.g. 10 percent -- to compare to the general customer population. For retailers, the key is to understand that A/B testing along different dimensions is a standard practice for successful merchants. No matter how well a company is doing, there's always an opportunity to do better. By parsing out populations and treating them differently, retailers should theoretically win. Removing personal bias and trusting predictive personalization -- or any software that can be used for testing and learning -- should generate a return. Choosing to not test, when this technology will likely become embedded in e-commerce platforms at some point in the future, is a recipe for losing share to those who do.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Can retailers be healthcare disruptors?

    Retail is definitely positioned well to offer solutions for *some* of healthcare's challenges. A key driver is the change in doctor patient relationships. The concept of a lifetime primary care physician or family doctor is on the decline. With workers changing jobs and insurance plans every two to three years, they often have to switch doctors to stay in-network. Suddenly the concept of the no-wait drop-in at "CityMD," for example, is much more appealing than finding a new doctor. Retailers can incorporate basic healthcare services into their model and gain traction. The key question will be, how does the service fit into the broader business model of the merchant? The more transactional and brand-relevant services will likely thrive. Offering flu shots and diabetes tests at a pharmacy is relevant for the brand. Offering eye exams with the intent to sell glasses (i.e. retail) fits Costco's business model. That said, broader healthcare is unlikely to thrive in a retail environment. Retailers and healthcare professionals struggle to meet customer service expectations. Could a Nordstrom make a difference? Yes. Would their customers seek any healthcare in the store? Unlikely. Would there be synergies with Nordstrom's brand or core expertise. Unlikely. With brick-and-mortar retail struggling, there are many opportunities to move into consumer services with greater brand relevance and operational synergy.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2017

    Walmart deal shows it’s serious about same-day delivery

    There is no doubt that demand for same-day delivery is growing in NYC, perhaps the most densely populated community(ies) in the U.S. An acquaintance said to me just yesterday, "Thank you Amazon! When my son says, 'Mom, I just drank our last water,' I receive a new delivery within 2 hours." For Walmart, buy online pickup in-store was a very smart move, leveraging one advantage Amazon did not have (until now) -- stores. The acquisition of Parcel and the NYC test is a necessary survival step. Amazon offers Prime customers three or four different delivery options -- including same-day delivery. Studies have shown that more shipping choices generate higher conversions, even if only a small fraction of shoppers choose that option. Walmart must, at a minimum, test same-day delivery and find ways to make it profitable. The risks of not testing and perfecting this approach are too high to ignore, while the downside risk of testing, even if they fail, is relatively low. The fastest way to get a test in motion was to acquire Parcel. There's no time to waste, so it was a very smart move. Even if it fails.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2017

    Could retail workers benefit from implanted microchips?

    We're all sharing similar thoughts here. Many people have similar concerns with their Social Security Number. It is a unique identifier that people routinely share with banks, health care providers, and employers. Why? Because they won't do business with you unless you give them that number. This is similar to the situation that Tom Erskine mentioned in his post here. People will likely also be concerned with being "hacked." One or two cases would bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt. If there are high ROI applications for this, they'll be found by the military.
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