Extended Hours

My last post was November 6, 2011. Took some time off to have a heart attack. They said it was a ‘widow maker’, but I am still here thanks to a quick reaction to the symptoms and outstanding medical care at Baptist and St. Vincent’s Hospitals here in Jacksonville, Fl. Plus a wife who has been marvelous in helping me to recover over the last year.

With that out-of-the-way … tried to figure out ‘what’s next?’ after ‘what was next.’  After all those years in the grocery, advertising and consulting areas … why not newspapers? Now… I am at the stage … I guess you would call Extended Hours. Plus … Next month is a landmark birthday month.

A wonderful team at the Florida Times Union now tolerates my presence and provides me with a great opportunity to join in as they search for the proper mix between print and digital journalism. It’s a problem that is yet to be solved by the biggest or the smallest, domestically or internationally. Data is, I think, going to be a key. One-to-one information transmission is on the launch platform. And tremendous strides are being made in CRM, SEM, SEO, Ad Words and lots of other new and exciting ways to engage specific customers with both information and commerce.

The Florida Times Union has been around for 114 years. We’re both too young to die! What if we get lucky? What a time to still be in the game!

Those who know me will remember that working with Bob Cohen, we were able to pilot the first shelf management and category management system in the supermarket industry. Marvelous software by Bob and his team that we married to actual POS data. That was the first application in the grocery industry. It soon became apparent how big, ‘big data’ was really going to be … and that you could manage it nor did you need a main frame or highly paid  full-time consultants. For the first time, we could match shelf inventory to consumer demand and track profitability at the same time. Further, it became apparent that ‘cookie cutter’ inventory programs, then the industry standard ,were simply not effective. Thus began the end of the Gaussian math based inventory model.

On to Price Chopper. Shelf management and category management were well on their way to becoming adopted industry wide. Dennett Whittington, CIO of PC and I then sent out sights the next big thing … yet to be discovered. That was the frequent shopper card program. Why not ‘customer management’? That basic program is the model on which virtually all FSP programs are still built today. Our team, Dave Henry, Tom Lowe, John McGraw and Joanne Gage plus others turned an IT project into a consumer product.

The retail strategy mantra of the industry to that time had been that all customers were equal and that all customers were good customers. Not true! We did not have sophisticated data bases in those days, but it became obvious that Pareto’s Law was operating. The real insight at that time was that a retailer could no longer ‘force’ customers to buy what they had to sell … they had to sell what the customers wanted to buy. 1st steps toward the practical application of one-to-one marketing.

Tesco and Kroger led the way with the next generation of customer focused data in the grocery industry. Amazon became ‘amazing’!

After a stint with Leo Burnett, I had the good fortune to spend some time with some really, really smart data geeks at a start-up. We were able to manage POS data from 50 million FSC’s and make offers on a one-to-one basis in near real-time. Unfortunately, the recession came along and start-ups could no longer find funding.

Tomorrow … starts another, for me, great adventure. More about that tomorrow.

2 Responses to “Extended Hours”
  1. Bob Raab says:

    Hey Ron,

    Sorry to hear about your health issue, glad to hear that you are doing well now. Take care of yourself, my friend.

    Bob Raab


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