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: 10/26/2020

    Where are curbside and BOPIS services falling short?

    The pain points are what fellow panelists have already mentioned. As for new features and processes, I can think of a handful. For those of us in cold climates, a vestibule or another type of covered structure would be great. Lockers outside with orders ready to go. Using geo-location so the store knows I'm there versus calling or texting has to come soon. I also think future site selections will consider where BOPIS/curbside can be optimized. Our Kroger put theirs out back whereas most shoppers shop from the front of the store. Since they are in a strip mall, this is the best of the alternatives but not ideal. And we will see more store designs factoring this new way of shopping from the ground up.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    Amazon will pay you to know what you bought somewhere else

    They will use the data to gain insight into why people aren't buying that item(s) on Amazon. If they start to see patterns, they will evaluate the LTV of getting into those categories; making their own private label, finding better vendors, adjusting pricing, etc. I think others are doing this already but not in this fashion. Others are doing more isolated studies to answer specific questions. If Walmart or others with wide reach can translate this more longitudinal insight into some benefit then, yes, they will try similar programs.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Whole Foods draw more Prime shoppers with one-hour curbside pickup?

    I believe that the press around Whole Foods adding curbside and them adding the "one-hour" component will put Whole Foods on the radar of Prime members who don't already shop Whole Foods. I think the upside is the press and the learning Whole Foods will get. The downside would be if they couldn't consistently meet the one-hour promise. Another concern, mentioned in the article, is the traffic created and experience disrupted by pickers and packers. I would imagine Amazon's next step is doing a half fulfillment warehouse/half store concept under one roof.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?

    I really don't see more pros than cons in this. David mentioned Blockbuster below; along those lines, this story makes me think of the music industry and independent record shops, there aren't many left but the ones that exist have a loyal audience. I tend to agree with a few fellow panelists below that this feels like a negative approach and just won't jive with most consumers. This is a tough one as many of us value the independent shops but when voting with our time and wallets, the independents don't always have a place in our schedules. I would hope ABA is doing some research, looking for unmet needs that their members could fill.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    I totally agree, Lee.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Will FAO Schwarz make Target a bigger player in toys?

    I think the category is as important as ever but I wouldn't pin holiday success on it. While I think FAO Schwarz is a powerful name and the brand definitely speaks to a segment, I think more partnerships with YouTubers and celebrities and collaborations on product development would be much more exciting for slightly older kids (7+). If mom is familiar with the toy, she's honestly probably going to Amazon. Target will need to get in front of this with visual merchandising in-store, strong web UX, possibly more curation of items and insight into the tips the guest needs to make informed decisions on toys. It will be fun to see how this "plays" out!
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    I think the business need is that customers have told Walmart they need help navigating the tech world. Sounds like they've found an unmet need in terms of affordable tech support for their shoppers. The service's lower priced position is aligned with what the Walmart shopper needs. It could provide a boost to Walmart sales if shoppers are trying to decide where to buy their electronics. Or if they've bought items elsewhere and need help. Definitely an opportunity for them to gain share with their loyal shoppers who have either never considered this or who have used Geek Squad but are attracted to this lower price offer. Maybe they can deliver groceries while they are making the house calls.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    What’s behind the Amazon/SpartanNash deal?

    It offers insight that Amazon is going full on into grocery. Bezos says he builds business strategies around behaviors that won't change; humans will be eating food for the foreseeable future. The investment offers them access to insight and a bigger seat at the table, allowing them to accelerate their learnings. A major reason an acquisition makes sense is they have a better safeguard to ensure that SN can support their scale, especially if they rapidly expand grocery. Without that access, it could be riskier to lean so heavily on an external supplier.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2020

    Amazon rolls out virtual vacation tours that include shopping

    I think virtual shopping absolutely holds appeal for consumers. And I love this idea as it evolves the way we use the web and engage with physical experiences. There is also a tremendous amount of learning Amazon will get on how to engage people in their homes via a web interaction. I could see this evolving into full suites of e-retail similar to Zoom trade show rooms and many other possibilities as e-commerce evolves. There are a few Chinese companies doing remote retail via web but it's not clear if they are doing the classes and tours part. I don't see large retail rivals here doing this, they aren't set up for it and are trying to catch-up with their traditional digital efforts. If anything I would see Netflix, Facebook or Google/YouTube trying to do something similar to capitalize on their ecosystems. I love to read about exciting things like this and I hope it pans out the way they envision and more.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

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

    I do think timely action is needed on a new stimulus and am glad the President reversed course this morning upon realizing how unpopular his comments yesterday were. It is unfortunate that both sides politicize each and every issue, often forgetting about the impact on those they govern. Similar to the last round, it should be temporary and targeted. As for elements of a new plan, I hope this round is more efficient and there is better accountability.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves

    I think it makes sense for Apple to remove all rival products. If sales of the competitive products were significant enough they wouldn't be removing them. Specialty stores such as Vans, Crocs, etc don't carry other brands. Apple shouldn't emulate Amazon or Google with regard to computing and related products.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2020

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

    Seems like a smart move for the brand's image and jumping on the trend at a time when many are financial constrained. As for helping its financial results, it is not clear if there would be a huge impact, trends have shifted toward leisure wear and the secondhand market seems to be a big winner with a small group of shoppers. The advantage they have over other resellers could be breadth of assortment and ease of access versus others who might have better curation but less to choose from and could be hard to access online. This could also help them jump on trends faster as the audience for this might be trendier folks looking for unique styles. Glad to see them putting forth this effort.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2020

    New Jersey hops back on the bag ban bandwagon

    I'm not sure why we are still debating this topic. Ban plastic bags. It's pretty simple. Unless an easier way to create recyclable versions becomes cost effective. Will bans lead to widespread use of reusable bags? I guess so, unless use boxes or companies like Loop succeed with other innovations.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2020

    Will same-day deliveries be a difference maker for Bed Bath & Beyond?

    For Bed Bath & Beyond's omnichannel capabilities to stand out, the retailer will need to figure out its identity. As an outsider, it's hard to say what the filters are for decisions around anything there. All the great brands have a reason for being, it's unclear what Bed Bath & Beyond's is. Their business will likely continue to get eroded from all sides as the Amazons, Targets, Walmarts and others of the world chip away at their business. They are marked for a slow death unless they really do some internal deep dives on meaning and value proposition. I hope they have, but everything seems surface level to me.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2020

    Store IoT platforms are set to go mainstream

    Retailers should have been thinking about this before the pandemic. It might accelerate it but those on its trajectory had already see its potential for improving efficiency and experience. As for potential understanding of network effects, in theory they do, it's a basic concept. The challenges will be implementation due to cost, existing legacy systems and general understanding of tech by senior management. New upstarts with tech savvy founders would bake IoT into their infrastructure and try to leapfrog many technologies used in retail today.

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