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David Bell
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Marketing, Branding & Sales / Digital Transformation, Information Technology & Data Analytics / Customer Experience & Consumer Behavior / Strategy / Emerging Technology / Entrepreneurial Thinking & Investment Strategies / Communication Strategy / Founders & Practitioners / Must-Read Books


  • David R. Bell | Effectively Market To Millennials and Gen-Z
    David R. Bell | Effectively Market To Millennials and Gen-Z
  • David Bell: The Branding And Direct-To-Consumer Revolution | OMR Festival 2019 | #OMR19
    David Bell: The Branding And Direct-To-Consumer Revolution | OMR Festival 2019 | #OMR19
  • How the Offline World Affects Online Commerce
    How the Offline World Affects Online Commerce
  • Nailing it in Retail - David Bell - Mastercard LAC Innovation Forum 2017
    Nailing it in Retail - David Bell - Mastercard LAC Innovation Forum 2017
  • Clicks & Mortar: Driving Information and Fulfillment
    Clicks & Mortar: Driving Information and Fulfillment
  • David Bell discusses Spring Festival spending phenomenon
    David Bell discusses Spring Festival spending phenomenon
  • Consumers look to reduce waste, expand wardrobe through subscription services
    Consumers look to reduce waste, expand wardrobe through subscription services
  • David Bell takes a look at the rising trends in China's growing retail market
    David Bell takes a look at the rising trends in China's growing retail market
  • Prof. David Bell explains Alibaba's new retail strategy
    Prof. David Bell explains Alibaba's new retail strategy
  • Professor David Bell on Digital Marketing: Wharton Lifelong Learning Tour
    Professor David Bell on Digital Marketing: Wharton Lifelong Learning Tour
  • Wharton Global Forum Bangkok 2015: Innovation: Online and Offline with David Bell
    Wharton Global Forum Bangkok 2015: Innovation: Online and Offline with David Bell
  • David Bell on luxury brands going e commerce
    David Bell on luxury brands going e commerce

Learn More About David R. Bell

The lines between digital and brick-and-mortar business have become blurred at a rapid pace. With nearly all physical retailers having an online presence and many digital vendors opening real-world stores, pop-ups and other in-person shopping experiences, it has become more important than ever for consumer goods companies to have effective digital marketing strategies that attract attention and keep their products top-of-mind.

At the very forefront of mastering digital marketing strategies is David R. Bell, PhD., former Wharton School professor turned startup investor. An influential academic who has become a practitioner with an eye for spotting disruptive businesses, Bell is in the rare position of being able take the unique frameworks he has taught, apply them in the real world, and help businesses identify and succeed in the next trillion-dollar industries.  

From Glasses and Razors to Billion-Dollar Valuations

A true pioneer in the field and expert on the evolving retail economy, Bell developed the first digital marketing and e-commerce course at Wharton. For years, he has helped startups and legacy brands formulate effective go-to-market strategies and win in the digital retail space. A sought-after mentor, advisor and investor, it’s hard to argue with his successful track record: category disruptors Warby Parker and Harry’s’ roots go back to his Wharton program. Both have since been valued at over $1 billion – eye-catching numbers for bottom-up innovation projects that were born out of simply identifying everyday frustrations with the offerings of incumbents.

Bell’s expertise shines through in his bestselling 2014 book, “Location Is (still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One” (New Harvest). In what many consider to be a handbook for what Internet vendors need to do to succeed, “Location” includes Bell’s unique GRAVITY framework, a powerful and practical tool that uses fundamental human behaviors and location-based conditions to explain how the real and virtual worlds converge. To succeed today, retailers must contend with that intersection: digital retailers need to make the real world more relevant, and brick-and-mortar retailers must amplify their environments online. Bell insightfully outlines these strategies in this MIT Sloan Management Review piece, “How to Win in an Omnichannel World.”

“The culture of creating stuff now blends with the culture of consuming it,” says Bell. “To survive in this new environment, retailers and sellers of all types must reexamine their strategies for delivering information and products to customers.”

Connect with Young Customers Like a B.O.S.S.

With the meteoric rise of online retail, Bell makes sure to emphasize that brick-and-mortar stores are in no way a thing of the past; quite the opposite, in fact. Today, stores aren’t constrained to just physical locations or just websites, and impactfully connecting with consumers is more important than ever.

In his innovative B.O.S.S. Model (Bonding, not branding; Orators, not customers; Showrooms, not stores; Science, not service), Bell provides a framework for helping companies understand, relate to, and ultimately compete for Millennial customers. As the Millennial demographic, along with Gen-Z shoppers, continue to become increasingly influential and lucrative segments – and their behaviors, aspirational and trendsetting, for other cohorts – Bell notes that within these generations especially, consumers are rethinking consumption and engaging with people over engaging with brands.

“Your brand needs to behave more like a person,” says Bell. “It’s now vital for a brand to have a compelling story that speaks to people on a personal level.”

Guiding Founders Through Collaborative Mentorship

Bell has taken his status as a practitioner to the next level, co-founding Idea Farm Ventures, an incubator and investment engine for disruptive startups. Not just a fund that simply provides money to startups, Idea Farm employs a “mentor circle” that brings together academics and business experts to advise and guide founders on competitive strategies and the human aspects of business, like the importance of creating quality cultures that will attract and retain employees. The firm has already supported a number of successful companies, including cookware startup Caraway, health-focused hydration brand Lemon Perfect, and “beauty meets hygiene” personal care brand, Touchland.

Bell continues to guest lecture at several leading business schools as he advises startups and legacy retail and consumer goods companies alike, teaching leaders effective strategies for brand building and marketing in today’s hybrid online/offline retail landscape. To understand these complex, evolving dynamics, he simplifies the most important starting point for leaders.

“Brick-and-mortar businesses have to think about how to amplify their products through digital, and digital-first brands must consider how to make the real world more relevant,” urges Bell. “But the future of retail is most definitely the omnichannel integration of the retail economy. The time to adapt is now.”


David R. Bell is an investor in e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brands and is president and co-founder at Idea Farm Ventures, a permanent capital consumer and retail investment holding company based in New York City. David was an early investor in several iconic new economy brands including (acquired by Amazon for $545m), (acquired by Walmart for $3.3b), Bonobos (acquired by Walmart for $310m), Harry’s (private) and Warby Parker (WRBY), among many others.

A former professor and marketing expert at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for 20 years, his teaching has spanned online and offline classrooms. More than a half million students from across the world have signed up for his online marketing management course at and he has taught thousands of executives and students at MIT, INSEAD, UCLA, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and Skolkovo School of Business in Moscow.  

David Bell is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

David R. Bell was last modified: July 10th, 2024 by Whitney Jennings

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Creating Digital Leverage and Business Transformation

In the 21st century omnichannel marketplace, sellers of all types must reexamine their strategies for delivering information, products and services to customers, says David Bell, co-founder of Idea Farm Ventures and a pioneer in business transformation and integrating the real world with the digital. Named the “guru of the consumer economy” by Inc. Magazine and author of the award-winning book, “Location Is (still) Everything,” he helps companies leverage digital for business transformation. In this presentation, Bell illuminates how frictions in the digital and physical worlds create opportunity for digital leverage, why digital natives (Gen Z) and digital pioneers (Millennials) shape opportunities and demand “better-for-you” products and services, and how to delineate digital innovation and digital enhancement. Attendees walk away knowing how to speak the language of digital leverage and implement business models made possible by it.

From Idea to Success: How Consumer and Retail Category Disruptors are Created

Brands that shake up a category and change the retail landscape don’t just appear. So, how do successful startups move from idea to a game-changing disruptor? “Start by identifying your what’s broken for customers, then learn how to drive either ‘insight’ or ‘framework’ innovation,” says David R. Bell, president and co-founder of startup incubator Idea Farm Ventures and former Wharton professor who created the school’s first digital marketing and e-commerce program. In this interactive session grounded in decades of research and cases on the consumer and retail economy, Bell shares his proven framework that outlines actionable go-to-market strategies industry incumbents can follow to compete like their more nimble counterparts. With lessons applicable across a variety of product and service sectors, Bell’s experience and insights show participants how to identify sleepy categories, amplify real world environments through digital initiatives and ultimately build trusted brands and products that will stand out and be successful in today’s ultra-competitive retail landscape.

The Evolving Retail Economy: Fortifying Your Market Share

The line between in-store and online retail has blurred to the point that being successful in either, or both, requires new thinking around branding and marketing strategies. Digital marketing and e-commerce trailblazer David R. Bell – researcher, Wharton professor turned investor and highly sought-after mentor for startups and legacy companies alike – helps organizations understand and leverage consumer behavior in the evolving online, offline and hybrid retail landscapes. In this eye-opening presentation, he’ll outline the new truisms of digital marketing, such as the importance of building a human-centered, compelling brand story that resonates with consumers on a personal level. He also explains that the Millennial and Gen-Z demographics can no longer be an afterthought, and he helps founders and leaders understand the consumer behavior and true buying power of these influential customers. With Bell’s proven frameworks, participants will gain new insights into how to build successful modern branding and marketing initiatives, particularly the vital importance of omnichannel retail strategies, how these strategies harness the lucrative buying power of the Millennial and Gen-Z demographics, as well as other cohorts who have adopted their psychographic and mindset.

The B.O.S.S. Model: Appealing to Millennials in a Digital World

The Millennial consumer is transforming and upending the economy, and yet the nuances of how these consumers behave, and the outsized influence they wield, are poorly understood. As a result, large incumbent firms are being outperformed by nimble younger companies led by Millennial executives, who naturally have far greater insight into this generation’s spending habits, impulses and values. According to digital marketing expert David Bell, the relationship between the rise of Millennial customers and the disruption of traditional businesses is symbiotic: both drive and inform each other. Based on deep research of successful startup companies, and the subject of his forthcoming book, Bell devised the “B.O.S.S. Model,” a framework to help companies develop ways to understand, relate to and ultimately compete for the business of Millennials. The framework – Bonding, not branding; Orators, not customers; Showrooms, not stores; Science, not service – requires leaders to completely rethink how they approach and sell to this unique generation, and covers the connection, people, physical spaces and data science needed to appeal to Millennials (and the generations they influence). Millennials represent the buying patterns and values of the future, and companies must begin transforming their approach to marketing and sales now. Bell’s grounded and practical B.O.S.S. Model will be the first comprehensive blueprint for thriving during this wave of transformation.

Location is Still Everything: Transforming Commerce

Conventional wisdom holds that the internet has made the world flat and erased the impact of the physical world on what we buy and where we buy it (online or offline). Paradoxically, the rise of internet-connected devices and commerce innovation have made it more important to understand physical world geography and relationships, not less. Drawing from his award-winning book, “Location Is (still) Everything,” David Bell provides a powerful and practical metaphor and framework – GRAVITY – for thinking about how real world-virtual world interaction drives business success. GRAVITY embodies the levers executives must understand (Geography, Resistance, Adjacency, Vicinity, Isolation, Topography and You) in order to navigate the new commerce landscape. In this presentation, Bell shows audiences how to deploy the GRAVITY framework to drive commerce, leverage proven strategies for success from leading digital-first brands, and understand and capitalize on consumers’ behavior – online and off.

How to Win in the Digital Economy

The business world is in the throes of the digital age. But just because digital marketing is indispensable doesn’t mean we can ignore the impact of offline presence. More than ever, consumers still need to interact with brands in person. Social interaction, frictionless transacting and mobile-enabled commerce create unparalleled opportunities, and yet also impose discipline and risk on new and established firms alike. David Bell provides research-driven and actionable insights into how firms must navigate this new environment and illuminates several examples from various industries. Bell discusses how to:

  • build a lasting brand narrative;
  • engage, retain and rapidly scale the customer base;
  • execute the three levers of digital brand-building, and
  • apply the LAW of Digital (Leverage, Amplify, Win Local)

Retail Innovation and How to Thrive in an Omni-Channel World

David Bell has been immersed in retail and consumer behavior since his days as a PhD student at Stanford pouring over scanner panel transaction data. He has authored award-winning research on retail pricing strategies (e.g., high-low pricing, EDLP) and in-store consumer behavior. Now, he focuses on retail transformation in logistics and information delivery where his ongoing work with established players as well as young digital-first brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker – both born online and now have thriving retail locations ­– continues to evolve. Bell discusses the future of marketing and e-commerce, and how to build the right omni-channel experiences for the right customers in the right locations. Furthermore, he shows leaders how to execute logistics and information innovations, illuminating why they need to be put in place, as well as how to navigate and thrive in an omni-channel world.

Unlocking Pharma Potential By Engaging Patients Online

Pharma, relative to some other sectors, has been slow to embrace digital transformation. The traditional method of marketing pharmaceuticals to physicians and patients is no longer effective, and doctors have been replaced by Google as the primary source of information for patients.  The digital potential in healthcare is enormous with 1 in 20 Google searches relating to “health.” Drawing on his work in “Pharma 3D: Rewriting the Script for Pharma Marketing in the Digital Age,” David Bell elaborates on the trends and opportunities facing pharma organizations and provides an actionable framework to help them win in the digital health care economy. He helps pharma leaders understand how to deploy care-flows, implement the 3D (Discovery, Design, Deliver) model, and emulate best practices from leading in-care pharma case studies.

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Pointers to the Future

October 18, 2014

Winning in the Digital Economy

Two-Day Short Course Agenda

The main goal of this program is to help business leaders understand and execute against the key principles and opportunities for winning in the digital economy. To deliver against this objective, David Bell will emphasize fundamental concepts in economics, marketing, and consumer behaviour and pay (somewhat) less attention to particular tools of the digital economy, which are by nature more transient.

An ancillary goal for this workshop is to establish the importance of data and frameworks in driving this process. To reinforce both goals, participants will utilize a mixture of group discussion and project work, lectures, case assignments, and numerous practical examples of success (and failure) from both within your immediate sector, and without.

“David is an engaging, provocative, energetic and clear speaker. Importantly, his deep reservoir of ‘on the ground experience’ translates to pragmatic approaches to modern age problem-solving. The three-hour session we had with David flew by, making our group want more and request that we have a return visit. His knowledge, passion and practical experience make him an impactful speaker and mentor. Two thumbs up!”

David Castellani, Senior Vice President and Business Information Officer, New York Life

“I have had the fortune to have David as a speaker at two AOL events… Both events put David front and center amid a room of senior brand marketing and digital advertising executives. David shined, creating a warm and intimate setting through which our attendees listened, laughed and learned. In addition to being an expert in the fields of e-commerce and consumer shopping behavior, David’s ability to weave complex research findings into highly digestible real-life stories and examples made his presentations interesting and engaging. In that, David’s presentations were regarded as the most valuable and memorable by our attendees at both events.”

Greg Skipper, Vice President, AOL Advertising

“David’s presentation on how location affects a consumer’s shopping behavior was both insightful and fascinating. The research and content resonated with nearly all of the top retailers at the summit and many requested that he return again next year. His presentation style kept people engaged and wanting to learn more. We can’t thank him enough for all of his preparation and hope to work with him again next year.”

Elizabeth Fabiani, Google

“David is able to deliver his presentations in every location – his interactive, engaging style and genuine enthusiasm for the topic ensured that a very private sector-oriented topic was well received, and that its relevance for our organization was clearly understood. In particular, his research on how location affects consumer behaviour and information dispersion resonated particularly well with our audience as an international organization located in Paris. I very much hope that we get to work David again in the future.”

Makoto Miyasako, OECD

“David is such a wonderful speaker! His ability to engage with the audience is impressive. He gave a very effective and interesting presentation on the importance of our physical surroundings in how we buy, online or offline, that says a lot about consumer behavior in this era. It’s such a refreshing topic!! His message is important to hear if you own a business, and even if you don’t, it’s important to reflect on what he talks about. David delivered his presentation in an entertaining way while getting his point across to the entire audience. He was truly amazing and we would be very lucky to have him speak at one of our events again!”

Leonor Silva, ISEM

Praise for "Location is (Still) Everything"

“A powerful rejoinder to anyone who predicted the irrelevancy of the three most important factors in retail: location, location and location. It’s a must read for anyone who runs an Internet business.”

Brad Stone, author, "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon"

“David Bell has written a playbook about how to win the internet. By illuminating the connections between our physical and virtual lives, he’s paved the way for smarter shopping, selling, sharing and living.”

Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, co-CEOs and co-founders, Warby Parker

“Thoroughly researched and elegantly written, this book offers a provocative insight—our online behavior depends a lot on where we live and this relationship is quite stable and predictable. Anyone interested in understanding online behavior of consumers would benefit tremendously from reading this book.”

Sunil Gupta, Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“The Internet has had a powerful impact on business. But the real world and the virtual one are more connected than you might think. 'Location Is (Still) Everything' shows you what’s new, what’s the same, and what you should be doing about it.”

Jonah Berger, author, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On"

“Wharton professor David Bell reveals how location still matters in surprising ways, even in the supposedly 'flat' world of e-commerce.”

“Wharton marketing professor David Bell trots out a laundry list of convincing evidence that today, despite all the world-is-flat hype, where we live still dictates our buying patterns. It’s a welcome addition to a conversation that seems to ignore the fact that even in today’s hyper-connected age, only a projected 9% of retail transactions will happen online by the end of 2014, according to Forrester Research—and even those purchases are shaped by the physical world around them.”

“The bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000 has often been blamed on what then Fed chairman Alan Greenspan described as 'irrational exuberance,' but that’s only one part of the story. In 'Location is (Still) Everything', David R. Bell, the Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, suggests other reasons for the bust, reasons that should concern anyone with an interest in online commerce. The book doesn’t address the bubble directly, but it does deflate the idea that underpinned much of the exuberance in the second half of 1990s—that the Internet is always a flat, friction-less marketplace.”

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