Community//

Dr. Vic Matta: “Be yourself and do what naturally appeals to you”

Retail stores and malls will continue to exist, because there is still a market for the functions that the brick and mortar stores provide. A lot of customers like the instant gratification of being able to touch and try the merchandise. In some cases, it permits better identification of characteristics such as shades and color […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Retail stores and malls will continue to exist, because there is still a market for the functions that the brick and mortar stores provide. A lot of customers like the instant gratification of being able to touch and try the merchandise. In some cases, it permits better identification of characteristics such as shades and color matching, closer fit, and other such accurate assessments. For other customers, being able to see an item in person helps make their mind up better. They see online shopping as a hassle. For instance, Best Buy has been able to remain in business over a decade after Amazon began offering electronics at competitive prices.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vic Matta ([email protected]), an Associate Professor in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department at the College of Business, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology in 2008. Vic teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in Business Analytics, Information Systems Analysis, Systems Development, and Strategic Use of Information Systems. He also conducts seminars in business consulting and project management in our executive education workshops. He is an accomplished teacher and has won several awards at the college and university. He has published in several academic journals, and is an Associate Editor for the multiple conference tracks and journal publications. His research areas include consumer behavior, analytics applications and pedagogy. He presents regularly at Information Systems Conferences and is an active member of the Association of Information Systems.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have some background in engineering. I used to work with computers and machines. My work with computers began to involve people and required me to ensure that they could benefit from my work. For instance, in the 90s when I installed and configured web, mail and domain name servers, I also designed and wrote content on web pages for people to use. This was the beginning of a shift into the field of user-experience, which progressed into user adoption of technology as my PhD dissertation. This has currently evolved into research on consumer behavior and behavioral intention.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I currently work with the use of analytics in decision making. This has many nuances. For example, regulations in privacy and use of personal data have not been able to keep up with the advancement of technology, data harvest capabilities, and its use in user profiling. I recommend that people be aware that data collection mechanisms are only going to increase. Read the fine print and use the most secure or conservative settings possible.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To my colleagues in Retail, I would say, three things.

  1. Do it for the right reasons, whatever those may be. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) was yester year, but it is still a good reason, amongst others.
  2. Be yourself and do what naturally appeals to you. That way you are not doing something that you wouldn’t already do, and you will eventually find ways to make it better. Then you will not burn out and will also outlast your competition.
  3. And keep it simple. For example, a 25% off coupon on top of a 20% off coupon, is unsustainable, difficult to calculate, and just plain messy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am fortunate to belong to an extremely collegial department in our College of Business. I believe that every colleague has worked with me in one way or another. For example, none of us use text-books; we create our own content, and then share it to help each other, and build a streamlined curriculum for our major.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am a professor of business and work with students. One of my roles is to help students make a successful life for themselves. This means preparing them to be top quality professionals. I go out of my way to be there for them.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

Here are five trends I have seen.

  1. Online Retail Shopping Subscriptions: Large retailers have created subscription services that provide fast and free deliveries of groceries and goods. Examples include Walmart+, which directly targets Amazon Prime, Beyond+, etc.
  2. Restaurant food delivery services. These have taken off and are the new Ubers, including, of course Uber Eats. These services also include others such as DoorDash, GrubHub, etc.
  3. Grocery delivery services: While there are plenty of restaurant food delivery services, these services excel in delivery of perishable groceries. Larger grocery retailers such as Whole Foods (Amazon), Walmart and Kroger have their own delivery services. However, they also partner with third party services such as InstaCart that services many general merchants (such as Big Lots, CVS) in addition to grocery stores like Kroger.
  4. Health Food services: These stores cater to a market that does not want to dig into recipes and make decisions about dinner. They offer the services of providing everything that may be needed for ostensibly better-quality food or healthier offerings. A few names include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Peach Dish, Plated, etc.
  5. Online grocery market: Large retailers (e.g. Walmart) didn’t always list their grocery offerings on their websites. This is not the case anymore. Target and Walmart have begun to improve their grocery offerings to drive better sales of online groceries. Large grocery stores such as Kroger have also improved their online selections and begun offering competitive coupons to prevent losing their customers to competition.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

Retail stores and malls will continue to exist, because there is still a market for the functions that the brick and mortar stores provide. A lot of customers like the instant gratification of being able to touch and try the merchandise. In some cases, it permits better identification of characteristics such as shades and color matching, closer fit, and other such accurate assessments. For other customers, being able to see an item in person helps make their mind up better. They see online shopping as a hassle. For instance, Best Buy has been able to remain in business over a decade after Amazon began offering electronics at competitive prices.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Three retailers use different strategies to innovate in this time of retail apocalypse.

  1. Lululemon Athletica is an athletic apparel retailer (think yoga pants). They began as a community hub for fitness enthusiasts, and quickly transformed their interactive approach into innovative products to suit healthy lifestyles. Their mantra, to elevate the body from mediocrity to greatness, reflects their unique perspective of offering a lifestyle instead of a brand. It supports a set of core values based on differentiations and focuses on prioritizing quality over quantity in their products. They used this strategy to appeal to a certain genre of brand conscious customers.
  2. Kroger used a differentiation and low-cost strategy that they called Restock Kroger. Their store brand, “Simple Truth” reflected its natural, organic, fair trade and at the same time, low cost groceries. Another one of the prongs of the Restock Kroger initiative was to improve consumer experience. This evolved into sourcing new brands, upgrading their stores, and leveraging different technology offerings to offer four ways of checking out. They have also increased their emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR), as well as customer experience.
  3. Costco is in the unique position to expand narrow margins due to their wholesale offerings model. For 60 dollars a year, customers are able to shop for high-quality merchandise at competitive prices. During the pandemic months their membership rose 5% over the previous year. Psychologically for a customer the sunk cost of 60 dollars incentivizes them to visit the store more often to recoup the value of the annual fee.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

The increase of online shopping has leveled the playing field between standard retail (think mall shopping) and direct-to-customer (D2C) companies a little. One survival practice used by large online retailers such as Amazon is that they offer many brands and make the profits in the “long tail” (Anderson, 2018). They do not have to make decisions about what which products to stock. They don’t have to limit themselves to what was trendy or what sold the most, and therefore can stock the long tail of products that normally don’t get placed in smaller stores or brick and mortar retail stores due to lower sales. A second survival practice is to change the experience, like Lululenon’s model (discussed earlier), or that of Warby Parker, which addresses the cunsumer’s apprehension of fit of eye glass frames by allowing multiple trials and hassle-free returns.

References:

Anderson, C. (2018). The long tail. Hyperion e-book.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Many of us shop based on reviews we read online. I would like to request readers to leave genuine, specific and constructive reviews for everyone to see and benefit from. This will credit deserving businesses with the promotion associated with a good review. It will also help the ones who did not fare well in your review to hopefully see how they could improve. It will also give those businesses a chance to reach out to you and win your patronage again.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I maintain a profile page at http://cob.ohio.edu/matta

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Jill Standish: “Everything is so transparent today”

by Jilea Hemmings
Community//

Krista Bourne: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

by Fotis Georgiadis
Community//

“A massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to provide consumers with deeper information about a product in engaging ways”, with David Fisch

by Fotis Georgiadis

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.