A Ketner Q&A with Greg Buzek, Founder and President of IHL Group
What technology trend do you see most impacting the field?
The single biggest trend for retail is how they compete with Amazon. Retailers must get to Unified Commerce with a single view of the order and single view of the customer regardless of how they choose to shop. And then they need updated POS technology at the store level to take advantage of these changes. Customers used to HAVE to shop, now they need a reason to WANT to shop your stores. This change is having dramatic impact on the number of stores, the alignment of personnel, and total operations. Retailers that make these changes and create a compelling reason for shoppers to visit your stores will survive and thrive. Those that don’t won’t be here much longer.
How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?
We read massive amount of news, and talk to a lot of retailers and non-retailers. I like to spend a lot of time on bleeding edge technology sites to understand new technologies and then think through how these might be applied to retail. Certainly conferences and vendor information plays in here as well. But we always look at these things with a minimum 3 year lens before actual deployment anywhere. Retailers are notoriously slow at technology adoption. We have to filter through the “might be” to try and forecast what likely “will be.”
How do you recommend PR professionals reaching out to share news?
Announcements just to announce a product or new person or new office are fine for local newspapers, but what really gets the attention of analysts and influencers are actual customer wins and anything with $$$ in the headline. Customer wins or case studies are most important. Otherwise you are asking us to sort through hundreds of pieces of news and determine what is real and what is vaporware.
What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?
Always leave a situation better than you found it. Whether a customer relationship, vendor relationship, or simply borrowing a tool from someone….leave the other person better off than when they found you.
How did you get involved in the industry?
Before college, I worked at Hardees, Sears, Skyline Chili and a small restaurant in Cincinnati called J&Js. Once I went to college and graduate school, my first job out was with NCR and I was given that challenge of competitive analysis of the industry. This was an incredible blessing based on what I do now since most new hires only learn about their company, I was forced to learn about all the other companies in the industry. This served me well when I created an analyst firm 20 years ago.
What are three things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you?
I dotted the i in Script Ohio performed by the Ohio State Band (wasn’t supposed to), I still may be one of the only Catholics to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle choir for a day and I got kicked out of my college dorm as a sophomore in college.
What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry?
The decoupling of IT Spend for this year based only on a figure of last year’s revenues. Most retailers still look at IT as a cost of doing business and thus tie this year’s spend to last year’s revenues and growth. Those retailers who do that fail to see that Amazon has changed the game. 66 million U.S. homes now have Amazon Prime Accounts with Free 2 Day shipping. Amazon is an endless aisle retailer that is almost always in stock, supported by Amazon Web Services which is the largest and greatest value Infrastructure as a Service platform. Retailers that don’t realize that IT transformation is not only needed but critical to survival and don’t spend the required funds for turnaround will simply not be here 3 years.
What do you do for fun?
I’m an avid sports fan. My son and I have for the last several years done a college football tour around the country. We love to go to different schools and enjoy the traditions and the game.
Greg Buzek is the Founder and President of IHL Group and one of the Founders of the Retail Orphan Initiative, a charitable foundation that seeks to help the 400 million orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. In 6 years, RetailROI has been involved in 80 projects in 17 countries helping an estimated 158,000 children through clean water, education, computers, language training and care. Noted by RIS News as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Retail” and the National Retail Federation in 2015 as one of “The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future”, he has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from The Ohio State University, and 25 years of experience in retail market analysis, business planning, product development, and consulting with Fortune 500 companies. In 2011 The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute honored Greg with the first ever Paul Singer Award that recognizes business and governmental leaders for going above and beyond their defined roles to advocate for better adoption and foster care policies worldwide.