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05/21/2021

Pharmapacks' Ash Mehra & Art of Shaving's Ralph Niebles Talk New Biz Models

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor, RIS News
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How have CGs and retailers pivoted their businesses to meet changing market conditions and how analytics helped them successfully implement these new models?

RIS and CGT set out to answer this question during Analytics Unite 2021 during the industry panel “New Business Models Redefining the Industry.” New business opportunities were discussed by panelists: Cheryl Perkins, CEO, Innovationedge LLC; Ralph Niebles, VP of IT, Art of Shaving; Ricky Joshi, Chief Strategy Officer, Saatva Mattress; and Ash Mehra, CIO, Pharmapacks.

During the pandemic Art of Shaving’s fulfillment center struggled to meet demand due to social distancing guidelines from the CDC. Niebles noted that pick lines could no longer physically fit enough workers. To solve this, the retailer quickly converted it’s Miami corporate headquarters into a fulfillment center. “At one point in time we were shipping out anywhere from 250-300 orders a day from the Miami office alone,” he said. “That’s quite a pivot,” noted Perkins. 

Joshi said Saatva Mattress started pushing products where it had more availability to deal with demand. He noted product teams, marketing teams and web product teams have never been more in sync. If the company was running out of supply it would start pushing another product, he explained. “We became a much more dynamic company. It wasn’t let's set something for the month and see how it operates, it was ‘ok we need to make these changes now,’ cut social, and that would happen instantaneously.”

Mehra noted the company used data and analytics to try to predict demand. “These models were built in about a couple weeks,” he said. “We were predicting how many front line employees would fall ill or be absent.” 

Perkins asked the panel what tools they have been using for help. Niebles said CRM is huge, pandemic or not. Joshi said the company was already using Google’s 360 suite and has leaned into that more to understand where it’s getting its customers. Perkins also asked the panel what sticking trends they are seeing.

“A whole generation of consumers is now much more comfortable buying online,” said Joshi. “It was an accelerated shift and, to be honest, maybe a shift that might have never happened with perhaps older generations who might have continued to go through brick and mortar. “Just a much broader swath of the population is now comfortable buying online.” 

To meet this, Saatva Mattress has done a good job integrating the online with the offline in it’s Manhattan store. “[Retail stores] that really understand that online and offline are integrated, are poised to do tremendously well,” he said.

“I don’t think retail is dead, it’s evolving,” said  Niebles.  “I think brick and mortar will become more showplaces,” he said and noted the landscape was overpopulated before. Retailers will invest heavily in DTC. Those who evolve will make it and survive.

“If it’s going to be brick and mortar it has to be something other than just the pure commoditized buying experience,” agreed Mehra. Omnichannel is something we all have to prepare for because that’s here to stay, he said, you need a 360 holistic strategy.

This is also published on RIS News. 

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