A Ketner Q&A with Steve Dennis, President of SageBerry Consulting

What technology trend do you see most impacting the field?

In the short-term, technologies that help create what I like to call a more “harmonious” experience will add the greatest value.  Brands need not only remove the friction of shopping cross-channels, but find a few things to do remarkably well.  Medium-term I look to artificial intelligence and machine learning to help retailers create smarter more personalized experiences. Longer-term, virtual reality has the potential to be transformative.

How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?

I read a lot of different newsletters, attend a few high impact conferences and follow a handful of industry leaders who have a great pulse on what’s going on in retail (like Scott Galloway as just one example) or more broadly on innovation and consumer behavior (like my friend and first business partner Seth Godin).

What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?

Accept the things you cannot change.

How did you get involved in the industry? 

I got laid off from a job and wanted to stay in Chicago. I focused on consumer oriented companies that were in need of innovation and a place where I could quickly advance my career. Though a series of event I ended up going to work for Sears way back in 1991. Aspects of that decision worked out better than others.

What are three things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you? 

Given how much I put myself out there in social media and speaking some folks are surprised that I’m really pretty introverted. Second, I hate to shop. Lastly, given my interest in Buddhist philosophy I struggle with how many brands often appeal to consumers ego in shallow or meaningless ways.

What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry? 

Most consumer journeys now start in a digital channel and many brands are utterly unprepared for that.

What do you do for fun?

My first love is travel, followed closely by a strong love for learning, which usually plays out through reading and seeking out new experiences that challenge my worldview.


About Steve Dennis

Steve is the President of SageBerry Consulting, a strategic advisory firm focused on innovation and growth strategy for retail, luxury and social impact brands. His perspectives on digital disruption and the reinvention of retail are shared through keynote speeches, in the press and as the author of one of the industry’s most popular blogs. Steve is also a retail contributor for Forbes and has been named a top retail influencer by multiple organizations. He has consulted and/or spoken on six continents and still holds out hope for doing a keynote in Antarctica.

Prior to founding SageBerry, Steve was SVP, Strategy & Multichannel Marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group where he drove major growth initiatives and led the company’s multi-channel integration, loyalty marketing and customer insight strategy. Earlier in his career he held senior leadership positions with Sears, including Chief Strategy Officer and VP of Multichannel Integration.

Steve is the immediate past Board Chair of Social Venture Partners Dallas and serves on the advisory boards of the United Way’s Ground Floor Initiative, Education Opens Doors and Invodo.

He received a BA in Economics from Tufts University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.