Shikha Jain

Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Shikha is a Senior Director in the Boston office.

Since joining Simon-Kucher in 2012, Shikha has specialized on all topics related topline growth. Her portfolio of clients spans the B2C world within consumer goods, durables, cosmetics, fashion/apparel, grocery, consumer services, consumer internet and luxury goods. Shikha works with C-level executives to find solutions for effective go-to-market strategies across price strategy and optimization, portfolio architecture, promotional effectiveness, consumer segmentation and value proposition and revenue management organization creation. While her work has been primarily in the US, she has experience across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Shikha graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in strategy and marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics from Smith College. Prior to her MBA, Shikha was an Analyst for a global investment bank focusing on M&A and capital markets advisory.

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Shikha Jain is a Partner based out of Boston. Her primary focus is on everything B2C from packaged goods, durables/discretionary purchases, consumer services, retail including fashion/apparel, grocery etc. The topics she covers are commercial excellence, portfolio architecture, monetizing innovation and new products, value creation through pricing and promotions as well as anything else that touches topline growth.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2020

    Will 2020 be the year the holiday selling season changed forever?

    Retailers may be right in anticipating (or stirring up) enthusiasm for the holidays well in advance. Many are particularly eager for this holiday season after a difficult year and might start preparing earlier than normal, especially with fewer seasonal social engagements due to distancing, leaving a little extra time on their hands. Nevertheless, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain the best opportunity to snag deals in the American mind, so retailers shouldn’t expect lengthening the promotion period to completely buffer the fulfillment challenges around that weekend (or the days of last-minute shopping leading up to Christmas). The downside to extending the holiday selling period is that it kills some of the buzz around annual sale days. If shoppers start to think “I can get those deals anytime in the next two months,” then the incentive around urgency to get it while it’s hot goes down, along with the excitement around shopping in general. While it could prove a boon for the unusual challenges of 2020, for retailers to make this an established practice could be shooting themselves in the foot.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s continue thriving without delivery and curbside pickup?

    Prior to the pandemic, online grocery was growing faster than the overall grocery market and predicted to more than double from 2018 to 2023. Of course, the pandemic will have expedited this trend that was already in motion. Has Trader Joe’s missed out on an enormous opportunity to capture a massive market by losing online grocery shopper segments? It’s possible, but the fact of the matter is that many Trader Joe’s shoppers go there for the experience itself—sampling and discovering new, novelty products and plucking them off the shelves, the small, neighborhood feel, etc. This could explain the trends found by as the general population begins to warm back up to (masked) in-store shopping. And there’s something to be said for the emotional appeal they make with the prioritization of “their people” in a very emotional time. Trader Joe’s has always been distinct from other grocery stores and is continuing to make that distinction during this time, further solidifying their brand identity and what they stand for. Time will tell if this noble endeavor pays off.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2020

    Beauty becomes a digital beast

    The short answer is yes. Shoppers have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping (any time, any place), and the technologies that facilitate it are always improving especially augmented reality in an industry that is highly try before you buy based. The in-person consultation experience is what fosters trust and brand loyalty, and it will become less and less relevant as more beauty companies enable these relationships online. The trick to success will be building connections in a virtual environment. There will be a bit of a whiplash effect for consumers around in-store shopping for some time -- many will maintain caution around physical touch aspects. This goes for any industry where sales traditionally rely on high-touch shopping, from furniture to apparel and beyond, and these categories would do well to take a cue from beauty. The trend should be somewhat predictable: how often have we seen a shift to digital revert back to physical? Rarely is this a pendulum swing; it is more often a constant evolution.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

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

    Months of living in a pandemic world has been habit-forming, but so are 60+ years of living. It’s true that while many Boomers used to shy away from online shopping due to a lack of confidence with the digital world, some have a newfound sense of ease with and appreciation for it, thanks largely to Amazon. Nevertheless, this generation’s behavioral pliability is probably less than those after them simply due to their age. Older consumers may maintain a remnant of pandemic purchasing patterns, but most will be eager to resume their “normal,” even though caution around the physical shopping experience is likely to be greater and linger longer for this crowd. I predict a slow but steady, if not altogether complete, return to old habits. Strategies for maintaining their digital business might include a continued focus on safety and reminders of how easy online ordering made it to stay safe and healthy the last few months.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2020

    How blemished are beauty retailers by COVID-19?

    Both issues are challenges to be sure, but both can be addressed; some companies have already made timely adjustments. Besides Ulta’s online try-on, Bobbi Brown’s virtual consultations are quite popular and address the gap that the make-up counter used to fill. Beauty sellers will need to recreate that experience online in order to draw in consumers — both the loyal, engaged segment and new or casual shoppers. As virtual reality and e-commerce continue to see innovation and online shopping becomes even more regular, beauty companies that are willing to test creative solutions can benefit. Those who have relied on a single or traditional sales model will have to invest in omnichannel, and fast. As far as product demand, beauty companies may be surprised to find that where typical makeup products have seen a decrease, others more suited to an at-home lifestyle may be exactly what consumers are looking for. Where the old demands have dropped off, savvy sellers can meet — or create — new ones. Assortment is the key. Take the 29 percent of non-make-up wearers who are letting their skin breathe — what they really “need” is a quality skincare regimen to go barefaced confidently. As for the 69 percent of shoppers who haven’t entirely quit their make-up routine, show them your tinted moisturizers and “barely there” products in addition to others.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2020

    Will dollar stores be the biggest post-COVID-19 winners?

    Dollar stores are easily one of the best positioned for the crisis. In a market downturn, consumer behaviors shift: more begin to “act” like price sensitive shoppers, which leads to a heavy trade down within the portfolio as the market bottoms out; afterward, customers are slow to adapt to the market recovery, and some never leave behind the price sensitive attitudes they picked up. During all three phases, here’s how others can compete with the dollar store format: Market downturn – Adapt to shifting preferences with customer segmentation, assortment mix, and pricing optimization that takes into account the price sensitive segment. Market bottom – Accelerate execution toward low prices with on-shelf availability of cheaper items and promotional strategies that resonate. Market recovery – Recraft your value proposition to the new normal with a redefined brand strategy and portfolio architecture.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2020

    Socially distant Americans find comfort in retail therapy

    Certain retail industries, such as beauty (the less obvious category), have hung on surprisingly well in the face of social distancing. Some of this is in part as consumers are ordering mood boosters; they need something to look forward to and get excited about. In a long stretch that feels increasingly like Groundhog Day, in the unchanging landscape your home, sometimes receiving a package can actually be the most exciting part of your day. I know it is for me. As long as people have expendable income, there’s little cause for this to change, unless restrictions continue to ease and people can fill that “hole” with social gatherings again. Conversely, the longer the crisis lasts, the more people will be under- or un-employed. The amount of discretionary spending we see over the next 6 months is strongly dependent on the “state of the union,” which few can predict.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2020

    Will Facebook Shops launch social commerce into the mainstream?

    Omnichannel has always been important, but now it is crucial, and the channels are now broadening. This is a smart move for Facebook as well as for businesses: other than going directly to a search engine or shopping platform, social media is the next-best place that consumers visit for ideas, reviews, and more. The experience is streamlined and made more convenient by the ability that Facebook will provide to shop, save favorites, put together a cart and click “purchase” on the same platform where they are seeing ads and browsing favorite accounts for inspiration. Facebook is upping the ante on consumer experience, which is what will ultimately gain loyalty.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Is Walmart about to become the king of online resale retailing?

    We can learn a thing or two from thredUP partnerships that have already been attempted with other retailers. Markdown retailers like TJX benefit more from hosting resale platforms than classical department stores like Macy’s or JCP. The keys here are consumer audience and brand fit: those who already make a habit of buying things at less than full price are more likely to spring for preowned items. For this reason, Walmart, which associates itself with affordability and getting high value items for a steal, could have the right shopper demographic for a successful thredUP partnership, at least in the short term. If this works, resale partnerships with big box stores could be the new Starbucks inside grocery stores. Soon, Millennials and Gen-Zers may expect to be able to find a secondhand section at most large retailers. The opportunity for resale growth is wide open, and secondhand retailers will need to seize it. Traditional retailers will have to get on board to keep the attention of sustainability-minded shoppers, while ensuring brand fit in the assortment they take on.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2020

    Is Kohl’s a stronger retailer as it reopens stores?

    I think Kohl’s was in a position where they had nothing to lose in pulling out all the stops to move inventory, and fortunately it paid off. I applaud their alacrity in putting a crisis response strategy into motion. Additionally, they’ve taken key learnings away about the importance of digital. No store at the scale of Kohl’s can survive without ongoing investment in ecommerce and omnichannel strategies in this day and age, especially after the catalyst of the pandemic. Vis-à-vis competition, they have a lot to live up to in supermarket giants Target and Walmart. It’s hard to argue that anyone is in a better position than those, and Kohl’s has some catch-up to do, but the last quarter has made a good case for keeping them in the game.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Will face masks be a lifeline for apparel retail?

    Waste not, want not. First, don’t waste perfectly good materials. Repurposing unsold fabrics is a move toward sustainability that resonates with consumer values and in turn creates brand loyalty. Second, as Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is about meeting consumer needs in a unique way and in no way about price gouging. Retailers find four opportunities in this emerging market for a necessity-turned-accessory:
    1. Branding: We’re already seeing the rise a whole new category that will run the full spectrum, from pop culture-inspired masks from entertainment houses to luxury masks from high-end designers. It’s an excellent branding opportunity.
    2. Personalization: Consumers will want their masks to match their style and even to bear some kind of personal branding that is unique to them.
    3. Range: The more they have to wear masks, the more consumers will demand options. This is a chance for retailers to provide the assortment of face masks that people didn’t know they needed, and even to distinguish themselves with special features, like “breathable” or “adjustable.”
    4. A Greater Cause: Face masks aren’t just a chance for retailers to grow their businesses; they’re an opportunity to grow their impact by contributing to the cause and supporting frontline workers.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Wegmans breaks price increase news to its customers

    Wegmans is following the Golden Rule for communicating price increases - don't just state the what, explain the why. In a pre-COVID-19 world, grocery shoppers were fairly savvy on prices for their everyday items like milk, eggs, bread, etc. but not so much for the less frequent items. However, in the social distancing digital world, transparency makes comparing prices very easy. Once loyal shoppers that are cash constrained are now evaluating which retailer will give them the most value for price. Communicating a price increase is always a double-edged sword, but if it has to be done then follow the Golden Rule like Wegmans. Furthermore, they are being very clear that the increase is not a blanket across the entire store but surgically implemented based on supply chains being overwhelmed.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Has the pandemic transformed Walmart into an unstoppable force?

    Walmart’s success stems from a structure focused on 1.) consumer needs and 2.) an omnichannel strategy. Meeting customer needs has always been top of mind for Walmart and this, coupled with an unmatched cost position, has served them well. Take Express Delivery — it met a need, took off, and is now a growing, in-demand service. The omnichannel focus adds to this by providing the convenience shoppers are looking for, with the added benefit of thereby winning their loyalty in an environment where macro-economic factors are instilling financial anxiety. Given the positive trends in the face of crisis and Walmart’s extraordinary demonstrated adaptability to the market situation, we shouldn’t be surprised if the YOY gains continue beyond the pandemic.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Is Amazon about to buy J.C. Penney?

    From a go-to-market and commercial perspective only (i.e. excluding all the back-end operations and logistics), there are several potential benefits to such a partnership.
    1. For both. Brand fit. Both brands largely stand for getting the best price and best price-value so they already have an overlap in their consumer base for apparel.
    2. For Amazon. Assortment. Not only is Amazon trying to build out their clothing product lines at low prices, but they’re also attempting to enter the world of fashion (for instance, by sponsoring the show Making the Cut and selling winning designs on the Amazon website). They currently lack depth in this area; J.C. Penney can offer higher quality products and an established reputation that many of their sellers in this sector cannot.
    3. For J.C. Penney. Omnichannel experience. Amazon can accelerate J.C. Penney's e-commerce and omnichannel presence. As a natural result, customer experience and loyalty will be heightened. A great analog is Whole Foods whereby Amazon is providing the extreme convenience that select shopper segments were looking for.
    It could end up being a win-win as Amazon broadens their range in categories, and J.C. Penney is given the ability to meet current consumer demands and needs.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    The new normal will look a lot like the old normal

    Specifically for #2: I do expect to see an uptick in home delivery, BOPIS, and curbside pick-up; grocery retailers will just have to figure out a more cost-efficient system as many are still cautious about returning to old habits. However, BOPIS and curbside alone won’t be enough; an even more important aspect is customer experience and loyalty. Amazon has mastered this really well and small DTC companies are beginning to replicate best practices. For example, Whole Foods can show you what you recently bought, what people in your area are buying. Kroger’s app allows shoppers to scan and check out items as they go to avoid the checkout line. Adaptive convenience elements like this are what win consumers over. Online digital shopping furthermore provides a goldmine of data that grocers must tap into in order to increase CLTV not just for now, but in the new normal as well.

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