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: 08/03/2020

    Trader Joe’s says ‘never mind’ on private label name changes

    Yes there will be pushback. Ten people will stop shopping at Trader Joe's because they are not changing the names, nine of whom never shopped there in the first place. Good for Trader Joe's!
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    We think that there will be a shopper-driven desire to return to normal as soon as possible. What does that mean? Shoppers want to go to a store to a.) find the products they are looking for and b.) pay a reasonable price for them. To the extent that products are available, the sooner you give them a shopping environment that looks like February 2020, the better.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    How can retailers differentiate curbside delivery?

    This should be simple. Sorry Dave, but who cares about surprise and delight with curbside? Make it quick, make it simple, make it accurate (do you hear that, Jersey Mike's, who hasn't gotten an order for me right yet?). It's not a point of differentiation and it's not meant to surprise or delight, and none of it is a reason for people to shop there.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    I'm a traditionalist -- for whatever their motivation, nobody should have to work on Thanksgiving, so good for them. Hopefully more join in. We will all survive one less day of shopping. Maybe this will be a step on the road to making Black Friday more of a thing.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s shake off its racist branding tag?

    No damage and no, they should not change. There's nothing racist about using an Hispanic name for Hispanic food, an Italian name for Italian, etc. Those 1500-odd signatories need to get over it.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    Any model that relies on data patterns over time is presently useless. The big question for marketing research is, what will shopping patterns be like when everything is back to normal (if that ever happens)? Predictions run the gamut from "no differences from pre-pandemic shopping" to "everything is totally different." I favor the former, which suggests that while purchase forecasting models may not be so useful, snapshot-based models will return.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2020

    Will doctors prove a cure-all for Walgreens competitive ills?

    I like the idea - it may make health care more affordable and accessible. I'm not sure that the physician v. nurse practitioner distinction is as competitively meaningful as Walgreens may think. At least here in Georgia, the nurse practitioner idea is growing and is widely accepted.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

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

    I've been a Prime member since it began. Until Walmart gives me free one-day shipping on a broader range of products and adds TV, I'm not even considering it. I think it's always the #2 option for Amazon shoppers and there is little reason to change that.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Has the pandemic changed shopping behaviors forever?

    I think the desire to return to normal will overwhelm most changes we are seeing in purchasing. That said, economics will play a big part -- if you're out of work, you're likely spending less. But I don't think we'll see a big shift in brand shares -- except that store brands will pick up a little, because they always do following a recession.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2020

    Anti-mask shoppers find themselves publicly shamed

    In fairness, I've shamed shoppers at my local stores who do not wear masks, especially the idiot at Kroger the other day who was coughing and not wearing a mask. Regardless of whether people like it or not, it is an anti-social act to not wear a mask. Retailers should relish social media conflicts - it's free advertising - as long as they are handling the problem as nicely and politely as the people at Gelson's clearly did.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2020

    Are large grocery chains putting profits before people?

    Could be your Trader Joe's, Ken -- on Monday, mine in Atlanta had a masks only, shopper limit, all carts cleaned policy. Same yesterday here in Wellington, Florida.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2020

    Are large grocery chains putting profits before people?

    This sounds less like they are not doing enough for front-line workers and more like the preamble to the next union strike. Oxfam is not putting forth a solution, they want the companies to increase engagement with the unions - that's their big complaint. This is America - you don't like the place you're working, you are free to leave. If everyone doesn't like the place they're working, you're free to strike. Just don't expect much in the way of community support. We don't "look for the union label" much anymore.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    Should retailers boycott Facebook?

    Advertisers should advertise where they feel it will do the most good for whatever reason they choose. We would assume these retailers don't advertise on media controlled by Fox for the same reasons. From Facebook's perspective, it's a website - it can do, or not do, whatever it wants. The fact that many Facebookians can't discriminate between fact and fiction is not Facebook's problem, although it is probably an indictment of the American education system.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    Can a box of pancake mix be racist?

    And don't forget the Land O' Lakes Indian maiden, now gone.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2020

    Will grocers maintain COVID share gains as restaurants reopen?

    I'm not sure grocers have generated much good will - the sales growth is out of necessity, not anything they are necessarily doing. I think the biggest impact (and I don't expect much long-term) will be on store brands, which have always had an issue of generating trial. Lots of shoppers have tried store brands that hadn't before or hadn't recently. To the extent that those products performed, they'll see real growth as things settle down. But retailers should be sensitive to two factors - trial turns to repeat only if the product performs and much of the trial came from availability issues or economic issues. When those problems subside, be prepared for a drop-off for many shoppers in categories where store brands aren't great.

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