Blue Bell did three things right as a business of integrity.

To bedrhoustonheadshotgin with, I quote what one of my best friends recently posted to Facebook: “When it is back on the shelves, I’m going to eat my body weight in Blue Bell!” I start with that reaction because it is indicative of the deep passion for Blue Bell that is playing a big part in their ability to recover from a disaster on a scale that would have destroyed many businesses. Even with such strong brand devotion (“Blue Bell is part of my family”), a company facing a recall that involves consumer harm has a very short period of time to make some key decisions – and they have to get them right.

First, with the speed with which information spreads today – and consumers who increasingly value authenticity – a firm cannot appear as if they are trying to hide anything. Research on many product recalls suggests that you have to acknowledge the scale of the problem, accept responsibility and declare the specific actions you will take to make it right for those harmed and to make sure that the problem does not reoccur. Blue Bell was, for the most part, very transparent – they communicated through traditional advertising channels, but also worked with retail partners to post signs on the ice cream shelves that explained, apologized sincerely, and announced steps to continue to investigate the sources and to fix the problem.

Second, as the full scale of the problem becomes clear, it becomes critical to make sure that the response adapts and is big enough to matter. In my recollection, there were a few waves in which it became clearer that the problem was not isolated to just a small niche of product lines or one machine in one plant. Although there was some negative reaction among consumers and business writers as the problem seemed to continue to grow for a period, I thought Blue Bell reacted with a level of candor is pretty rare. But it was interesting to me that the majority customer opinion seemed to be one of “hoping an old friend would quickly get well” instead of wondering what else the firm might be hiding. This only happens if customers are devoted to the brand (beyond simple positive feelings) and if they have a high level of trust in the integrity of the firm and its management. Researchers refer to these factors as a firm having high “social capital.” Blue Bell will still have to get the “re-launch” right, as I’m guessing there will be some supply shortages—they will have the chance to hit the right tone of expressing appreciation to customers while re-emphasizing their commitment to product safety and quality.

Finally, I think financial partners and channel partners recognized that Blue Bell’s social capital would, more likely than not, result in customers welcoming Blue Bell back rather than being afraid to resume using the product. So these partners, who faced tough decisions of their own, appear to have recognized the value in remaining committed to Blue Bell and helping the beloved brand regain their footing in the marketplace.

__________________________________

Mark B. Houston, Ph.D. is department head and professor of marketing at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, as well as the inaugural Blue Bell Creameries Chair in Business.

He can be reached at mhouston@mays.tamu.edu

 

Categories: Centers, Faculty, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Texas A&M University’s Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School will host its 30th Retailing Summit conference Oct. 8-9, featuring Bluemercury co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Barry Beck.

Barry Beck for Retailing Summit

The two-day conference at the Westin Galleria in Dallas aims to join more than 300 executives as they deep dive into macro-industry trends, disrupting retail models and discussions on future predictions about “big-picture” retailing concepts.

Bluemercury, recently acquired by Macy’s for $210 million dollars, is a high-growth luxury beauty and cosmetics chain. The partnership provides the company access to omnichannel technology, supply chain and retail operations to continue its expansion efforts next to Macy’s national operation network of over 850 department stores.

“This year’s Retailing Summit theme of ‘Redefining: Retail’ is particularly exciting to me given the recent acquisition of Bluemercury and the innovative vision we have for the future,” Beck said. “I’m looking forward to sharing key insights from this rapid growth period and learning from some of the Industry’s leading executives.”

Beck has appeared as a speaker for the Showcase on Great Consumer Brands at NASDAQ, the Future of Bricks-and-Mortar Retail at the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Mobile Payment and Omnichannel Retailing at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and has spoken on the subject of entrepreneurship and innovation at Cornell University and Columbia University’s Lang Center for Entrepreneurship’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Making their way to Texas, the company has “plans to expand our footprint throughout [the state], including Southlake Village in September and in the near future at one of the first Macy’s stop-in-shops at Memorial City in Houston, with additional free-standing heritage stores following in 2016 and beyond.”

As well, the Retailing Summit will welcome JCPenney’s Marvin Ellison, one of the most-watched retail CEO’s across the country.

Texas A&M University former student Chris Valletta ’01, a contestant on The Apprentice, also joins the group as the co-founder of Mission Athletecare. Its distribution expanded nationwide within the first year to more than 5,000 locations, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, The Sports Authority, Hibett Sports, Brookstone, HSN, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kroger.

“As a university-hosted event, the Retailing Summit is about genuine sharing knowledge, not sales pitches. The conference gathers retail leaders who are willing to discuss best practices (or lessons learned from failures) that improve business,” said Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies. “Attendees will hear stories from the trenches of retail about improving the customer experience, elevating the role of the store, rewarding loyalty and leveraging technology to drive sales.”

Joining Beck, Ellison and Valletta are Gautam Gupta, CEO of NatureBox; Erik Medina, Vice President, Head of U.S. TRU Youth Monitor at The Futures Company; Sarah Quinlan, SVP and Head of Market Insights at MasterCard; Bryan McCormick, Vice President of Human Resources at PetSmart; Jeff Donaldson, SVP of GameStop Technology Institute at GameStop; Steve Brill, SVP of Corporate Communications at UPS; Scott Emmons, Enterprise Architect and Innovation Lab Manager at Neiman Marcus; Karyn Maynard, Recruiting Director at The Container Store; Michelle Bogan, Partner at Kurt Salmon; Craig Ceccanti, CEO and Co-Founder of Pinots Palette; and, Karla Waddleton, Division Vice President at ALDI.

BDO, Reflect Systems, Salesforce, Brierley + Partners, Kurt Salmon and PetSmart will serve as corporate sponsors of this year’s event.

Funds raised by the annual conference support retail curriculum and scholarships for students pursuing retail studies at Mays Business School by educating the next generation of retail leaders and providing executive education to the industry.

For more information or to register, visit retailingsummit.org or call 979.845.0325

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR RETAILING STUDIES

The Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) was created in 1983 to meet the demand for highly-educated innovators in the fast-paced world of retail. Since its founding, the Center has become a renowned source of industry knowledge and a pipeline for developing leaders in the retail sector. We work in collaboration with the Mays Business School to provide an excellent repertoire of coursework, internship and leadership opportunities for professionals interested in all facets of the retail experience.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) welcomes Charles “Chuck” Hinton Jr. as the new director for I-Corps Programming. He will be responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program, a set of entrepreneurial activities that prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.

Chuck Hinton 2015I-Corps is a public-private partnership program that solicits three-member teams – composed of an academic researcher, a student entrepreneur and an industry mentor – to participate in an intensive seven-week program to determine commercialization opportunities for their innovations. Selected I-Corps Teams are eligible for up to $50,000 in NSF grant funding to support their efforts in the combined on-site and online curriculum, which is based on the Lean Launch Methodology for business model validation.

Hinton will lead the CNVE’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node (http://swicorps.org), one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants. To date, I-Corps has trained more than 500 teams nationwide, many of which have efficiently determined a pathway through which to commercialize their NSF-funded innovations.

“Chuck’s efforts for the CNVE will focus first on recruitment and preparation of Texas A&M teams for enrollment in this elite program,” said Blake Petty, CNVE director and a National I-Corps faculty member. “He’ll then be responsible for expanding I-Corps participation throughout the Texas A&M System, around the state, and ultimately, across the southwestern U.S.”

Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar to CNVE as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland, the Texas A&M campus’ student business accelerator. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.

“We’re very fortunate to add someone of Chuck’s caliber to the CNVE team,” Petty said. “His expertise and enthusiasm for I-Corps will be infectious to everyone he engages.”

Academic researchers and students interested in learning more about I-Corps and non-academic leaders wanting to serve as industry mentors to an I-Corps Team are encouraged to contact Hinton at chinton@mays.tamu.edu.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

After spending most of an eight-day residency at Mays Business School immersed in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), 19 veterans returned home ready to roll out their business endeavors. They took with them the encouraging words and training from their mentors, guest speakers and Mays faculty members.

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The July 11-18 event was the eighth at Texas A&M University for post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities. It is hosted in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), which holds similar programs at seven other universities nationwide. They developed skills needed to launch and maintain successful businesses. The participants received training and mentoring. They also got a taste of life as an Aggie.

Some of the business proposals included bounce house rentals, business coaching, a trucking company and a network to help female veterans find relevant products, apparel and social media sites.

“This is such a great environment for those of us in business,” said Chris Thompson, a former Green Beret who manufactures firearms and conducts firearms training in Bryan. “They understand the challenges veterans face, and they know what new business owners need.”

This year’s event started with an opening ceremony featuring April Ames-Chase, a member of the EBV Class of 2014 and recipient of the 2015 Robin ’76 and Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award. She urged the participants to never let anyone dissuade them from pursuing their dreams. “If someone says it’s not possible, just tell them thank you and move on,” she said. “Pray, pivot and move forward.” She also advised the participants to utilize all the resources around them and “network, network, network.”

Dick Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, who spearheads the EBV each year, told the participants: “You’ll never have another time in your life when you’ll do nothing but focus on your business. Soak it up. Use it. Benefit from it.”

On the final day of this year’s program, the EBV participants presented their final business plan pitches and presentations. After a tour and reception at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, they were joined by program mentors, sponsors and guests at closing ceremonies at the Annenberg Conference Center.

The keynote speaker, Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson, told stories that captivated his audience. While serving in Afghanistan, Nelson was 10 feet from a suicide bomber. After three years and 40 surgeries — 20 life-saving, 20 reconstructive (while finishing his degree) — he was hired by USAA in San Antonio to help recruit other veterans.

19757139248_7a691c8b81_oHe said he was asked to be an example/inspiration for a consortium of doctors developing and researching new ways to grow skin and extremities. He said he went forward with his recovery rather than live off his pension and disability for three reasons:

  • Make a promise and follow a dream
  • Set an example for his daughters
  • Be a deserving husband

Nelson’s message to EBV participants emphasized the importance of finding the inspiration behind their entrepreneurial ventures. He closed by saying, “You know the how and the what. You need to find the why.”

After the residency phase of the program, the EBV participants have access to numerous resources, coordinated by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families: mentoring, technical assistance, financing services, legal services and website design. “We want to make sure they keep their momentum after getting this far,” said A.J. Florkowski, EBV national program director for the Institute for Veterans. “We also want to help them raise awareness in their own communities of what they are doing. That will help them build their network once they get back home.”

– Julia Mora ’17 contributed to this story.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Centers, Departments, Mays Business, Texas A&M

Acoustic Shield, Startup Aggieland’s first E-Team, is one of 50 E-Teams chosen to receive a $5,000 grant from VentureWell.  VentureWell defines an E-Team – the “E” stands for entrepreneurship –as a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty and industry mentors collaborating to bring a technology to market.

Luke Neese

Luke Neese, a philosophy major with a pre-law focus, and his wife Virginia, a nutrition major at Texas A&M University, co-founded Acoustic Shield with Liang Ge, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering. They met at 3-Day Startup, a program hosted at Startup Aggieland by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays Business School. Their venture is an indoor gunshot detection system.

VentureWell’s E-Team Program helps college students commercialize technology ideas. Startup Aggieland prepares students to enter programs such as VentureWell and the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps.

“Startup Aggieland – and Texas A&M University, for that matter – provides an experiential educational environment where you are responsible for what you get out of it,” Neese explained. “Your future is truly in your hands.”

Virginia Neese

Virginia Neese said being accepted for the VentureWell E-Team is an honor. “We have the opportunity to meet 49 other student startups from all over the country and learn something from each of them,” she noted. “I am excited to represent Texas A&M and to pursue this leadership opportunity. At Acoustic Shield, we are passionate about saving lives. The Stage 1 Grant and VentureWell Workshop will undoubtedly help us do that in the right way.”

Liang Ge

Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, called it a unique resource for students of all majors and at all levels of study. “Startup Aggieland helps students stand out by making it possible for them to show that they have the skills to create their own jobs and to create value for investors, while also showing they can take a product to market,” he said. “How many students can say they have secured a patent before they graduate from college? Or created a business that employs 24 people and generates six figures in revenue? We have students who are doing that now as undergraduates. People will notice that.”

The grant’s rules require that two student co-founders of Acoustic Shield use some of the grant funding to attend a Stage 1 workshop in Cambridge, Mass., July 30 through Aug. 1. The focus of the workshop is to learn how to validate the market opportunity for the team’s innovation. The team will be expected to develop near-term milestones during the workshop. Any remaining funds can be used for further development of Acoustic Shield. Designated as Stage 1, the students’ E-Team has until Oct. 7 to apply for Stage 2 of the E-Team program.

“Acoustic Shield represents a high-quality student team pursuing a high-impact solution for the world around them,” said  Blake Petty, director of the CNVE and one of several mentors to the Acoustic Shield team. “It only makes sense for them to be recognized by a first-class organization like VentureWell, whose dedication to the support of innovation and commercialization by student entrepreneurs is unparalleled.”

The team’s lead mentor is Rodney Boehm from the Dwight look College of Engineering.

VentureWell is a higher education network that has been on a 20-year mission to launch new ventures from young inventors to improve lives and help the planet. That goal aligns with those of the Acoustic Shield team, Ge said. “It’s our dream to save lives with technology,” Ge explained. “Startup Aggieland helps make the dream come true. We are very excited to participate in VentureWell’s E-Team program. I am sure we will learn a lot from peers and mentors. I’m glad to see Acoustic Shield accelerate in the near future.”

ABOUT STARTUP AGGIELAND
Startup Aggieland is an award-winning business accelerator for student startups launching from Texas A&M University.  Startup Aggieland is sponsored by the Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship; Dwight Look College of Engineering; College of Architecture, the Office of the Vice President of Research and the Research Valley Partnership.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Media contact: Shelly Brenckman, Startup Aggieland, 936-537-6011

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M

 Knocki - Ohad

 

A Mays Business School MBA graduate, mentored six years ago as a student, is working this summer on an invention called Knocki. The portable device had not yet been “born” when Ohad Nezer ’08 was featured in a prophetic blog post, titled “Opportunity Knocks,” published in 2009 on the Mays website. (http://maysbusiness.tamu.edu/index.php/opportunity-knocks-during-economic-crisis/)

Knocki can be attached or embedded into any hard surface, making the surface interactive. The battery-operated device can also be hard-wired to an electrical system and embedded behind a wall, eliminating unattractive light switches. The interactive area is large, so when the device is placed on the underside of a table, the entire table becomes interactive regardless of size. Possible uses for Knocki include turning off all the lights in a home by knocking on a night stand and sending a text message to a user at work if someone knocks on his home’s front door.

Nezer and cofounder Jake Boshernitzan are building a prototype of their startup’s product at Seed Sumo in Texas A&M’s BioCorridor. Seed Sumo is a for-profit business accelerator that helps launch investable early-stage ventures in 90 days. It opened last summer, and this summer is hosting seven companies.

Nezer, a former public relations officer in the Israeli Army and co-owner of Swan Solutions, founded his first startup as a student in an entrepreneurship course taught by Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays. Lester is also a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays and one of several cofounders of Startup Aggieland at Research Park.

“I do not always remember past students, particularly from years back, but I specifically remember Ohad and his teammate from SeatKarma as they worked on that project during my class six years ago,” Lester said. “It was evident that Ohad had a great career as an entrepreneur, and I am extremely pleased to see his venture is going well.”

Knocki was one of 1,200-plus ventures that applied for seven spots at Seed Sumo, guaranteeing a $50,000 minimum investment.

Knocki – Make Any Surface Smart from Model2Web, LLC on Vimeo.

The company’s other invention is Sleepra, a patent-pending device that enables users to control smart homes from their mobile device while in bed. The project was temporarily shelved after Seed Sumo accepted the innovative duo, which opted to launch the more portable version Knocki.

Boshernitzan, co-owner of Swan Solutions and co-inventor of Knocki, is a serial entrepreneur who founded Ridester, the first online ridesharing marketplace, in 2006. Ridester foreshadowed the more popular Uber, but still received accolades in Time Magazine, Austin Business Journal and other media outlets. It was one of the first five startups flown to San Francisco for Facebook’s first app pitches.

“Working with Ohad is exciting,” Boshernitzan said. “He definitely sees things on a unique wavelength that brings creativity, innovation and fun to our venture.”

Nezer’s history with Lester dates back to when Nezer was an MBA student. He helped found SeatKarma with fellow MBA student Chris Nicolaysen for $30,000 in seed capital. The two developed SeatKarma during study breaks at Ag Cafe on West Campus and in Lester’s class.

“Dr. Lester was very influential in helping us sort through the early struggles with SeatKarma,” Nezer recalled. “We welcome his experience and advice working on Knocki.”

SeatKarma was an event search engine that scoured ticket resellers to find the best second-hand market prices for athletic, theater and music events at more than 1,600 venues nationwide. Though it was founded during a shaky economy, SeatKarma received a boost from positive reviews by TechCrunch and LifeHacker and a 2009 feature in TechCrunch.

Nezer said he and Ohad enjoyed returning to College Station to work on their current venture. “It feels like going full circle,” he said. “Getting reconnected with Mays professors has been very useful. We are fortunate to be so close to such a great pool of business minds.”

 This summer, the cofounders meet at least once weekly with their mentor, Startup Aggieland Marketing Coordinator Shelly Brenckman, during the team’s “Deep Dive” roundtables at Seed Sumo. Those meetings are also attended by Seed Sumo Managing Director Bryan Bulte, Seed Sumo associate Steve Tinkle and other Seed Sumo personnel.

“We didn’t accept Ohad and Jake into Seed Sumo because of their idea,” explained Bulte. “We accepted them because they are extremely talented entrepreneurs. They understand ‘lean’ and can maneuver a business model.”

Mays professor Don Lewis, a Startup Aggieland cofounder and its manager, works with Brenckman to recruit mentors and help about 120 student startups annually. They have facilitated nearly $3 million in equity funding for students.

Brenckman said the Seed Sumo alliance contributes to the area’s reputation as a fertile climate for investors. She said the startup culture embraces entrepreneurs as “family.”

“Ohad and Jake are great to work with and exemplify all that is fun and rewarding about mentoring startups,” Brenckman said.

ABOUT STARTUP AGGIELAND

Startup Aggieland is an award-winning business accelerator for student startups launching from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Opened January 2013 with one full-time employee and one part-time manager, Startup Aggieland was named among the top three U.S. programs for student entrepreneurs by C-E-O in 2014.

Startup Aggieland is sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School; Dwight Look College of Engineering; College of Architecture, Office of the Vice President of Research; and the RVP.

 ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School has partnered with Retail TouchPoints and CashStar to identify a new profile of empowered and engaged digital shoppers.

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Ram Janakiraman, a marketing professor and a Mays Research Fellow, was the lead researcher for the project. He analyzed survey data from Retail TouchPoints, the online publishing network for retail executives, to profile the influential “Brand Maven,” or enthusiastic brand advocate.

“It was good to get the reassurance that both digital and social media were the two big channels for consumers when it comes to engagement and interaction,” Janakiraman said. “I expected that people would prefer to use gift cards, but there was overwhelming evidence that digital technology is present throughout many transactions of retailers.”

The report, published by CashStar – a leader in prepaid commerce solutions such as branded gift cards – stands to influence the way retailers interact and view the impact of branded currency and behavior of usage. Its findings also explain how the relationship between a consumer and digital payment evolves, from the introductory point of giving or receiving a gift card to the transition into becoming a loyal customer.

According to Janakiraman, Brand Mavens are among us, with more than 53 percent representing the current shopping population and contributing approximately $1,800 of purchasing power annually through redeemable gift cards and loyalty credits.

Pleased with the collaboration efforts of Texas A&M University with CashStar and Retail TouchPoints, Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies, shared the impact of generating thought leadership. “By leveraging the unique analytical expertise of [our] faculty, the Center for Retailing Studies can help retailers identify their best customers or in this case, Brand Mavens, and quantify their financial value to a firm,” Hollinger said.

Last fall, the Center for Retailing Studies and Janakiraman partnered with Knights Apparel and Texas A&M University for the Back-to-College Roadshow promotional campaign, measuring the impact of social media engagement and evaluating sales of Aggie apparel at Costco Wholesale locations across the state.

According to Hollinger, partnerships like these can help “retailers better know where to invest their money to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness.”

Janakiraman agrees.

“As researchers, we take a lot of pride working through case studies, marrying practice with academia,” he said. “But each time I work with the Center for Retailing Studies, I learn a lot.”

See the full report at CashStar.com.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,900 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, business, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers, Mays Business, Research Notes, Texas A&M

From the stockroom to the boardroom, Blake Nordstrom has spent nearly his entire life devoted to the success of his family’s 115-year-old, Seattle-based business.

On March 11, the first-time visitor to Aggieland presented the 2015 keynote at the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, honoring innovation and the advancement of retail in the name of the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation and hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS).

Venkatesh Shankar, the CRS’ research director, led a question-and-answer session in which Nordstrom detailed the company’s keys to success, promise and outlook for growth, and career advice for a full house in Mays Business School’s Ray Auditorium.

Since 1901, the Fortune 500 Company has set its sights on being a forward-thinking retail business and has received numerous awards and recognition for its contributions to the industry. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Nordstrom, Inc. expanded beyond shoe sales and began the fast track toward its current position as a leader in fashionable apparel.

In 2014, Nordstrom named Texas A&M University a core partner school for recruitment in stores, headquarters roles and increasingly tech-savvy hires.

Nordstrom said he was attracted to visit Texas A&M by its sense of community, reputation and “the key ingredient for our business [of] people – talent.”

When he spoke, Nordstrom quickly dove into sharing the company’s business strategy by emphasizing the importance of paying attention to customers. “We live in an age where we have immediate access to things, especially at our fingertips, concerning fashion, product, price and availability,” he said.

Four-legged chair
Nordstrom provided an illustration of a four-legged chair to explain the company’s composition, which has created a launch pad for success and growth. He identified:

  1. 1. Full-line Nordstrom stores: Posting $7.7 billion in sales, Nordstrom’s brick-and-mortar sites make up 60 percent of the business. Although there is a large investment nationwide, the company has experienced multiple challenges from housing their stores in mall-based environments.
  2. eCommerce and online sales: This is the fastest-growing area of business for the company.
  3. Nordstrom Rack stores: Attracting the younger, aspirational generation, the Rack is an expanding channel for Nordstrom. The off-price model targets an entirely new demographic and method to gaining new customers and paving way for new merchandising in full-line stores.
  4. On-line off-price: As Nordstrom said, it’s all about acquisition “in the name of speed.” By acquiring flash sale site HauteLook in 2011, the company can compete with Amazon, offering dynamic price strategy online, increasing momentum and sales, something that cannot be done quickly in-store.

The “multi-channel” chair, combined with Nordstrom’s exceptional and unique approach to customer service, creates a seamless environment for the company that cannot be replicated. When companies follow the inverted pyramid and place the customer on top and senior executives on the bottom, “When we think about what [they] value the most, it gives us the most clarity of how we should focus our time, energy and money where the business is going,” Nordstrom said.

Challenges faced

Death of the mall
As Nordstrom mentioned, malls pose a unique challenge but also provide opportunity for looking outside the confinements of being in-store. With the increase in ecommerce, retailers, including Nordstrom, are sensitive to a third-year decline in foot traffic in malls across America. The company has had to identify, expand and take more risks, because “if you don’t take [them], you just add age to yourself as a retailer.”

Amazon.com
Although Amazon was identified as one of the top competitors for the company, Nordstrom was quick to commend the online giant as a leader in expedited decision making and “laser focus on the customer,” even when it means taking a financial loss. Especially in Seattle, the two compete for jobs, talent and square feet. Amazon also has infinitely more fulfillment centers than Nordstrom, coming in at around 50 versus Nordstrom’s two, with an additional three on the way.

People culture
Nordstrom uses the saying “from service to sales,” because customer-based service influences every aspect that makes the company run successfully, including board members and stakeholders.

The company is working on a number of ways to cater to different audiences and customize service. According to Nordstrom, “If someone wants to spend an hour [in our stores], great, we should be able to do that. But, if they want to get in and get out in five minutes, that’s good service too.”

He also emphasized the importance of his 60,000 team members, saying he hopes each person comes to work highly motivated and knowing they are making a tremendous impact as the face of the company.

This is also true of how the family operates the business. “We have a team approach,” he said, “Everyone leaves our meetings on the same page and because we all work together, our outcome is richer.” In fact, Nordstrom would rather be invisible as to not detract from the company’s mission of people, not person, first.

Maintaining a company culture of treating everyone with value and importance remains at the forefront of Nordstrom, Inc.

Words of wisdom
As a father of two, Nordstrom understands the stresses of transitioning from higher education to the job market. With anywhere from five to eight career changes in a lifetime, he said, it’s important to shift your focus early on to your “experiences [and] how you are in control of the few things you actually own, which are your character, reputation and integrity.” Instead, he advised, ask yourself how those traits can help you open doors.

He also mentioned the importance of having a “truth teller” or mentor with whom you can be open and honest, even in your failures. Often, the biggest learning moments occur during the worst situations and it’s essential for you to be able to put it all into perspective. Having someone else to talk things through can help you do that.

Goal setting
During the final portion of the lecture, Nordstrom touched upon the company’s expansion into Canada and plans for future growth across the United States.

Nordstrom has set some high goals in the next several years, including a goal of $20 billion in sales by 2020 and a new store in New York, opening in late 2018. The 300,000-square-foot store will span seven floors and employ more than 2,000 team members. It will be located in the second-highest building in the city and will overlook Central Park and Columbus Circle.

Nordstrom added, “We don’t really need more stores, but instead need to expand and improve on what we are currently doing.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers, Executive Speakers

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Over the course of three days in late January, thought leaders from around the world bridged the gap between academia and industry at the 2015 Thought Leadership Conference at Mays Business School.

During the course of three days in late January, thought leaders from around the world bridged the gap between academia and industry at the 2015 Thought Leadership Conference at Mays Business School. During several intense think-tank discussions, participants tackled topics relating to mobile marketing for the opportunity to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Marketing, the premier journal on direct, digital and interactive marketing.

The importance of being responsive

Shawn Morrissey, vice president for mobile engineering at Macy’s, began the conference by justifying the need for conversations about the mobile space. A former student at Texas A&M University, Morrissey earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mays.

Morrissey shared an example of Macy’s ability to capture data on consumer behavior throughout the day and across mobile channels, working from the Macy’s Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley. Customers begin their morning on their smartphones, and then shift to a desktop while at work. “We see a little uptick around 9 in the morning for online sales, a similar uptick at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a switch back over to their phones, and then back to their tablets at night,” he said.
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However, because of the hyper movement across mobile channels, companies must pay close attention and embrace change. Macy’s is constantly testing new services to better engage consumers connected to smart phones, even when ROI is unclear. Morrissey said Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren encourages such innovation and investment so that Macy’s is seen as a leader rather than a follower in delivering an omni-channel experience.

Companies must also keep up with the changing sizes of desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones year after year and design a user interface that is friendly – especially now that Macy’s is equipping their associates with technology on the floor so as not to disrupt the in-store experience.

Before smartphones, shoppers came to the store to seek styling advice and product recommendation. Now, a peer relationship has evolved, removing the assistance needed from a sales associate. The “well-armed consumer,” as Morrissey identified, instead comes highly informed – possibly even more than the associate – about products. Often, he or she only needs a purchase to be fulfilled, which can be done through mobile payment.

It’s an app world

Steve Holland, chief technology and digital officer for 7-Eleven, served as Thursday’s morning keynote speaker. Providing an overview of the chain, Holland shared that 7-Eleven currently operates with more than 54,000 stores in 16 countries and opens a new store every 2.2 hours.

With the tremendous growth, the company is also working to expand its product assortment beyond convenient CPG products, such as beverages and snacks, into fresh and healthy choices.

Holland also described the 7-Eleven customer as value driven and time conscious. Therefore, his team is constantly assessing their Current Situation Analysis (CSA) to be able to create a better emotional relationship with each customer and reach each one differently, especially through the 7-Eleven digital app.

Downloadable in the App Store and available with Google Play, the 7-Eleven app is a portal for savings, recommendations, upcoming events and exclusive deals and an “idea hub” where user are empowered to suggest how to make the company and their user experience better. The app is also adaptive to the weather and the user’s location, and will only display a hot drink on a cold day or a cold drink on a warm day. As Holland asserted, “apps rule only if they are relevant and contextual.” In the meantime, he said, 7-Eleven is only focusing their efforts on winning with mobile strategy. Development of the tablet applications will come second.

Similar to Morrissey’s presentation the previous day, Holland also mentioned the importance of the path to purchase. Products shown online and in-store should be a collaborative effort between marketing, IT, app development and inventory to showcase digital relevancy.

Profit is king and whereas most would identify impressions with success, Holland and his team prefer to measure the “yield,” to determine the dollars, reach, engagement, conversion and profit from across all efforts.

As he closed, Holland shared the future of 7-Eleven with the company taking the iconic Slurpee into new territory at Six Flags theme parks and Cinemark theatres, as well as a self-practiced word of advice: “Fail fast, fail early and fail cheap.”

Creating a lasting impact

A goal of the Thought Leadership Conference is to identify key future research topics.

During the final morning of the conference, team leaders from each group – Mobile Advertising, Mobile Channels and Supply Chain, Mobile Shopper Marketing, Mobile Promotions and Mobile Services, Gaming and Global issues – shared the framework for their papers going forward.

Several big ideas that emerged from presentations and discussion included:

• Information privacy and the digital footprint
• SMACIT (social, mobile, analytics, cloud, Internet of things)
• Integration of on/off-line pricing strategy
• Transaction integration and virtual currency
• Behavioral targeting
• Millennials
• Gamification

With 20 minutes to summarize and 10 minutes of Q&A, the accelerated-learning format allowed for each group to receive critical feedback that will be beneficial for continuing the conversation away from campus.

During the next several months, teams will continue to work together to refine their research for publication in 2016.

In attendance at this year’s conference were:

Academic participants

Baohong Sun (Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business), Charles Hofacker (Florida State University), Dhruv Grewal (Babson College), Joseph Pancras (University of Connecticut), Kelli Hollinger (Texas A&M University), Ko de Ruyter (Maastricht University), Mark Houston (Texas A&M University), Martin Spann (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich), Michelle Andrews (Temple University), Mirella Kleijnen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Nicholas Lurie (University of Connecticut), Peter Zubcsek (University of Florida), Puneet Manchanda (University of Michigan), Ram Janakiraman (Texas A&M University), Sam Hui (University of Houston), Subodha Kumar (Texas A&M University), Suresh Ramanathan (Texas A&M University), Venky Shankar (Texas A&M University), Yakov Bart (INSEAD)

Industry practitioners

Jeff Donaldson (SVP, GameStop Technology Institute), Bharti Mishra (Vice President, CITI GROUP), Jody Goehring (Head of Business Development, RetailMeNot), Lance Thornswood (Senior Director, Omni channel Digital Platform, JCPenney), Michelle Skupin (Sr. Manager, B2B Communications, RetailMeNot), Shawn Morrissey (VP, Mobile Engineering, Macy’s), Steve Holland (CTO/CDO, 7-Eleven), Wendi McGowan-Ellis (VP, Strategy, Brierley+Partners)

Ross Rizley (Research Director, Marketing Science Institute)

The 2015 Thought Leadership Conference was graciously supported by the Marketing Science Institute, the American Marketing Association, Mays Business School, Center for Retailing Studies (CRS), the Office of the Dean, Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) and the Department of Marketing.

Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar served as the chair of the conference.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers

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Texas A&M University participated in the first Silicon Valley Bank Trek, which strives to challenge the next generation of innovators to create a unique learning opportunity with tech industry leaders.

Over a three-day trek, students from nine universities traveled from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, including two students from Texas A&M. Texas A&M’s two delegates are Sarah Knop, a junior finance and business honors double major, and Wesley Vance, a senior computer science major.

On the trek, 18 undergraduate and graduate students visited locations that represent innovation in Southern California, such as Stanford’s d.school, StartX, the offices of Andreessen Horowitz, BIRST and Mattermark, co-working facility WeWork Golden Gate and Silicon Valley Bank’s offices on Sand Hill Road.
Students were led by Trek Guides, a “who’s who” of influential investors and entrepreneurs in the tech industry, including Ben Horowitz, Jason Mendelson and Danielle Morrill, and the members of the Silicon Valley Bank team. These guides provided first-hand advice on subjects from getting started in the tech industry to best practices on pitching your idea to investors to bouncing back after failure.

In addition to receiving knowledge and advice, the students were able to form valuable relationships with other enterprising students on the Trek and the top-level entrepreneurs and investors. Knop says, “I am fully confident that these relationships, along with the wisdom and knowledge gained while in the Valley, will prove instrumental as I progress throughout my career as an entrepreneur.”

Knop serves as a student ambassador on the Startup Aggieland Seed Fund Committee, which evaluates startup company profiles and pitches to determine funds for expansion and development. Her experience on the Trek taught her this: “Entrepreneurs, especially in technology, must exhibit the ability to observe, analyze, improve, and iterate in a dynamic environment to identify opportunities, execute strategies, and capitalize on their success.”

The event was designed to inspire entrepreneurship in up-and-coming students, and the student innovators were challenged to make improvements on big world problems. “This was the beauty of the trek, raising the bar of what we think we can accomplish,” Vance said. “Whatever problem you want to solve, it’s not out of reach, it’s just a matter of devoting yourself to do it.”

Vance has participated in programs through the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, including 3 Day Startup, and has developed a small business renting GoPro action cameras online.
The additional 16 participating students represented Cornell University, Harvard University, Ohio State University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Wharton School.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers