Dr. Stephen Needel

Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Dr. Stephen Needel is Managing Partner of Advanced Simulations, based in Woodstock, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. He formed and now manages an international company responsible for bringing virtual reality simulations to bear on retailing, marketing, and consumption issues from a research perspective.

Prior to starting ASL, Dr. Needel was President of Simulation Research, where he brought the concept of using virtual reality technology to the everyday marketing research world. Dr. Needel held the position of Vice President for Product Development at A.C. Nielsen, where he developed new techniques for integrating and analyzing retail scanner data and household purchasing data. He has also been a Vice President of Analytical Services at Nielsen after coming from their competitor, Information Resources, where he led a team doing advanced analytical research from IRI’s BehaviorScan market testing system. Earlier jobs included analytical roles at Burke Marketing Research and Quaker Oats.

Originally a native of the Boston, Dr. Needel came to the business community with a B. A. in Psychology from The American University and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Connecticut. He is a member of the American Marketing Association.

His international experience dovetails nicely with his appreciation of English beers, South American beef, Australian football, and Mexican chiles. He hopes to pass on these fondnesses to his two sons.

  • Posted on: 12/12/2019

    Will IHOP fans flip out over its new fast-casual breakfast foods concept?

    Full disclosure - I love IHOP. But IHOP is not an urban thing, nor is it a fast food thing, nor is it even vaguely a healthy-eating thing. Its customers appear to be aging, if my IHOPs are any indication. It will certainly attract some attention just for the newness - you can bet the McDonald's and the Taco Bell crowd will check it out. Atlanta may not be the place to test it though - foot traffic is light relative to other cities (no trains). Don't bet the rent money on this concept.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2019

    Did Aviation Gin just make lemonade from Peloton’s lemons?

    Nothing is safe today - nobody asked what Peloton intended, they just thought they were promoting their product as fun, healthy, and psychologically transforming (ask bike riders - they'll tell you the psychological effects often outweigh the obvious physical impact). The trolls who had nothing better to do than read more into the commercial than was ever intended need to get lives. And good for Aviation Gin - this is speedy marketing at its best.
  • Posted on: 12/09/2019

    Why do so many people say ‘no’ to retailer loyalty programs?

    Maybe the question should be reversed - why do retailers seem to automatically think shoppers care about their loyalty program? And in many categories, everyone seems to have a program, which either negates the value for the retailer (it becomes a cost of doing business) and is not more or less likely to attract shoppers than a competitor. As everyone will say here, make it valuable and unique to the shopper or don't expect them to care.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    Macy's is what Christmas is supposed to be about, Kohl's is about what it's become. Macy's connects, although I doubt it does much for them beyond name recognition - and maybe that's enough at this time of year for a TV ad.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Should Starbucks stick with its open bathroom policy?

    It's scary how bad this research is. The sample is biased, the methodology is suspect and, worst of all, it doesn't answer the real question, which is whether sales are weaker with the open policy. With over a year's worth of data, you would expect Starbucks has figured out that the policy doesn't hurt sales.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Kroger brings the farm closer to the table

    The upside is that we could be pretty certain the food was fresh and likely free of pesticides. That this would run afoul of any number of states' laws can probably be overcome - but it's not as simple as it sounds in some places. The bottom line will be value - either they can reduce the cost of the vegetables to a price close to "normal" produce price or it will be so much better tasting that people will pay extra. Keep in mind that while you might reduce packaging and shipping costs, you'll have equipment (which gets amortized) and labor costs.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    What will happen now that Five Below has gone above $5?

    There will always be a few who are appalled - everyone else will keep on going for the great bargains. Honestly, if some of the stuff I had bought there for $5 was $6, I'd still buy it - maybe even up to the $10 price point.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Walmart has a too much grocery problem

    The issue is not the ratio of grocery to general merchandise. The issue is growth in general merchandise. Grocery is growing at Walmart because they are doing lots of good things with their grocery business (better assortments, better produce - at least near us, etc.). They aren't doing anything particularly different with general merchandise and that will keep them susceptible to Amazon. Keep in mind, grocery and general merchandise are often separate trips at Walmart - just stand there and watch for a while. To the extent that one has something perishable in the cart, that's not likely to change.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Shoptalk makes a statement with a conference featuring only women speakers

    At the risk of starting a gender war, who cares what their gender is? I care about what they have to say. Put on smart people who talk well about topics of interest - that's what matters.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Kroger to make fresh marketing start with a new logo, tagline and ‘Krojis’

    Atlanta is one of Kroger's largest markets. They compete directly with Publix and to some extent with Walmart. The plan here is simple. Be cheaper than Publix, have better quality and selection than Walmart. They can advertise fresh until the cows come home - you still can't get good celery at Kroger.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Why do digital transformations often fail?

    The implicit assumption in this is that a digital transformation must occur - I'm not sure that's always necessary to the extent that the author suggests. You can have a successful enterprise without being totally digital and thinking like a startup. Indeed, given that most startups fail, there's an advantage to not thinking that way and, in many businesses, not being agile or believing that always changing things is a good idea. Of course there are basic things that need to be digital, but the organization per se does not necessarily need to be this.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2019

    Should McDonald’s CEO have been fired over a ‘consensual relationship’?

    I hate corporate policies on principle - there's still some '60s rebellion left in me. But if the policy is no nookie and you get caught, shame on you. And to Nikki, with whom I usually agree - it doesn't matter what degree of separation there is, if he can say "You know, she's not doing so hot," her career might be toast.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2019

    McDonald’s drive-thru AI knows what you want before you order

    The snarky answer is that anyone who drives through McDonald’s often enough to have their license plate recognized has bigger issues than privacy. I would think frequenters would be unlikely to welcome being sold to.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2019

    AI needs to be more than just a bright, shiny object

    First, they can ask whether it is artificial intelligence or just automation. Any system where a model is applied and an action is taken based on that model is not AI, it is automating. In theory, you could build the model yourself and have the computer spit out a list of fixes to make today. Don't get me wrong - this is good. The Retail Alliance built this process back in 1992 and we're still amazed at how few people use it. But it wasn't smart, it wasn't intelligent, it just did math really quickly and created an operating discipline for the retailer. Second, AI will never make your store more engaging, so get over that. You, the retailer, need to do that. Automate the tasks you can automate, then focus that extra time on doing what you can to make the customer want to come to your store.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    What will drive food trends for 2020?

    These seem more like a list of growth trends at Whole Foods which, if we've learned anything, is never indicative of any trend anywhere else. I think we've only scratched the surface of providing food so that people can eat healthier. Until we take that baby step, most of these ideas strike me as pretty esoteric for the general population. And as a serious gin drinker, I find the idea of faux gin appalling. :)

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