PROFILE

Raj B. Shroff

Founder & Principal, PINE Strategy & Design

Prior to founding Pine, Raj was VP of Brand, Strategy & Design at a global experience design firm. During his tenure there he led many turnkey research, strategy and retail design engagements and was a specialist in digital-retail integration; consulting clients and teams on mobile, VR, AR and the application of technology in experience. He has run many large-scale initiatives, having served in account leadership roles at Fitch (WPP), in the areas of Research, Retail, Brand and Product design and at Resource (now IBM iX), in Digital Experience & Marketing.

Clients he has served include Intel, P&G, Mars Wrigley, Unilever, Target, Walmart, Dollar General, LG (South Korea), Pernod Ricard (Mexico), Reliance Retail (India), Aditya Birla (India), Mahindra (India), Nestle, Tyson Foods, The North Face, SC Johnson, Gatorade, Carhartt, NFL and others. Raj is an industry speaker on topics such as the future of retail, branding, digital engagement and consumer behavior.

He is Adjunct Faculty at CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design) in the Masters of Design and Undergraduate Design Programs.

He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and two sons. He is an avid runner, reader, mentor and compulsive traveler. He started undergrad in Chemical Engineering but ended up in a self-directed program and holds an MBA in Strategy & Marketing from Ohio State University.

To learn more, visit: pinesd.com

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  • Posted on: 07/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond banks on private brands

    Bed Bath & Beyond is probably not the first place shoppers want to go to get out and find retail relief. And many of their commodity products can be bought on Amazon or shopped for at Target in a much more engaging atmosphere. So I don't think the current consumer mindset is great for Bed Bath & Beyond. Private brands can have a huge impact if they are strong, we've seen that from Kroger, Target and others. However I would argue that BB&B doesn't have a pulse on what its value proposition is, nor any essence of its reason for being. If the new executive team doesn't get that right, private label is a near-term feel good solution but won't make a lasting impact. They could look to Toys "R" Us for a very possible scenario for this business over time. I wish them luck but hope they are going to dig deeper.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

    Will Boomers and Gen X keep shopping online post-pandemic?

    I think the likelihood of older consumers returning to their old habits depends on the categories. For "need" items or more functional items, it seems those would remain as online purchases. However for the "want" items or more spur of the moment purchases, older shopper will go back to buying in stores. Humans are social animals, people will want to be around other people and many enjoy shopping in the physical world. To retain older consumers, retailers would need to make ordering and recurring purchases simple, curate reviews, offer price matching, and improve packaging to make it easier to open -- to name a few strategies.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2020

    Is consumer arrogance driving word-of-mouth recommendations?

    I think brands have to tap into how they make (or want to make) their customers feel. If they tap into that correctly, brand loyalists will talk about it, photograph it, or just show up with it. And that will attract others who feel the same way. Having people broadcast their "superiority" seems pretty off-putting but there is a segment of the world out there for whom it works.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    Will Walmart’s best shoppers ditch Amazon Prime for Walmart+?

    I would think any business would want to attract 50 percent of its most important customers to such a program and Walmart should be no different in wanting that spend and the membership fees, but at what cost? It will be tough to beat Amazon head to head so it's best for them to go after their most loyal shoppers and the long tail; pulling them further into the ecosystem to increase their CLV with fuel, credit card, etc. Incidentally, I was surprised to see some heavy cross use and wonder what unmet needs Amazon is filling for the Walmart shopper (general merchandise?) and what unmet need Walmart fills for the Amazon shopper (grocery?). I think people who can afford it will do both in order to maximize their benefit. This is an exciting development and it would be fun to see the scenarios they are running on whom to target.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Macy’s plans for the Christmas rush

    As many have said, it's too hard to predict whether we can expect shoppers on Black Friday, at least at traditional volumes. This provides an opportunity for retailers like Macy's to work on their e-commerce sites. Furthermore, they need to find more creative ways to make their e-comm work with their stores in a marketing and experience sense. Doing BOPIS, curb-side, etc is parity and expected; if retailers are still working that out, they are far behind. Like Stephen mentioned below, get creative, have fun, push some boundaries. Have more pointed marketing, tell visual stories online, help shoppers see a vision online. Especially for Macy's, they really have nothing to lose.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2020

    Amazon’s traffic is way up, but others are doing even better during the pandemic

    As Richard mentioned, the reason Amazon's major competitors have gained traffic is because fewer people are venturing out and have migrated to shopping from their physical retailer to its online presence. It is also easier to cross shop for items online via a click as opposed to needing to drive to another physical store location. In order to retain, retailers have to incentivize people to stay. As a Prime member, if I buy something from a non-Amazon site, my switching costs could include something as simple as my time to enter my credit card and shipping address or pay for shipping - these small things matter. Amazon keeps me through Prime membership and through subscribe and save. Many items shoppers' purchase are recurring items yet shoppers spend each trip making lists for the same items. Retailers can invest in technologies which allow for smarter, more timely and individualized reminders, suggestive sell online and perhaps bundling services, BOPIS incentives, bundles with fuel perks, brand partnerships, and strong private label offers. They'll have to get creative or else they'll get trounced.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2020

    Who should be Patagonia’s next CEO?

    I would say you need skills that are at parity for what you'd expect in a CEO. Much more important would be that person's values and drive to stand for something even if it is counter to pressures for profits. There's a great podcast on Patagonia from Business Wars. In that, it mentions Yvon was willing to walk away from profits for the sake of purpose. In the past, religious leaders and politicians are what we sought to guide us and drive positive change; it seems that the future for now lies in companies. Their leadership becomes the beacon and will be the lever for change. Whoever runs Patagonia should share those strong views. It helps they are private and their goal is less about becoming a behemoth and more about living their philosophy. So the measures for this CEO, while profitability and staying solvent will be there, are more about tying success to the qualitative compass.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2020

    Will Nike’s digital drive build stronger ‘one-to-one’ relationships with consumers?

    I don't know the intricacies of the Nike ecosystem (I'm a runner but I am a Garmin guy) but from the outside their approach seems more product-centric with generic customized services wrapped around it. Whereas Lululemon's Sweat, Grow and Connect strategy, for example, seems more human-centric with product and service opportunities abound. Absent to me in Nike is a human connection. I think it works for Nike but seems more transactional than a 1:1 "relationship." Are they on the right path? Time will tell.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2020

    Tanger Outlets brings personal shopper services online

    I agree with many of the comments here. This doesn't seem aligned with the outlet mall shopping/shopper mindset. However, I applaud Tanger for trying something innovative that will very much be a part of retail's future; especially when AI becomes more commonplace. If this doesn't pan out the way they intended, ideally they are learning some valuable lessons that can be applied to strengthen other areas of their business in the future.

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