Stefan Weitz

Executive Vice President, Technology, Radial
Stefan is the EVP for Technology at Radial. In his additional role as Chief Product Officer he leads Radial's overall technology efforts to enable retailers and brands across the world to fully embrace the opportunities afforded to those who excel in eCommerce. Stefan came from Microsoft where he was one the founding members of the Bing search engine. While focused on Microsoft's product line, he worked across the industry to understand searcher behavior, academic developments, and innovations from all over and, in his role as an evangelist for Search, drove key product innovations millions of people see every day.    Prior to Search, Stefan led the strategy and partnerships to develop the next generation MSN portal platform and developed Microsoft's muni WiFi strategy and implementation, leading the charge to blanket free internet access across metropolitan areas.  Stefan has been writing code since he was 8 years old and got his start at Microsoft in eCommerce with the acquisition of eShop in 1997.  Across his 17 years at Microsoft, his focus was always on whitespace problems that required massive cultural and technical transformations, including applying open-source practices in Windows Server, designing and implementing Microsoft’s Informatics Security, or building entirely new models to support advanced search and discovery across the web. Stefan holds a half-dozen patents in various disciplines and is a frequent lecturer to industry and academic groups on the future of data, information storage, retrieval, and usage.  He recently published his thoughts in the international best-selling book, “ Search: How the Data Explosion Makes us Smarter ”.   Stefan is a huge gadget 'junkie' and can often be found in electronics shops across the world looking for the elusive perfect piece of tech.  Stefan also serves on advisory boards for many startups ranging from biometrics to advertising to virtualization and is an active Angel investor.  In his spare time, he is working with national educational reinvention groups to reboot K-12 education in this country and is actively advising startups that are focusing on boosting student achievement through technology and big data.  He sits on the GenCon board of Conservation International and two other technology companies, and is a mentor and advisor for Endeavor Global where he helps cultivate high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.  Finally, Stefan is working on a book with the nation’s youngest VC to promote entrepreneurism to the high-school audience and is actively working on disrupting mobile networks in southern Africa.  He lives in Seattle.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2017

    Why is it so hard to get retail associates to upsell?

    I would say three reasons: lack of incentive, lack of data and consumer behavior. In the former, there is little upside except in the increasingly rare case of commissioned sales people to engage with a harried consumer to try and convince them to buy the extended warranty for their new speakers. Even in the cases of commissioned sales people, the malaise of an associate who has to recite a memorized script to convince you to engage with the product is palpable. Second, most associates today don't have the data about the consumer to authentically upsell them. Just because I'm buying a product today doesn't mean you know what else I need. Better exposure to user profiles and presentation of that information when people enter the store would be a massive help -- it would bring the online model that Amazon is so good at (recommending bundles and other items that match your profile) to the offline world. Third is behavior -- associates have to be able to read the consumer and meet them where they are. More consumers are getting in and out of stores either using in-store pickup or by doing their research before they walk in. Having to be upsold because you are picking up an item (which is often done to save time) is a terrible mismatch of a customer experience.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

    I somewhat disagree -- fighting the trend for more efficient shopping (especially for commodity items) is like chasing windmills. We should be thinking about these more seamless models of commerce as a way to increase the frequency of touch points consumers have with a brand, thereby potentially increasing the size of the overall share of wallet. I can imagine little more frustrating than heading into my local Best Buy to pick up my portable speaker for a party that starts in 45 minutes at which point I'm subjected to a salesperson trying to engage with me. I used BOPIS for a reason -- respect it and I will keep using BOPIS at your store. If you add friction to a process that is designed to eliminate it, your customers will revolt.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Will lower everyday prices boost Target’s traffic and sales?

    This is an obvious response to Amazon's Whole Foods acquisition and their moves on the first day of ownership to cut prices massively on many staples. I can only imagine what this will do their margins long term -- competing with someone who doesn't have a profit motive is difficult. Target will have to look for other ways to monetize customers beyond their core retail business.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2017

    What will more electric cars mean for convenience stores?

    The winners here will be the new entrants in the space who can tap into what customers want: electric charging (with high amperage and DC fast charging) combined with spaces that are more tuned to a longer fueling stop. For example, rather than having racks of Funyuns, spaces for people to stop and take a call or get some work done while they top off their charge will be paramount. Additionally, moving away from rotating hotdogs and more into a QSR model (like they have in many parts of Europe) will further enable c-stores to capture charging dollars that otherwise might only be spent at home.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Does the internet know us better than we know ourselves?

    As I wrote in my 2014 book, "Search: How the Data Explosion Makes Us Smarter", the amount of data that is created every day by our latent and explicit actions on the web dwarfs all rational understanding; this year alone humans will create eight zetabytes of information (equivalent to 133 billion iPads-worth of data). The beauty of machine learning and Big Data analytics is that it allows us to see connections and hidden figures in the data that humans otherwise would never be able to see on their own. For example, one of the researchers in the book was able to analyze tweets of expectant mothers and predict with exceedingly high levels of accuracy which ones would have post-partum depression -- allowing doctors to preemptively offer care before the onset of the condition. Overall the mass of data and increasingly sophisticated analysis enables us to see patterns and meaning in an otherwise messy and seemingly random world.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    How much did Amazon’s Prime Day hurt rival retailers?

    While in-store sales and share declined, we actually saw increases in online sales. Online sales for companies we analyzed roughly doubled on Prime Day vs. an average Tuesday, and GNC (one of our customers) experienced a five-fold increase on Prime Day vs. a typical Tuesday. So it's important to not look at this solely as Amazon's gain being everyone else's loss -- we are seeing the tides raise many boats.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2017

    Will customers use an Amazon app to chat?

    Amazon's recent moves remind me a lot of the old MSN, AOL and even Google days whereby there was a tremendous focus on retaining the user within your ecosystem so you could a.) build a large data profile about the user to further target, b.) cross-sell services since the more services they use, the higher their LTV, and c.) try new products and services in small segments of the engaged population. Amazon chat and Spark are both examples of services to keep people within their app (note Amazon often launches separate apps only to fold them into the main app when the services take off). Since 50 percent of U.S. consumers already have the Amazon app installed, adding something like chat to a platform where you are likely to find your friends and family makes good sense.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    How much Big Data do retailers really need?

    Retailers need to collect everything they can even if they don't have a plan to use it today. There are a number of companies, such as Uptake, who will help retailers and brands make more effective use of the data even if they can't do it themselves. While you can always build machine learning and rules to examine past transactions, you can never go back and get the data if you didn't collect it initially.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2017

    Will Dick’s price match keep it on top of the sporting goods category?

    Price is certainly a major factor in purchase decisions, but what these companies are competing against is friction in the buying process. Amazon makes it so simple for me to give them my money and have a predictable experience -- including when things go wrong -- that price isn't often my #1 purchase consideration. While it may factor more into other people's process more heavily, the amount of time people may have to spend dealing with a fickle price match program could ultimately make this more a PR stunt than a major boost to earnings (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). That all said, it would be great if more retailers tried aggressive programs such as this as long as they balance them with a relatively simple way to engage in the experience.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Is e-commerce a job builder or killer?

    E-commerce is a job changer, not really a job creator. We are seeing shifts from brick-and-mortar staffing to warehouse jobs -- not really an even trade since most of the warehouses of any scale (and that offer benefits, etc.) are tightly concentrated in certain parts of the U.S. whereas the brick-and-mortar jobs they are replacing in this analysis are scattered across the U.S. If we are talking about non-brick-and-mortar, then we are talking about a fundamental skills mismatch between retail workers today and the skills required to launch and run an e-commerce operation. And that is even before we talk about the far fewer people required to actually run an e-commerce operation than a traditional retailer. So overall we are seeing a shift in the mix but I would be hard-pressed to say that we are going to see dramatic increases in overall employment stemming from the shift to e-commerce.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2017

    Will an AR try-on app cut down on online clothing returns?

    I've always loved the promise of this technology, but until manufacturing operates at a higher level of precision than is standard today, people will always be returning clothes purchased online. The fact remains that fit can vary from one run to the next even within a particular SKU, so no matter how good you make the tech, the physical realities get in the way.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2017

    Will more customer rewards lift J.C. Penney’s sales?

    Is it just me or are even the rules of this program tiring to read? What retailers need now is fewer games and less friction in their shopping process. There's a reason grocery chains began to pull away from loyalty programs a few years ago -- customers want transparency and ease in their shopping experiences and these programs and cards provide the opposite. Even the graphic at the top of the page is byzantine. At a time when Amazon can separate you from your money in 15 seconds, other retailers and brands need to look to ways to engender repeat buying and loyalty without unnecessarily complicating the consumer experience.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    This move will hopefully ignite the creativity and inspiration of retailers and brands to embrace ship from store and ISPU technologies where they can leverage their inventory more effectively and utilize USPS and regional carriers to move product at a more cost-effective price point. Consumers are tired of paying a lot for shipping for sub-standard service now that Amazon has set the bar for free 2-day. One retailer I just visited asked me to pay $19 to ship a shirt in 2-3 days -- clearly not competitive.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Did Amazon just patent tech that could end showrooming in its stores?

    This is just a patent -- when I was at Microsoft we filed many of these without ever ultimately commercializing them. This one in particular is interesting because a.) it requires the person to be on the store Wi-Fi network and b.) it actually has a number of outcomes including alerting an associate to come and save the sale (not just blocking as many of the headlines initially reported). Despite the fact that the store would have to have some pretty egregious terms of service to allow for inspection of all your internet traffic when using their network, it could actually be an interesting piece of technology that would allow the retailer lots of flexibility to save the sale (even such things as real-time discounting of items in their store if someone is comparison shopping).
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    Two things: Instacart is hosed -- so that $2 billion company is having a bad Friday. Second, I can't imagine this makes financial sense on a unit economics basis but as far as making Amazon a daily habit, it is an excellent move.
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