PROFILE

Phil Rubin

CEO, rDialogue

Phil is CEO of rDialogue, an Atlanta-based customer marketing firm with clients ranging from mid-market to Fortune 100 and in industries including retail, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, dining, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Representative clients include Caribou Coffee, Cracker Barrel, Kimpton Hotels and Sprint, as well as a number of clients that can’t be named like a world famous customer-centric department store.

He has nearly 20 years of strategic marketing experience with an emphasis on customer loyalty and relationship marketing, integrated communications, partnership development, promotions and program development. He founded the loyalty practice at Loyaltyworks and led the spin-off of the practice to rDialogue. Prior to Loyaltyworks he was Group Vice President and General Manager of The Lacek Group, a loyalty marketing firm now part of OgilvyOne. While at Lacek he established the Atlanta office and was responsible for leading the development and implementation of relationship marketing strategies on behalf of clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cox Communications and UPS.

Phil has developed and managed loyalty and relationship marketing as a client both at Midway Airlines and at GTE Wireless (now Verizon). He began his career going through Macy’s Executive Training Program and working in store management.

Phil has an M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing and Strategy from Tulane University and a B.S. in finance from L.S.U.

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  • Posted on: 11/13/2020

    Should C-suite execs keep their opinions to themselves on store visits?

    There is value in what Mr. Mackey suggests for a variety of reasons. First, store visits are often so unrealistic, especially when they are expected. Stores generally never look better than when a senior executive is expected to visit. Standards aside, what about when a store is performing poorly and yet looks impeccable from a merchandising standpoint? Store standards are one thing and performance is another. Poor performance isn't always a function of the store on its own but also should include what the buying/merchant teams are planning and allocating for the store. The converse, of course, is also true.
  • Posted on: 11/05/2020

    Did Gap just learn that no good tweet goes unpunished?

    Bob Phibbs nailed it, but I'd simply add -- to Gap -- stand for something or you stand for nothing. Yes people are angry, but how can you argue with trying to unify our country? E pluribus unum!
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Retailers say the new stimulus plan can’t wait until after the election

    Fed Chairman Powell made this clear as did the markets. A new stimulus plan needs to not only address putting money directly in the hands of the unemployed, it needs to address the industries that have been destroyed that we will ultimately need for the economy to fully recover. Those include small business, independent restaurants and clubs, entertainment more broadly and, of course, the travel industry. Trump was smart to reverse his stupid decision yesterday and we can only hope he doesn't further burn things down over the next month. The best news is that the people have the ultimate say, and that happens in less than a month.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2020

    Will Levi’s Secondhand store give the brand a sustainable advantage?

    Levi's started pivoting to the customer 5ish years ago and the results are obvious. While staying true to the brand, they have done a series of smart things, recognizing the value in their heritage not just for the business, but for customers. Given that apparel is one of the worst industries in terms of its environmental impact, this is smart. Given that extending the lifecycle of goods, whether through resale or rental, is increasingly not only accepted but expected, it's even smarter. For all. Except for competitors.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2020

    Are employees or execs holding back data-driven cultures?

    The painfully obvious answer: CEOs and corporate boards. One of my favorite quotes related to this, which we use to support the idea of leveraging customer data and specifically comp customer (vs. comp store) metrics comes from a lawyer, Louis Lowenstein, who was also a professor at Columbia: "You manage what you measure." He wrote this related to "Financial Transparency and Corporate Governance" in Columbia Law Review. To wit (I'm not a lawyer but have been accused of looking like one), only companies that are clear loyalty leader like Amazon and Charles Schwab report comp customer metrics.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2020

    J.C. Penney rescued. Will it now find success and save the mall, too?

    Pardon the analogy; J.C. Penney has been saved a near-certain death (liquidation) but what about quality of life? As I've written before, there is nothing about J.C. Penney that is relevant and unfortunately, the same can be said for many other value-oriented department stores. J.C. Penney has been a second tier department store for decades and even with less competition, it's hard to make a bullish case. Even more so given the recession, which will likely linger for a long time.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2020

    Is it okay for retailers to ease up on cleaning their stores?

    Safety and security as new loyalty currencies (or drivers of loyalty) are here for a long time and that is a direct result of the virus. Consumers have developed new habits like wearing masks and using hand sanitizer. As long as these actions are maintained, if not required, and given the emotional effect of the pandemic, expectations that merchants act accordingly (and maintain clean surfaces) are not going to abate anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Has COVID-19 revealed pickup’s pain points?

    Not surprisingly, technology is lagging for those retailers new to this type or degree of curbside fulfillment. Considering the overall state of retail CX pre-COVID-19, these numbers aren’t terrible! The bigger issues are with customer support which, for many retailers, is just terrible and slow to catch up with customers’ needs.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2020

    Can off-pricers overcome second-quarter turbulence?

    It hard to see the off-pricers - particularly those in the soft goods categories -- fully recovering any time soon, perhaps ever, as the Retail Darwinism continues. Five reasons:
    1. Inventories are low and unless the big boxes offer up what they couldn't sell during the spring, things might get worse next year. As manufacturers reduce and "right-size" production, and focus on higher margin business, the challenges will continue.
    2. The challenge extends with being largely physical in an environment that prioritizes e-commerce. The off-price chains, especially those focused on soft goods, have always lagged in the e-commerce world, hence the rise of brands like Gilt, Haute Look and Net-a-Porter. The latter have had their own struggles.
    3. There is contraction for all kinds of reason in many soft good categories beyond casual wear. And there are plenty of alternative, better-branded outlets for those goods, including manufacturers' own factory stores. If you support the thesis that strong brands will reduce their indirect business, then you have to also conclude that that applies to off-price as well.
    4. Competition from Amazon, Target and Walmart, not to mention falling brands like Macy's and J.C. Penney. The latter are increasingly de facto off-price retailers as they can't sell goods at full price and haven't in years.
    5. Inertia from the continuing pandemic will be hard to overcome. Consumer shopping habits have changed and that is going to be difficult to reverse. People might be anxious to get out and visit a store, but if it's an inferior experience they won't likely return with the frequency required for off-price to succeed.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2020

    What? Should Nike drop Zappos and others to focus on consumer-direct?

    Nike directly communicated this strategy to the Street a few years ago and clearly the pandemic has accelerated this as it has with other aspects of brands' retail efforts specific to digital acceleration. The financial aspects, control of the customer experience (what happened to the Nike branded store inside of Amazon?) and the direct customer addressability and visibility (i.e., tracking) make this a wise move.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2020

    Will Kohl’s gain from other retailers’ pain?

    Good is not great. Kohl's is in a decent position largely due to its financial situation, customer base and brands within its assortments. Will it capture share from others' declines? Perhaps but I expect that Kohl's will under-index against retailers with better digital commerce operations and from smart brands prioritizing digital DTC rather than indirect wholesale such as through Kohl's. Retail stores are an expensive way to fulfill online orders, and longer-term it's hard to see Kohl's as a performance leader given its footprint and the structural shifts from physical retail.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Is the Walmart/Instacart pilot a sign of big delivery news to come?

    It's hard to see Walmart co-existing with other large retailers and it's hard to see Instacart giving up those others. I think Ben Ball has it right and that if successful, WMT will try to buy Instacart. It's incredibly interesting to see how WMT is making a series of very smart moves to better position itself against Amazon, while AMZN looks at options to replicate some WMT's physical advantages (i.e., through the apparent discussions with Simon about taking some of the mall spaces from JCP, Macy's and others. And keep in mind that this is all against a backdrop where the other players in both department store and mass merchant categories are either struggling, dying or trying to reinvent and stay relevant. What interesting times we are living and working in!
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Is the Walmart/Instacart pilot a sign of big delivery news to come?

    Therein lies the challenge and the opportunity -- agree with you both that these experience are wildly inconsistent. Our experience in Atlanta is that WFM/AMZN are much more reliable than Instacart.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2020

    Simon sees a big and profitable upside in acquiring retail tenants

    I'm happy to be a contrarian in this discussion. Simon has little choice but to make some kind of pivot, such as acquiring bankrupt retailers, as physical retail is not going to return to its prior size. Many of these retailers, however, are bankrupt for good reasons -- including their own irrelevance and lack of customer focus. Those that are iconic and mono-brand, like Brooks Brothers, are worthy of consideration, but so many others have little in the way of brand power, pricing power or reason for being in general. The U.S. was over-stored before the pandemic and like so many other aspects, it's simply accelerated and amplified many trends that were already in place, including the shift to digital commerce.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2020

    Will Amazon install distribution hubs in malls across America?

    If this happens, and I wouldn't bet on it for either Simon or Amazon, it will likely fall under the category (pardon the movie reference) of "it seemed like a good idea at the time." Simon needs this much more than Amazon as the value proposition and economics of Amazon Prime is unlikely to drive customers to malls to pick up goods that arrive on their doorsteps today. Many, many malls, and many of their tenants, are toast, but less relevant than something you can eat for breakfast (or at every meal, like Elwood Blues).

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