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.


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


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.




Catagories: 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.”
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.”

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.

Catagories: Centers, Executive Speakers

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.
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.

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.

Catagories: Centers

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, 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.

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.

Catagories: Centers

During the weekend of Nov. 7, students from all over the Texas A&M University System came together to do the impossible: create a business in only three days. Every semester, the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) hosts 3 Day Startup and challenges students to compress three months’ worth of work into one weekend. This semester was the first time West Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M at Galveston and the Texas A&M School of Law sent student participants to College Station.

3 Day Startup aims to teach students through experience about the trials and triumphs of starting a business. The students are encouraged to use the risk-free environment of the weekend to work on ideas they are passionate about and would be interested in pursuing after the program has ended. Mentors and professors from Texas A&M are present throughout the weekend to help the students fine-tune their businesses.

Students began their weekend by meeting that Friday at Startup Aggieland and brainstorming ideas that they then pitched to one another. When pitches were completed, the students voted on the top seven ideas worth pursuing and then broke into teams. They had until Sunday to turn their idea into a feasible startup venture.

Participants returned to Startup Aggieland early Saturday morning to begin researching market viability, creating logos and business plans, and building their mid-point pitches. That evening, students presented their startups to a room of mentors and fellow participants and gained feedback on how to improve their ventures. At this point many groups had changed their names, logos or entire business models multiple times and now only had 24 hours to perfect their startup for Sunday’s final pitches.

By Sunday evening, the participants were ready to face the judging panelists. Each team gave a 10-minute presentation to a panel of mock investors and answering five minutes of Q&A. Their knowledge about their startup was tested, but each group of participants rose to the challenge. Once final pitches concluded the groups received final feedback comments from investors.

This semester’s teams focused on solving consumers’ problems. Their ideas included:

A phone app to help those fighting substance addiction
High-quality modular housing that could be used overseas in relief efforts
A phone app that provides users with information on how busy their favorite places are
Visual information mapping that could help doctors easily identify correlating diseases
For many groups, their hard work paid off when they were approached by possible investors or were invited to become Entrepreneurs in Residence at Startup Aggieland.


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.

Catagories: Centers

The Center for Retailing Studies hosted the annual Retailing Summit on Oct. 2-3 at the Adolphus hotel in Dallas. During the two-day accelerated learning forum, more than 275 C-suite executives, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and rising professionals were pressed on the topic of CHANGE! by representatives from Starbucks, Barnes & Noble College, RetailMeNot, Salvatore Ferragamo, GoldieBlox, Kurt Salmon, Nordstrom, Walmart and Frito-Lay.

Starbucks’ growth journey and the impact on the global supply chain

Jump-starting the 2014 Retailing Summit, Steve Lovejoy, SVP of Global Supply Chain at Starbucks Coffee Co., outlined the company’s position as a continually innovative brand, striving to maintain a creative culture.

Spanning an international presence of 21,000 stores, Starbucks’ 300,000 employees serve over 70 million customers a week with help from 16,000 suppliers, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

The company also upholds its mission statement by following a “blueprint for growth” that includes acquiring new businesses, introducing new beverages (Refreshers), experimenting with new foods in stores and more recently, introducing the concept of Starbucks “coffee trucks” on university campuses.

Lovejoy works specifically in the China and Asia Pacific region, combating issues of food safety and quality control, while managing consumer expectations in-store and online.

The coffee giant has plans to drive performance with its new plant in Augusta, Ga.; supply chain integration with Starbucks’ subsidiary companies, La Boulange and Evolution Fresh; local relevance; new store formats; local roasting and capital investments.

Capturing millennial attention: Why retail resonates

Utilizing data from a recent study conducted by Barnes & Noble College with more than 3,000 student respondents, SVP of Marketing and Operations Lisa Malat shared remarkable statistics regarding the effects of millennials within the retail industry.

Future predictions slate millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. This generation will be heavily responsible for supporting the economy, in both jobs and spending.

However, data has also shown a decline in retention of those working in the retail industry post-graduation. Less than 1 percent of students will pursue a full-time career in retail.

Companies must now find a way to increase engagement with the 63 percent of millennials working in retailing while they have a chance.

Malat listed three ways for leadership to best achieve this:

Share the big picture with your employees
Give them the opportunity to seek ownership and responsibility
Be intentional about leadership development

As proof of Barnes & Noble’s “formula for success,” 80 percent of participants in the Bestsellers Management Program will be employed with the company one year from now. Those who attain a senior management position will average 15+ years with Barnes & Noble College.

But, as Malat put it best, today’s part timers are tomorrow’s future retail leaders. Treat them well.

Going digital and reinventing the mall experience

Joined together in a fireside chat, Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief of Retail TouchPoints, and Steven Pho, SVP of Corporate Development for RetailMeNot, turned the conversation towards the emergence of technology in retail.

Founded in 2006, Austin based RetailMeNot operates the world’s largest marketplace for digital promotions and coupons.

Pho believes that while his company operates solely online, traditional brick and mortar stores will not disappear anytime soon. The retail industry has now been presented with the challenge to creatively integrate and drive traffic to the original storefront.

However, companies must also take advantage of the increased use and development of smartphones.

Unsurprisingly, the average American shopper admitted to checking their phone over 150 times a day with 75 percent admitting to using the phone while in the bathroom. For retailers, 60-80 percent shared they had conducted research on their devices before shopping.

RetailMeNot uses this information to partner with brands such as Kohl’s and Macy’s, to promote their products and services using consumer data through an app like feature, for example, beacon technology and geo-fencing. But now, brands themselves are competing with RetailMeNot for wallet share.

While a customer visits a shopping mall or specialty department, geo-fencing utilizes the Global Positioning System technology to create a radial map of the area they are within. Once the user has subscribed to an app with geo-fencing capabilities, the program will send push notification for promotional offers in the area.

But companies be warned.

While RetailMeNot has collected this data to show a positive response rate to targeted messaging, participation and subscription significantly decreased on the second touch point with more than 300 percent of users opting out and disengaging.

With some messaging, you may only get one chance.

Driving the Ferragamo Business through our A, B, College Station

Together, Vincent Ottomanelli, CEO and Regional Director and Amy Zuckerman, SVP of Human Resources at Salvatore Ferragamo — The Americas, shared the secrets to the historic company’s 100 years of success.

As described, A stands for Associates, B stands for Brands and C stands for Clients.

To ensure top-talent acquisition of associates, Ferragamo uses Talent Plus to strategically evaluate skill sets and personalities for optimum placement in the stores.

The company has also developed an extensive recognition program to reward those who contribute a strong work ethic, teamwork and outstanding sales. Corso Talenti is a development program for associates interested in advancing to an executive position. Candidates are selected based on performance, experience, talent, potential and fit. Super Stelle honors those who have exceeded sales goals and have provided superior customer service by developing unique client relationships.

The story

For the afternoon program, Brad Stone, Senior Writer for Bloomberg Business Week and best-selling author of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” took the stage to offer up his insight on America’s largest online-only retailer.

Across the audience, Amazon was noted as a top competitor, disrupting the retail industry and causing companies to rise to Amazon’s example of change.

Amazon became a pioneer for absorbing every niche of the retail industry starting with bookselling and its Kindle readers. It changed the way we shop, how we read and more importantly, how companies are made.

By maintaining a price advantage through e-commerce, Amazon’s rise could best be attributed to how the company took initial risks. Providing variety, ease, convenience and value, the company set the bar for how retailers should attack the digital landscape.

During the break, attendees were treated to signed copies of Stone’s book.

Disrupting the pink aisle: Rethinking the retail conversation

Adding a bit of entrepreneurial inspiration at the Retailing Summit, Debbie Sterling, Founder and Chief Officer of Fun at GoldieBlox, reaffirmed Brad Stone’s claim that successful businesses take risks.

Determined to break down stereotypical gender roles in a predominantly male environment, Sterling channeled her engineering background and passion for youth to create a reading series starring female heroine “Goldie,” integrating problem solving and skill development, using axels, pulleys and building blocks.

Sterling used the internet to promote her idea through Kickstarter, leaving GoldieBlox’s future in the hands of the online community.

And in just a short amount of time, the project was fully funded, raising more than $285,000.

Since its launch in 2013 the demand and consumer enthusiasm for GoldieBlox has skyrocketed, even winning the team a Superbowl commercial spot. Last year, the company was a top seller on Amazon and has international product placement in over 4,800 stores.

Omnichannel = Engagement

Longtime veteran of the retail industry, Tom Cole, Partner at Kurt Salmon and retired CAO of Macy’s, concluded Thursday’s program with a case study evaluation of how retailers can best define Omni channel capabilities.

Because the internet is a powerful tool as well as a threat, brands must be able to tailor content, product and experience, so that it may be widely shared and communicated. Cole mentioned that social media is a platform in which customers and consumers can be truthful about their engagement with companies.

Cole also listed seven steps to be successful in Omni channel:

Secure and communicate commitment from the top
Make one person ultimately responsible for Omni channel transition
Invest heavily in customer analytics, supply chain and IT architecture
Redesign the organization to specify cross channel vs. single channel roles and all their interaction points and processes
Establish clear accountability for inventory within and across channels
Realign P&Ls and KPIs to drive the right behavior
Embrace risk, move fast and stay focused

In more than 41 years of professional experience in the department store, Cole agreed that the single largest change that has affected retail is that the customer now has all the power to push retailers into competition for their business.

Pioneering the digital rush and creating one customer experience

Beginning Friday’s program, Todd Buntin, recently promoted VP of Customer Experience at Nordstrom, shared his rise up the ranks within the 113-year old company, along with goals for his new position.

Realizing the need to establish a connection with consumers from all sides of the purchasing process, Nordstrom developed the “Customer Centric Strategy.”

With the creation of Nordstrom Rack, businesses opportunities increased and more customers are introduced to the company through the off-price, value-driven channel.

As well, sales associates have much less of an influence on consumers today.

Nordstrom has developed many diverse touch points to connect with an expanded audience including: mobile commerce through, and, a members only flash side acquired in 2011 and Trunk Club, an online personal styling service based in Chicago.

The company has also embraced digital communities as they understand them to be Nordstrom’s best form of advertising. Word of mouth + customer service = social media.

Recently, Nordstrom developed the “Instalog,” believed to be the first of its kind for a retailer.

Uniting social media, the catalog, creative and web teams Nordstrom was able to reach new and younger customers by partnering with top social media influencers and bloggers.

For Nordstrom, the aim was – and still is – to break down barriers between traditional and digital worlds.


As a world leader in retail, Walmart prides itself on momentum, discipline and investment, all factors that make the company successful to many different audiences.

Ashley Buchanan, SVP of Dry Grocery for Walmart, outlined the significant role that attitude and purchase behavior of the consumer can have on the overall customer experience.

Walmart has reported seeing an overall growth in technological change, citing an influx in smart phone usage in-store.

With over 50 percent of customers shopping online electing to pick up in-store, mobile influence has increased four times since 2012 and 74 percent of consumers prefer mobile as their device of choice during their shopping experience.

However, Buchanan also cautioned that retailers will forever be challenged to meet expectations about convenience, price, product selection and shopping experiences to best serve the customer.

He stated that “ultimately, the customer is in control and we will serve them where and however they want to shop.”

The new age of marketing: The convergence of the consumer and the shopper

Ann Mukherjee, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Frito-Lay, rounded off the final keynote presentation at the 2014 Retailing Summit.

Mukherjee began by stating “growth comes from those who are humble and hungry.”

Second, she mentioned that the U.S. food and beverage industry has begun to slow down, prompting the increase in macro-snack food options. She predicted by 2019, more people will eat out rather than at home.

In the consumer space, there are strong demographic changes and shifts with a rise of the millennial generation and a desire to control the hypothetical bidding process for the customer’s business.

Similar to Debbie Sterling’s talk about GoldieBlox, Mukherjee also hinted that successful companies are the ones that have disrupted the industry.

Examples of energetic and bold risks that Frito-Lay has taken include the Doritos #BoldStage at SXSW, the empowering Lays “Do Us a Flavor” campaign and Tostitos’ “Party Time Anytime.” Each campaign provided consumer generated content and was primarily pushed out by millennials within the mobile and digital technology space.

However, Mukherjee also emphasized that millennials are not homogenous. It is imperative for retailers to dig into this target market with an open mind.

Along with attention to how different brands interact, consumer demand is the focus of the future.

Between networking breaks, attendees also heard from breakout session leaders Ted Vaughn, Partner, and Bob Snape, Managing Director at BDO, as well as Matt Schmitt, President and Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Reflect Systems.

The 2015 Retailing Summit will be held Oct. 8-9 at the Westin Galleria in Dallas. Visit for more information.

Catagories: Centers

The key to good networking is to not only show up and speak up, but to also have a few ideas about how you can serve the other person. Master networker, international speaker and best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi called those acts of care “five packets of generosity.”
“Everything you want to achieve—every job, every volunteer opportunity and every interaction—depends on other people,” Ferrazzi told more than 175 people, mostly graduate business students, attending a day-long conference at Texas A&M University. The “Relationships for Career Success” conference was sponsored by Mays Business School’s Graduate Business Career Services. “It is worth it to invest time in building a more purposeful people plan.”
Ferrazzi asserted in his keynote speech that relationship style isn’t about being big. “It isn’t about bounding into a room, it’s about being authentic and caring about the other person,” he said. He advised that each of us meet people where they are and mirror their social styles to help them feel comfortable. “The people with better social capital get better jobs more quickly. Managers are better leaders and sales people get better sales.”
Ferrazzi is widely published; his book “Never Eat Alone” has been a bestseller since 2005, and “Who’s Got Your Back” is based on accountability groups.
After conference attendees heard from Ferrazzi, they practiced what they learned, starting with a short networking warmup during the break. After lunch, students initiated conversations with recruiters in 10-minute speed-networking sessions, then were critiqued on their ability to do so. They also visited the nine corporate booths that were set up along the perimeter of the room.

Event organizer Cindy Billington, associate director of MBA Career Education at Mays, patterned the event after a professional conference, and scheduled it in the middle of recruiting season. She met Ferrazzi several years ago, when Texas A&M was the first campus to benefit from a training program for college students offered by Ferrazzi’s research institute.

During a panel discussion following Ferrazzi’s remarks, leaders from five companies gave advice and fielded questions. Matthieu Tagnon, director of Essilor Lenses, a long-time recruiter of Mays graduates, summarized the advice of all the panelists. “Don’t hesitate to take risks, but stay true to yourself,” he said. “If you are fake, we will see it and we will smell it. Don’t overdo it

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.

Catagories: Centers, Departments

Center for International Business Studies

The Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School has been awarded a four-year federal grant totaling $1.13 million. The U.S. Department of Education awards the funds as part of its Center for International Business Education (CIBE) program. Competition was stiff for the award, which commences on Oct. 1 and will cover the 2014-18 period.

Federal funding for the 2014-18 cycle was cut by 55 percent from the previous cycle, and the number of CIBE grants awarded was reduced from 33 to 16.

The national CIBE program’s objective is to encourage a select group of top business schools in the country to internationalize business education through the design, development and implementation of high impact international business education and research activities for students and faculty respectively that would ultimately lead to the enhancement of the country’s international business competitiveness. CIBE funding at Mays will be devoted primarily to enhancing programs for students in their international business studies and high-impact overseas study experiences like study abroad and international internship as well as support of international business research and outreach activities by faculty, said CIBS Director Julian Gaspar.

Julian Gaspar

Gaspar said he was thrilled to learn Mays was selected for the new grant, which he considers extremely important for Mays. “It provides us with the seed money to design, develop and implement exciting high-impact internationalization programs that enhance business globalization perspectives of Mays students and faculty,” he said. “More specifically, CIBE funding will impact Mays Business School in three ways. First, it enables us to provide a diverse set of stimulating overseas study opportunities for our students that integrate solid academic and cultural issues of developed and emerging economies. Second, the funding helps us pursue interdisciplinary degree and research programs with other colleges on campus as well as with institutions nationally and internationally. Finally, all initiatives made possible with this funding helps Mays Business School to achieve high ranking both nationally and internationally – thereby aiding Texas A&M attain its Vision 2020 objectives.”

CIBE grants are intended to enhance America’s capacity for international understanding and economic enterprise and to promote educational and training activities that will contribute to the ability of the United States to prosper in an international economy, Gaspar explained. CIBEs serve as national resources for the teaching of improved business techniques, strategies and methodologies that emphasize the international context in which business is transacted. They provide instruction in critical foreign languages and international fields to improve understanding of the cultures of countries that trade with the United States. CIBEs also provide research and training opportunities in international aspects of trade, commerce, environmental science and other fields relevant to international trade initiatives.

Contact Gaspar at


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.



Catagories: Centers

AUSTIN, Texas: The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University have received a three-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to become a regional innovation hub that translates academic research into useful technologies with commercial applications.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program has designated three Texas tier-one research universities as the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node, charged with empowering teams of university scientists and industry experts to develop life-changing products. NSF supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, as well as research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The I-Corps program encourages scientists and engineers to consider how their federally funded, fundamental research projects may become commercial ventures.

“The I-Corps program is no doubt one of the nation’s signature programs for promoting entrepreneurship and startup creation, and we are, of course, honored by the designation,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT Austin, which is the lead partner in the node. “Having an I-Corps Node established in Texas represents a unique opportunity for researchers and institutions across the state and region to leverage existing research efforts into new business initiatives that will benefit society at large.”

The node offers potential partnerships with 33 institutions in the southwest region representing more than $600 million of NSF funding in fields such as bioscience, K-12 education, materials energy research, geosciences, engineering, psychology, oil and gas, water filtration and entrepreneurism.

“NSF looks for broader impacts, so involving schools in our system and region is a way to broaden and advance the I-Corps initiative,” said Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. “One of our far-reaching goals is to teach this process to other universities in the region.”

To participate, three-person teams composed of an NSF-funded researcher, a business mentor and a graduate student (known as the entrepreneurial lead) apply to the I-Corps Team program. If accepted, the team is entitled to a six-month, $50,000 grant from the NSF focused on exploring the commercialization of fundamental research ideas. The team will also attend official NSF I-Corps training at one of the National I-Corps Nodes.

Nodes, such as the one being created with the three Texas universities, then facilitate an innovation-enhancing training program for the teams and offer support during the process of moving valuable ideas beyond the lab.

“Universities are the birthplace of new ideas and epicenter of life-changing research,” said Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

“This new NSF I-Corps initiative is a paradigm shift that will facilitate a cultural change in universities and research centers designed to take researchers’ creativity and innovation to the commercial level. It will be a driver for higher education and university research to become much more entrepreneurial.”

Training begins with a three-day introductory workshop at an I-Corps Node and continues for about six weeks with weekly virtual team presentations and updates with National Node faculty members. Training ends with an in-person, two-day session to evaluate lessons learned and next steps. UT Austin will host the region’s first national cohort in October. The NSF I-Corps curriculum is derived from Stanford University’s Lean LaunchPad course that teaches students effective startup methods and technology commercialization.

Other regional I-Corps Nodes across the country are located in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region, southern California, New York City, Georgia and Michigan. The Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node will be the first node in the southwest/midcontinent region of the country.

The application for the node was a multiuniversity effort involving each of the three Texas schools. Key personnel at the universities include: Rice University’s Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and George McLendon, Howard H. Hughes Provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry and cell biology; Texas A&M University’s Richard Lester, clinical associate professor and executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and Valerie Taylor, senior associate dean for academic affairs and the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professor; UT Austin’s Robert Peterson, associate vice president for research, and Juan Sanchez, vice president for research. The NSF grant for the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node is No. 1444045 and can be viewed here.

Adding to Campus Initiatives

The NSF I-Corps program will build innovation programs already advancing breakthroughs at the three Texas institutions.

The University of Texas at Austin IC2 Institute fosters economic development locally and internationally through collaborations among the university, government and private sectors with programs such as the Austin Technology Incubator and the Global Commercialization Group. The Texas Advanced Computing Center’s high-performance computing tools accelerate research, and the Office of Industry Engagement works closely with the Office of Technology Commercialization to ensure fast and successful transfers of university discoveries to the marketplace.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is Rice University’s globally recognized initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurial education and the launch of technology companies. Programs include the Rice Business Plan Competition for global student startups that awarded nearly $3 million in prizes in 2014; OwlSpark, a student startup accelerator; and three flagship technology venture capital forums in the areas of energy and clean technology, life science and information technology.

The CNVE, part of Mays’ Department of Management, is the hub of entrepreneurship across Texas A&M University. Last year, the center reached about 3,500 students. Startup Aggieland is a business incubator providing space for all Texas A&M students to apply classroom knowledge and explore entrepreneurship with assistance from faculty members, administrators, peers and mentors. The CNVE also hosts such efforts as the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the MBA Venture Challenge competition for graduate students, the Start-Up 101 workshop series, and the campus-wide Ideas Challenge.

For more information, contact: University Communications, 512-471-3151.

Catagories: Centers, Mays Business

Food Challenge Competition

Startup Aggieland has entered into a partnership with The University of Texas and The Borlaug Institute in a business start-up competition: The Food Lab Challenge, which encourages innovation in the global food system.

In the competition’s inaugural year at the University of Texas at Austin, the competition will award $30,000 in prizes to teams producing a product or service impacting one of four food-related categories:

• Inputs and Production
• Processing, Packaging and Safety
• Storage and Distribution
• Healthy Eating and Food Education

The business competition is open to anyone, anywhere, from undergraduate students to established entrepreneurs. It has attracted more than 60 teams since registration began June 1st. Applications and business plans are due Sept. 30th. Finalist teams will be announced and paired with mentors on Nov. 1st. The Challenge Prize Day is Feb. 14th, 2015.

Startup Aggieland has added the competition to its curriculum for its Startup Fellows, a prestigious program for freshmen and sophomores. Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland and executive professor at Mays Business School, says, “This opportunity seemed like a natural fit to what our student entrepreneurs are already doing. The idea of addressing real-world problems in conjunction with our friends at UT furthers this fit and our strategic alliance.”

Architecture Professor Rodney Hill, a founding member of the Board of Directors for Startup Aggieland, added: “We’re thrilled about the collaboration between these two flagship institutions. It’s how the real world works. We encourage our students to get out of their bubbles and go global.”

For more information on The Food Lab Challenge and for registration details, visit the website:

Officially opened in January 2013 at Texas A&M University, Startup Aggieland is a student business accelerator that provides qualified students of all majors with a peer-led startup community that helps students to leverage public and private resources while launching early stage ventures. Startup Aggieland is among the nation’s first student-designed, student-operated business accelerators to serve student startups. Startup Aggieland is open to all qualified Texas A&M University students. Visit the website:


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.

Catagories: Centers