Mark Ryski

Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Mark Ryski is the author of two books on retail analytics, Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric and When Retail Customers Count – books that are widely considered the definitive reference guides for the retail industry. He is also the Founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation – the leading authority on retail traffic and conversion analysis. Founded in 1994, today Mark and his dedicated team work with retailers across virtually all categories and sizes from independents to large chains.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    Free returns have become a basic expectation for shoppers across every category and so I don’t think there’s any easy way to claw-back this benefit when other competitors happily provide it. Minimizing the negative financial impact of returns by whatever means is of high interest for all retailers – the problem is this is not an easy problem to solve. I suspect that for most retailers the strategy will be: take the sale now -- worry about the bottom line impact later.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Mobile jumps out as retailers get a mixed start to the holiday season

    Mobile is a retailing juggernaut and this year is proof positive. As the multiple data sources in the article confirm, online purchase via mobile phone continues to grow quickly. Retailers already understand that delivering a great, seamless online/physical store experience is critical, but what some retailers may not fully appreciate is how vital a role mobile plays in the process. It’s not good enough to have a solid web presence, sites also need to be optimized for mobile – online is mobile. Retailers should also carefully study the traffic patterns of online activity in conjunction with traffic patterns in their brick-and-mortar stores – online activity can be a precursor to an in-store visit and by comparing this data, retailers will be in a better position to make the most of all traffic they receive.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Big things are happening as Small Business Saturday turns 10

    I think consumers are sympathetic to small shop operators but if you follow the spending, it’s more of a "preach but don’t practice" stance. The retail community has done a reasonably good job in promoting Small Business Saturday, but ultimately this comes down to changing consumer behavior, and the allure of Amazon, the low pricing of Walmart and the selection of Target make competing with the giants as challenging as ever. Industry events like Small Business Saturday help but, ultimately, small shop retailers need to focus on what they do best – delivering a great experience for the shopper that entered their store.
  • Posted on: 11/25/2019

    Why is Sephora paying associates to leave shoppers alone?

    There’s no doubt that shopper expectations have been evolving. But the challenge for retailers is to somehow figure out what any given shopper may want – this can be very difficult to do. I think Sephora’s basket assist program is a simple, practical solution to understanding the level of engagement their shoppers actually want. This example also shows that you don't always need some shiny new tech to solve a problem.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Is Target killing department stores and specialty clothing chains?

    Target's latest results are a sign of what’s coming for the holiday season – I expect them to have a terrific season. The key to Target’s success is that they, perhaps better than anyone else, have focused their efforts on leveraging their physical stores to the greatest advantage. In particular, their early investments in creating a standout BOPIS process and managing online orders and the investments they've made in front-line staff.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2019

    Should Santa be a loyalty program perk?

    Santa as a “perk” just seems like a bad idea. Of course, Harrods has the right to do whatever it feels it needs to do to make the experience great for its customers – including charging to see Santa. However, they had to have anticipated that there would be a public backlash. In retrospect, I suspect that Harrods' management would like a do-over. Perhaps, in addition to a "premium" Santa experience for paying customers, they could also offer a less costly -- perhaps even free -- Santa event, like a mini parade around the store.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Can a Soho pop-up relaunch Tupperware’s party?

    Tupperware gets full points for effort, but I’m not sure this latest effort will change consumers’ minds. Opening a pop-up in Soho sounds cool – and it kind of is – but it’s only one small (temporary) store in a very big world. I work with a retailer who attempted the very same strategy by opening a pop-up in Soho and they spent a ton of money on it, with no ongoing benefit or impact. The new Tupprware website is a good start to getting the business back on track, and the pop-up is an interesting “marketing event,” but Tupperware’s challenges are more substantial.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    What will happen now that Five Below has gone above $5?

    This seems to be the awkward discussion all price-point branded retailers find themselves having when prices start to escalate – which they often do. Overall, Five Below has established a loyal following of mostly young people who are into cheap stuff. I think management is handling the higher price point issue as well as can be expected. Some people will be offended by the move; others won’t care or will hardly even notice.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Should customers just be paid for their data?

    I agree Cathy – appalled and stunned. Another notorious example is the now defunct Cambridge Analytica which claimed to have amassed up to 5,000 data points on 220 million Americans. How many people would be willing to share this much data about themselves? I'd bet close to 0 percent.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Should customers just be paid for their data?

    While it’s undeniable that consumer data is valuable, it’s very difficult to assign an actual value to it. Furthermore, I think it would be very difficult to put Pandora back in the box since so many people today give their data away for free. Despite these challenges, the idea of valuing data and providing financial compensation for consumers to give it out is interesting and I won’t be surprised to see "pay for personal data" options being introduced in the future.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    What happens now that Nike has called off its deal with Amazon?

    This is an important move for Nike and a strong signal to the market. As a leading global brand, Nike has the gravitas and marketing savvy to go it alone, showing that you don’t need Amazon to be successful online. Given the depth of online knowledge that Nike’s new CEO John Donahoe has as the former CEO of eBay, it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. In the short-term, this will have no significant impact on Amazon or likely Nike, but in the long-term, it may be a different story if other major brands follow Nike’s lead. For now, I think other brands will be watching very closely.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    Amazon confirms it will open a grocery store not named Whole Foods

    Grocery is a tough and highly competitive business and building out new a grocery chain from scratch is a very tall order even for the mighty Amazon. Given Whole Foods' relatively small size and niche in the massive grocery market it’s understandable that Amazon is looking to expand, but I’m not sure why Amazon wouldn’t acquire an existing grocery player instead of building from scratch – it’s curious.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Express Launches digital-first DTC wellness brand

    There are advantages for legacy retailers to launch digital-first brands. UpWest provides an opportunity to completely set the brand message, merchandise and experience without being shackled to Express. I think this is a smart play for Express. As far as the brand promise is concerned, it has to be more than just words – it’s not just what they say, it’s how they act that will matter. Time will tell if their brand message sustains and resonates with the target audience.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    Mr. Peck did a lot right over his 15 years with Gap Inc. However when people fall out of love with your brand, it can’t be easily fixed by improving processes, your online presence or by splitting brands apart for stock price reasons. Gap needs a leader who can find the magic in the brand again. To win the hearts and minds of today’s consumers. To find the magic. It won't be easy and it may require a complete transformation. In fashion, it has to start with the merchandise. I wish the new leader all the best, it won’t be easy.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    Experimentation and testing are critical to finding new ways forward, and so I applaud management for undertaking these initiatives. That said, this seems like changing light bulbs and the color of the life vests on the Titanic. J.C. Penney is facing huge challenges – existential challenges, I believe. They need to focus on fixing the basic/core operating model of the business. It’s hard to say what they might discover “works” in the lab store, but the initiatives described hardly sound like true innovations and more like a laundry list of buzzword concepts being thrown against the wall.

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