PROFILE

Nikki Baird

VP of Strategy, Aptos
Nikki Baird is the vice president of strategy 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 Forbes.com 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.
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  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Are retailers and consumers misaligned on trust?

    I would be interested in chipping away a bit more on the consumer top requirements for trust - affordable products, treats employees well, quality products. The first and third seem to be contradictory to the overall perception of consumer demands for social responsibility, especially as it pertains to sustainability. But I suspect if you dug into those high-level concepts, you'd find that demands for sustainability are getting wrapped into definitions of "affordable" and "quality." And companies should pay close attention to that second one - treats employees well. Will the day come that your Glassdoor reviews are more important than product reviews? Probably not - but it might become a real consideration in where consumers send their dollars.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2022

    Instacart has a family plan to build shopping carts

    This is a personal pet peeve of mine, trying to get my family to use one digital shopping list so that we don't have to chase everyone down or deal with "Oh, but I really needed to get...". Every option we've tried breaks or requires resetting logins often enough that it's just not worth it. I'm not sure that Instacart has put all the depth in it that a group shopping list/wish list really needs, but I have to give them props for trying - this kind of thing is apparently way harder than it seems on the surface! As someone who is not an Instacart user (edge of the suburbs, sigh), is this enough to get me to join? No. Cost, reliability of delivery - those are much bigger barriers.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2022

    Should Starbucks end its open bathroom policy?

    I think that last paragraph is the most important: if you don't have safe and happy associates, you're not going to have safe and happy customers. And if limiting the number of people in your store helps associates better serve customers, then that's a good thing for customers. And while I realize that Starbucks had inadvertently taken on a challenging social issue, I do question why this is all on Starbucks. What has happened to public restrooms that Starbucks has become the de facto provider? I know the answer - budget cuts, unsafe spaces, unclean spaces that aren't monitored or maintained. But cities have a responsibility here too!
  • Posted on: 06/13/2022

    Should retailers charge for curbside pickup?

    It made sense to offer curbside during the height of the pandemic. But with the exception of grocery, I now mostly see empty curbside parking spaces. Putting higher and higher minimums and/or charging for the service to me is just the beginning of the end for "peak curbside."
  • Posted on: 06/03/2022

    Are off-pricers holding a glass that is half-full or half-empty?

    I think it was a bit bleak over the course of the pandemic for discounters in part because there just wasn't a lot of closeout inventory. But supply chain disruptions mean more opportunities for discounters - and they are rapidly rebuilding their inventories as a result of the fits and starts of the supply chain attempting to straighten itself out. And just in time for consumers looking for better deals in the face of inflation. For apparel, however, it's important to note that the longer/slower supply chains protect apparel retailers from the sharp inflationary shocks seen in food. But it's also more discretionary, so probably the first place where consumers will cut back as inflation starts to really bite.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2022

    Are consumers stumped by percent-off promos?

    I can say that our retail customers LOVE BOGOs - Buy one get one, in all its infinite varieties. Buy one get one for 50 percent off (effective 25 percent discount), or buy more save more as well (spend $100, save $25, spend $200, save $60). So I would guess these are some pretty effective promos, at least in terms of driving sales. I think a bigger concern, though, is making sure that the promo offered is actually profitable. My Revionics colleagues have a strong opinion about this: something like only 20 percent of promos offered actually are profitable. The rest might drive top line sales, but just give margin away. So apparently, it's not just consumers who struggle with promo math...
  • Posted on: 05/31/2022

    Victoria’s Secret creates an online marketplace for women-led brands

    I believe this is the wrong question. The right question to ask would be, "will this lab effort be enough to overcome the backlash against VS for not being women-focused enough?" I think it's a step in the right direction. I think they still have a long way to go before they are going to reclaim the level of relevancy that Aerie and other more naturally inclusive brands have achieved with young women today. I'm not sure they can do more to accelerate it - this kind of transformation takes time, both to achieve internally and to seep into customers' perceptions of the brand.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2022

    Does Amazon have an edge in capturing America’s youth?

    As the parent of two Gen Zers, I can attest that Amazon's appeal is a combination of getting to use my Prime membership for free and the convenience of the breadth of the assortment. Between my college engineering son's 3-D printing filament, motors, speed controllers, etc. and my high school daughter's art supplies, makeup, and cosplay supplies, someone out there must think I'm building a hell of a robot, but in reality it's just my kids getting Prime for free. How will that change when they have to pay for it themselves? I don't know that this is a slam dunk. My daughter buys new clothes only rarely - she's all in on resale and vintage. She doesn't trust Shein for quality and feels good about herself for buying resale - so while Gen Z's use of Amazon today indicates powerful forces difficult to overcome, that guilt factor could definitely turn into something, especially when they're facing their own membership fee to get that free shipping.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2022

    Will JCPenney’s core customers come back and show their love?

    Carol, I think your point about authenticity is really important -- that's a great catch. Unless you're using someone to bring an already existing fictional brand icon to life (Wendy? Colonel Sanders? The Burger King? Why is it all food that comes to mind?!?), in this day and age authenticity should be the default assumption of how to go to market.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2022

    Will JCPenney’s core customers come back and show their love?

    I lived through that centralization! Totally forgot about that!
  • Posted on: 04/07/2022

    Will JCPenney’s core customers come back and show their love?

    I love JCP - it was one of my first real retail jobs. And I would dearly love to see it succeed. But, no. I was just in a store this weekend, prom shopping. Rather than JCP investing in advertising, I would strongly encourage the company to invest in its stores. What a sad, sorry place. In a high-end mall (Park Meadows), it felt like JCP was the new Kmart. Ugh.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2022

    Nordstrom brings leadership for department stores and Rack under one roof

    I think this is a good move. Separate leadership requires a lot more coordination to maintain a single strategy - it's too tempting, when your performance is evaluated on one particular chain, to make decisions that are good for Nordstrom Rack, for example, but run counter to the objectives of the company as a whole. That said, it may mean more changes to come for Rack - most retailers who have pursued a separate approach to their off-price brand have attracted shoppers to that brand that will never make the leap to the full price store. With potentially two separate customers, what is there to make "seamless" about a unified experience? So the question becomes, SHOULD they be two separate customers? Does off-price cannibalize full-price? Does it distract from focusing on full-price, with off-price only as a discount/inventory outlet? At the very least, considering them as parts of a whole, rather than two separate chains, should provide the focus to answer those questions.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2022

    Is curbside pickup-only grocery a viable business model?

    In considering appeal, I think you have to consider a lot more than you typically would in thinking through location strategy, assortment, etc. The success of this model is going to depend heavily on the convenience of the location to the geography you're trying to pull from - and when we're right in the middle of a very disrupted work model, there's a lot of risk in that. Are WFH workers going to go back to the daily grind of commuting? Is this location along a daily commute route or is it positioned for those 15-minute cities everyone talks about as the future? Assortment - 4,000 SKUs in grocery is just not a lot. And what I've learned about online grocery shopping as a consumer is that until I get into a rhythm/pattern or build a strong starting list, I forget a lot of things. A LOT. Can you add on when you get to the store? And are you going to be successful in winning effectively part of a basket because you don't carry the 10 out of 30 that I need to buy weekly? Is the convenience going to be enough to overcome the fact that I would now need to shop at two places to fill my weekly basket? These are not small questions - as an experiment, this is interesting. As a business model, there is so much risk here I don't know how it can be successful.
  • Posted on: 03/31/2022

    Best Buy and others find great customer experiences start with data insights

    I feel like this is a bit of a Joe Science Award-worthy revelation. But it's true that getting good, quantitative data - that is meaningful, an important distinction - about the customer experience is very difficult. And this is doubly true of the customer experience in the store. While it's true that retailers can be more data-driven than they are about this, and that is easier to achieve today than it was five, 10, or 20 years ago, retailers need to be careful that they don't mistake data gathered about the digital part of the customer experience (which is rich and plentiful) as something representative of the entire customer experience which leverages the store a LOT. You can only analyze what you measure, and if you are unable to measure a large part of the customer experience, for whatever reason, you're going to make potentially huge mistakes in your conclusions.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2022

    Will swimwear become Victoria’s Secret weapon?

    Oh, Vicky's. A company that has SO lost its way and still has not figured out how to find it. Let's not forget that VS used to sell swimwear and, by most accounts, it was a pretty successful business for them until it was killed by leadership for no apparent reason. It's great that they're finally recognizing that they alienated a lot of customers with the original move and are looking to put it back into the lineup, but I feel like the world has moved on. Does VS know what women want? Has this become so much of an unanswered question for them that they must invest in women-owned companies to get access to that kind of expertise? I sincerely hope VS can regain some cachet in the market, but I don't know that the company can recover from not understanding major market shifts that companies like Aerie (Aeropostale) and Third Love have already capitalized on. And "investing in a swimwear company" is not going to be enough to do that by any stretch.

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