Nikki Baird

VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
Nikki Baird is the vice president of Retail Innovation at Aptos, a retail enterprise solution provider. She is charged with accelerating retailers’ ability to innovate. She has been a top global retail industry influencer for several years, with a background in retail and technology. She is a regular contributor to and has been quoted as a retail subject matter expert in <i>The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington Post</i>, and National Public Radio, among many others. Nikki brings perspective from all sides of the retail technology equation: she has been an industry analyst for nearly fifteen years, co-founding Retail Systems Research, the premier boutique analyst firm focused on the retail industry. Prior to co-founding RSR, Nikki was an analyst at both Forrester Research and Retail Systems Alert Group, where she covered retail industry and technology topics. Prior to that, she was director of marketing for StorePerform, a store execution management software provider, and director of product marketing for Viewlocity, a supply chain software provider focusing on adaptive supply chain execution and exception management. Nikki came to Viewlocity from PwC Consulting, now IBM Global Services, where as a senior manager she led IT strategy consulting engagements for retail and CPG clients. Nikki has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, focusing on operations and IT. She also holds a bachelor of arts in political science and Russian, with a minor in physics, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2021

    Bud is latest major brand player to punt on Super Bowl spots

    I don't want to downplay the move -- I think it's a huge win all around. But I wish they had also committed to helping create the PSAs for COVID awareness, and not just devoting the air time. This is a time when super-high-end creatives could make a huge impact on public awareness.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2021

    Will Godiva’s stores ever come back from the pandemic?

    Without knowing the specifics of their financial situation, which may necessitate something this drastic, I would say that I think this is an over-reaction. There will be Godiva stores again in the future. There are just too many pressures that will lead them back down this road: the need to define and own "the Godiva experience," too much competition for shelf space and too much consolidation in retail distribution, which just gives brands less and less power that way. If only for the Instagrammability, Godiva will need at least some physical locations. Maybe not 128 of them, but they will need some.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2021

    Should store associates deliver online orders?

    I have long wondered why more retailers don't take a harder look at this, rather than outsourcing to Instacart or a service like that. The only thing I can think of is that retailers don't want to invest the time and energy to doing it - they're taking the easy way out. But as Rick points out, you have an opportunity to own that experience - and differentiate it. The model is there. Pizza delivery has been doing this for years. And the idea of bringing expertise to the front door that not only delivers the order but can give you tips and tricks on the spot - how can you beat that? I do the rough math in my head and I just can't make the business case NOT pay off - this has to be cheaper to deliver and higher value to customers than some third-party service. And note the initial push in areas where there are multiple stores, which means taking a portfolio approach to store locations to ultimately better serve customers by geography, rather than focusing on "doors."
  • Posted on: 01/14/2021

    7-Elevens could be destined to undergo a konbinification

    There are two parts to this question, really. One is, will U.S. consumers accept 7-Eleven as a "premium" brand? I think there is going to have to be a LOT of investment in branding in order to make that repositioning successful, either that or they should plan a slow rollout measured in decades, not years or months. Two, and I would say this runs counter to the brand perception issue, 7-Eleven needs to think about the long-range future of what drives a consumer to a c-store, and what they expect to do once they get there, and this konbini style concept seems to support that well. If we move hard towards electric vehicles in the next decade or two, the c-store that is designed more as a way station is going to have a lot more going for it. Even the fastest battery charge takes much longer than it takes to fill a tank of gas, and having a service-orientation (rather than grab and go) will serve them well.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2021

    Shopify dumps Trump’s stores from its platform

    Well, after my comments yesterday, I can hardly stay away from this one! It's an easy move to make on January 7 and, in my opinion, justified. But now that Trump has put out a statement in effect conceding, Shopify is going to enter a gray area that will be very challenging - has the organization redeemed itself now in terms of their policies? If the organization or any of its representatives then reverse themselves and start repeating old debunked conspiracies (or starts spinning new ones), does that put these stores back in violation of Shopify's policies? I think this is a bigger problem for retail, and it is remarkably similar to the problems facing social media platforms. Who ultimately bears responsibility for what individuals in the community do? Should Amazon be held accountable if a third-party seller is able to sell goods on the platform that are toxic or dangerous or that they are not licensed to sell? Should Shopify be held accountable if it enables sellers that support terrorist or seditionist organizations? I think 2021 is going to be the year we find out for social media platforms. I think retailers should be watching closely because it will have direct impact on them as well.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2021

    Retailers call on Trump to end the national chaos he created

    I think every single person (and business) needs to look at themselves and ask both, what have I done that has made this possible, and what can I do now to make sure that my actions (or lack thereof) never enable something like this again. Someone manufactured and sold and delivered those Confederate flags. Someone manufactured and sold and delivered those "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirts. Just like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube are being forced to confront their enabling behaviors for spreading and connecting militias and seditionists, retailers with open marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy need to confront their enabling behaviors for the retail market for militias and seditionists. Statements are great, but it's not just the government that has a responsibility to act.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2021

    Have retailers solved their long line problems?

    I have to say, the two innovations that I hope stick around are reservations and mobile checkout. As some have already pointed out, lines happened in some stores before the pandemic, so solutions here will live beyond the need to ration customers in stores for safety purposes. But reservations are one area where I think retailers might be tempted to downplay or eliminate once they don't have capacity pressures, when they should not, because nothing gives you more information about a customer than when they tell you who they are, when they're coming, and maybe even what they're interested in getting help with - hours or days before they ever show up. Don't let that immensely valuable information go to the wayside! And it's a win for customers too - to know that they'll get the help they need as soon as they walk in the door. No time wasted for anyone in that scenario!
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Albertsons ditching in-house drivers to deliver online orders

    I agree - I have wondered what the ultimate impact will be on the retailer's brand loyalty if they outsource a major customer touchpoint. I get that the costs are still not optimized - the last mile is expensive and hard which is why grocers had never really cracked that nut before. Outsourcing it doesn't make it any less expensive or hard. But it does put an intermediary between the customer and the retailer, which ultimately may cost a retailer much more in lifetime value.
  • Posted on: 12/23/2020

    Will online delivery go more eco-friendly post-pandemic?

    Here's my dilemma. Society moved away from glass to plastic for a lot of reasons: it doesn't break when you drop it, it's lighter, supposedly it was more recyclable. Turns out plastic didn't really price in the environmental impact of it and it's not as recyclable as we'd been told. But that whole heavy/breakable problem still remains. I think the idea of moving to more sustainable packaging appeals to a lot of consumers. But there are a lot of logistical things that will make this shift hard. Will retailers and brands have to get into the business of "owning" the full lifecycle of their products, including packaging? I think the answer is yes. Not in 2021, and maybe not even in 2030, but still yes. But consumers are going to be asked to give up a lot of convenience and a lot of time savings in order to take this on. Motivated consumers will do that - but that limits the market and appeal. To really have an impact, it will need to have a much broader appeal than that.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2020

    Will store certifications make customers feel safer?

    It's good marketing and worth the effort, if you look at it from a branding perspective. As far as reassuring shoppers, I doubt it will have much impact. It's not the stores themselves that are so questionable. It's the other shoppers.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2020

    Can ‘boo-bags’ save Halloween?

    Any activity you can drive is going to be good activity, as long as you're not creating a super-spreader event in the process. I think the retailers who are going to have the least room to be creative are mall-based retailers - normally, not a bad place to take your kid, especially if the weather's bad or you don't have a good neighborhood to walk. This year, I don't see that happening. I'm intrigued by the fact that consumers are still spending strongly on Halloween, especially on candy. I suspect some families are making up for no trick-or-treating or parties with home celebrations. If I had young kids, I'd be tapping into Easter tricks to create Halloween candy hunts and craft activities and maybe watching a bunch of Halloween movies. Maybe even a costume fashion show to share with family. But not going out to a bunch of other people's houses. That would be another way retailers could support families during another event trashed by COVID-19 - helping them create memorable experiences at home.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves

    One thing any manufacturer operating in the Apple ecosystem knows: they don't care about the ecosystem around their products. Just ask case manufacturers, which is even a place where you would think Apple would want to encourage an ecosystem. Half the time, Apple won't even give them a heads up as to where buttons or switches move (or disappear) until the product is in the market, leaving those manufacturers scrambling to keep up. Good idea or bad idea, I don't think any manufacturer has any illusions about whether they can rely on Apple as a channel. It's a company that is built on a tightly integrated offering that they provide in its entirety.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2020

    New Jersey hops back on the bag ban bandwagon

    It's the worst of both worlds: concerns that the virus can be spread through contact with surfaces, and the environmental impact of going back to a world of single-use plastics that aren't being recycled nearly as much as we'd like to believe. I don't know where the science has really come down on whether it's okay for people to bring in their own bags while shopping. But with an 18-month timeline on the NJ law, that's a pretty conservative approach to saying, "hey, this single-use stuff can't keep going forever." And they're right about that.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2020

    Store IoT platforms are set to go mainstream

    I think retailers consistently underestimate the value that digitizing all kinds of information could have for them, and the black hole of stores is one area where it is particularly disregarded. I'm hoping someone decides to take the leap and light up a whole bunch of stores AND dedicate people and analytics to understanding what can be learned - because you need both halves to really get to the value. But I fear the long term impact of the pandemic will be that this takes much longer to get to than Gartner is saying.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2020

    Retailers and brands shortchange cross-platform analytics tools

    There is a constant pendulum swing related to channels and insights - retailers invest to get one view of the customer, but then customer behavior shifts to new forms of interaction that are outside of the retailer's current ability to track. Retailers shift their attention to attaining mastery of the new channels but focus less on that consolidated view - until the customer view gets so fractured that they have to make new investments in analytics to get that single view back. This is a cycle with no end - retailers would do well to view one view of the customer or customer analytics not as a project but as a lifestyle.

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