Jamie Grill-Goodman

Talking Retail Trends, Journalism and Children’s Books with Jamie Grill-Goodman

Well, this was a fun one, folks! I recently had the chance to visit with the talented Jamie Grill-Goodman, editor in chief of RIS News. As editor in chief, Jamie is among the ranks of amazing journalists and retail tech thought-leaders who previously held this post, such as Joe Skorupa and the late Dennis Eskow. She has been with the RIS News brand since 2015. 

In this fun chat, we talked about her journey to the publication, why she likes writing about in-store technologies and her love of the library and children’s books.

Following are some excerpts from our conversation. Enjoy!

Tell me about your path to retail tech journalism.

I have a degree in journalism and creative writing from Rowan University. The truth is that I’ve always loved writing! Long before I began to focus on retail tech, I started at a consumer magazine called Unique Homes and then transitioned into children’s book publishing. 

In 2009, I started working for Private Label Magazine, which was my entry into the retail consumer goods field. Phil Russo, the publisher, became a great mentor during my tenure at the publication and taught me so much about the consumer goods space. I went on to work for another private label magazine for a few years but, in 2015, I made the move to Consumer Goods Technology and RIS News.

What is it about the retail tech industry that you enjoy so much?

When I had my initial interviews with Private Label Magazine, they asked me if I liked to shop in stores. I’d always wanted to be a travel writer, so of course I said yes! Working for that publication gave me a unique opportunity to do a ton of store visits, so I really started paying attention to the experience shoppers were having in the store

The physical store has always interested me, especially when it comes to localization or personalization efforts. The store itself is almost its own travel experience, especially destination shops. 

I love retail tech because it’s always changing. It never gets boring. For context, when I started at RIS News eight years ago, my kids were babies and there was no curbside pickup! And now, 63% of retailers that we (RIS News) surveyed are up to date with curbside pickup. It’s just so crazy how fast the industry adopts things and how fast the technology itself evolves.

As a retail journalist, what do you use as inspiration for writing your stories, and how do you stay up to date on the latest trends?

I am always looking at the wires for breaking news, and of course I have a lot of Google alerts set to monitor key terms or trends. I also like to read other publications. But so much of my inspiration comes from just talking to a lot of people! We talk to retail tech vendors to get first-hand accounts of what their retail end users are seeing.

We also have an editorial council which meets a few times a year. They’re great at telling us about the things keeping them up at night and helping us direct our coverage. I also learn so much through our people profiles and hear more about what they are working on, what’s trending in the industry and what changes are really happening in retail tech.

I have to say, also, that women in retail tech always inspire me. Stay tuned for our 8thannual women in retail tech feature later this year.

What do you look for when deciding on which story or trend you want to write? What gets you pumped to write a particular story?

In general, it’s always better if we can talk to the people who have been working with the technology. We love doing case studies with retailers, especially if we can profile someone who’s had the technology in place for six months.

This allows us to go deeper and find out how the technology was implemented, what issues they have had, how they overcame them and what could be done differently next time. Our readers really want to hear the realities of these technology implementations, even if those are not so picture-perfect.

What retail technologies are you most excited about or interested in these days?

I think you can’t ignore Gen AI, but I’m most interested in it for both retail technology and how it’s going to impact journalism. I think it’s interesting to see what use cases there are for AI and how people are dipping their toes into this technology.

For in-store tech, I love anything that the customer is using! I’m really interested in smart carts, smart mirrors, sample vending machines and new instant checkout options – basically anything where the customers are touching the technology. I always get excited and want to learn more about where these in-store technologies are being implemented. 

At industry events, how do you like to divvy up your time? What are the main priorities for you at these events? 

Certainly, NRF is the big one for us, and we put out a huge report on it every year.  For NRF, it is very formulaic in terms of how our editorial team plans for the event. Our schedules are mapped out to the minute every year. We meet several times before the show to assign sessions and floor coverage. We then use the extra time that we have left to meet with vendors and talk to them about what they’re seeing.

For other industry events, we generally try to identify the sessions that we think are the most interesting, and as we have time, will set up meetings with vendors.

We do have our own events, such as Analytics Unite in May, but it is the same formula of having every minute accounted for during those shows. The best conversations come during the networking time when we’re not covering sessions.  

I would say when it comes to meeting with retail tech vendors at industry events, the biggest thing we want to hear is if you are announcing something new at the show. That will get our attention to want to meet and find out more about the announcement, especially if it is a partnership with a retailer. 

At Ketner Group, we are in the business of PR and working with journalists like yourself. Can you share how PR professionals can provide you with the info you need to generate stories?

The biggest thing for me is just know that my audience is retail tech executives, and making sure that the pitches or announcements have some kind of tech associated with it.

The best pitches I get are when the person sending it to me knows my audience and knows what we do. It’s always helpful to pull out a few bullet points to tell me what exactly about the pitch is going to resonate with my audience.

I receive an overwhelming number of emails, over a hundred every day, so concise pitches help me to quickly determine if it is important for me to read. In short, I need to be able to see that the pitch or news is tech related and if there is a retailer involved.

When it comes to pitches that we may not use right away but identify that it may be a good resource for the future, we will share it with the other editors so that everyone has access to it when the time is right. As an editorial team, we are constantly sharing things that look interesting and then work to boil down what we’re really going to cover. 

What are you reading right now?

My kids are 7 and 9, so most of the books I’m reading these days are children’s books! The best one I’ve read most recently was “Maddie’s Fridge” (you can check it out on Storyline Online). But I do still love the library. I love taking out a stack of books and hoping that I’ll get to them!

The library route is great because you have a deadline, and I do well with deadlines! I recently checked out “Beach Read” by Emily Henry and “National Dish” by Anya von Bremzen.