Professional social media site LinkedIn on Tuesday unveiled a list of 10 analysts, observers and practitioners whose insights into retail stood out throughout the year.
They are, in the order presented by LinkedIn: CB Insights Senior Retail and CPG Analyst Zoe Leavitt; Euclid Analytics CEO Brent Franson; Iterate.ai Co-Founder and CEO Jon Nordmark; Eastman Chemical Company Business Development Manager of Textiles Susanna Koelblin; Fung Global Retail and Technology Managing Director Deborah Weinswig; Randa Accessories Chief Marketing Officer and EVP David Katz; Regal Content Consultant Kieron Johnson; Wharton Professor Gad Allon; Euromonitor International Head of Retailing Michelle Grant; and National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay.
To compile the list, LinkedIn used a combination of data and "editorial signals," including engagement (likes, comments and shares across each member's articles, posts and videos); growth of followers tied to publishing activity; the number of times the writer was featured in editorial channels, and the diversity of topics and voices, according to a post by LinkedIn Content Coordinator Ashley Peterson.
In a year when the term "retail apocalypse" gained traction among many observers and was seized on by the press, LinkedIn's top retail voices stand out for their much more nuanced take on retail's present and future. That's due in great part to their access to — or in many cases their creation of — data and analytics that allow the rest of us to dig a little deeper, beyond easy headlines, quick-and-dirty assessments and doom-and-gloom.
The nitty-gritty provided by data gives way to analysis that is useful in an era when many aspects of retail — supply chain, marketing, sales channels, even the actual landscape supporting brick-and-mortar stores, is shifting markedly and rapidly.
"I try to gather data supporting these trends, and extrapolate their impact on business operations and on people's daily lives," Leavitt told LinkedIn. In her posts this year, she wrote about a variety of topics, including Amazon's flying warehouse patents, as well as cannabis and alcohol startups.
Many of LinkedIn's voices are familiar to Retail Dive readers as we've turned to them for insights of our own. For a story on The Limited's disappearance from the retail field, for example, Euclid's Franson told us that sometimes the obsession with Amazon overshadows the real reasons behind a retailer's downfall. "It was the same story about Netflix killing Blockbuster — now it's Amazon killing Macy's or killing The Limited," he told Retail Dive. "But it's more a story of 'Good sailors aren't made in calm waters.' The truth is that there are brands like Sephora that are very successful and are broadening their store footprint. We are overstored, there are too many stores, but often a retailer with operational difficulties is a company making the wrong decisions, not the victim of a large outside macro-force."
These analysts also help us understand complex aspects of today's environment, as with Deborah Weinswig's explanation of influencers and micro-influencers and their importance to retail marketing. "Consumers rely on influencers' authenticity and honesty in making product recommendations," she told Retail Dive last week, detailing the implications of Federal Communications Commission rules requiring disclosure of compensating social media influencers for awards and samples.
And, of course, the NRF's Shay recently gave us his take on the so-called apocalypse: that there's never been a more exciting time for merchants to drive innovation and experience.
Retail Dive counts many on the list as sources and contributors, and we hope to connect with more in the future. We depend on influencers such as these (and more) to suss out the complexities of an industry that at its core is designed to get people what they want and need, when and how they want and need it.
"People still consume. There are still going to be brands," Shay told Retail Dive in an interview this year. "The notion that the retail industry is going to go away I think is just, you know, patently false. And anyone that suggests that is just misguided or misinformed.”