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 Diapers.com (acquired by Amazon for $545m), Jet.com (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 Coursera.org 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®.
Winning in the Digital Economy
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.