Shane G

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Always really interested to hear what else hotels are doing to better customer service. I have always wondered though, is there truly a replacement for humans in that industry? Customer service tends to be a huge differentiating factor and in my view, a key competitive advantage of luxury hotels. It would be easy for a lower end chain to replicate some of Starwood’s innovations (if they felt like it was even worth the investment) but providing a luxurious experience through personnel I think is a lot harder (and arguably more expensive given you have to hire more people). So while an app could ensure that room service is properly delivered to your room, a person still has to do this and is a key factor in making it a successful delivery. Curious to hear what you think about that tension and whether an app can really make or break your stay.

On November 20, 2016, Shane G commented on Bright Cellars: The Pandora of Wine :

When I initially saw this concept pop-up as one of my Facebook ads, I ignored it, assuming that given I don’t usually drink Yellowtail / Barefoot and have already found wines I like, this is not the app for me. As you noted, that is probably one of Bright Cellars’ largest hurdles as they try to expand: how to attract the more sophisticated wine drinker. There are already several apps out there that help you rate and remember wine that you enjoyed but wondering if that is the natural extension here. If they can start sourcing more exotic wine that is difficult to procure otherwise, could they find a way to appeal to a broader (and more experienced) wine consumer? And maybe do something with discovery with their algorithms where a customer can actually browse the collection and choose a bottle for themselves based on keywords and previously indicated preferences? Feel like there is a wealth of data here and curious to see what they do next!

On November 20, 2016, Shane G commented on Keeping “The Happiest Place on Earth” Happy :

It’s really interesting that Disney has finally decided that going digital is an important initiative and is willing to spend $1 billion dollars on it! Despite having ~$8BN in net income for 2015, that still seems like a huge number but I am also surprised that it had not been a thought sooner. My one concern though, is that they are just facilitating the process at restaurants / rides and making it easier to attend and more pleasant but not actually cutting out the lines entirely. This to me would seem like one of the biggest customer complaints so curious to see how they plan on shortening queues? When there are high volumes on a particular day, I still do not think they have found a way to improve on that issue.

On November 18, 2016, Shane G commented on Burberry is Bringing Tech-xy Back :

I have been a long-time fan of Burberry’s digital strategy but since the departure of Angela Ahrendts in 2014, the company has not been doing nearly as well financially as it was under her leadership. There have even been discussions of a potential Burberry sale. I had not considered the mass market appeal that you noted in its strategy to be the root cause and because it was so successful under Ahrendts – who took care to make the ads luxurious despite being on social media and which I would argue have continued – I wonder if it is something else that is causing the financial decline. Curious as to whether you think this is potentially attributable to a broader leadership issue versus Burberry’s “social mass marketing” of its brand?

As someone who absolutely hates airport queues this sounds like a great proposition! However, I think that this is not an entirely new concept. Airports have tried to increase throughput by creating programs such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and digital passports. From my personal experience, this has sped up the process for a small group of people that is willing to pay but the wait times at the airport have hardly decreased. I was curious if it was just my perception or a fact and it seems like this is not unique to my experience (see link below). Would be curious to hear why you think this IoT program won’t just turn into another PreCheck: increasing throughput for some but then creating another bottleneck by shifting resources away from the masses?

On November 7, 2016, asafina commented on Maker’s Mark: Seeing the Forest for the Trees :

I was really pleasantly surprised to read that Maker’s is making such great strides in the industry and setting an example for other producers. That is great that they are trying to improve sustainability along the entire value chain and not just during distilling. However, owning a whole forest seems to be a solution only a large, profitable producer can afford to do and even then it is risky. In the event of a downturn in bourbon demand, in a scenario where Maker’s won’t be using all of the wood for its own production, maybe the company can begin to sell the barrels to smaller producers. This way, Maker’s can lead the industry towards its own sustainability goals while still turning a profit and not allowing its resources go to waste. The only concern there is the amount of influence the barrel will have on the flavor and whether all the distilleries that join the network want new white oak but it is worth a try!

On November 6, 2016, asafina commented on The Ecological Impact of Feminine Hygiene Products :

Like some of the above commentators, I had no idea that feminine products created this much waste. Thank you for addressing it and bringing this issue to light!

One of the things not mentioned is whether fully sustainable products can reach the same level of quality, comfort and ease of use that plastic versions have attained. One of the reasons some women avoid the biodegradable versions of tampons for example, is the awkward and bulky cardboard applicator which frequently does not work properly. So on this front, it seems like before any sort of broader marketing campaign can be run, the product itself needs to be improved. While I am not very familiar with reusable products, I again would like to ask whether they are superior in design and stand a chance in truly competing in the current market. Because with these reusable products think they will not only have to face competition from traditional plastic ones but will also require a lot of consumer education to explain why they are just as sanitary and easy to use and their disposable counterparts. This becomes nearly impossible without superior quality.

On November 6, 2016, asafina commented on Can banks save the world? The case of Bank of America :

Just to play devil’s advocate, how much of the financing do you think is due to BAML wanting to change the market versus the market changing on its own and BAML trying to capitalize on the opportunity? I know this might be a slightly cynical point of view but I used to work on the investment banking side of BAML and a lot of the decisions are profit driven. While the bank does take reputation into consideration, a Managing Director cannot choose to turn down projects just because they are not beneficial to the environment (i.e. not take on a debt raise for an oil company) if it is making the firm money. However, while I think that the banking industry is fairly reactionary, you bring up some great points around factors the banks need to start considering when doing analysis. The other point that you didn’t mention, that I do think BAML and other firms have control over, is what they do with their real estate. Banks are huge land owners and BAML in particular has led the charge with its sustainable HQ on One Bryant Park ( Hopefully its conservation efforts for its own buildings will inspire competitors to follow suit!

On November 6, 2016, asafina commented on Vail Resorts Could Be Doing More :

While I agree that as the owner of some of the world’s top resorts Vail could do more to promote sustainability, one question / issue I would like to bring up is funding. As an avid skier myself, I have seen the annual prices of tickets continue to increase, with Vail reaching $160 / ticket this year. This article ( suggests that for a comparable resort (Aspen) prices have increased nearly 65% since 2005. Not to suggest that sustainability is necessarily making the pricing model unsustainable but it seems like so many costs have already been passed on to the consumer and people are getting priced out of the sport. So at some point, will people just stop going and how does Vail strike a balance between having the best practices while continuing to be “affordable”?

On November 6, 2016, asafina commented on Stella McCartney: Making faux leather a luxury :

I have been reading about a lot of brands that are experimenting with faux leather and it seems like there are three main issues with the product: 1) quality 2) longevity and 3) price point. When reading about Stella’s shift to sustainability, I did not see anything about her developing innovative ways to create faux leather which leads me to question points 1 & 2 and whether her products can stand up against other luxury retailers who continue to use animal products. Like one disgruntled blogger notes (see link below), Stella is using PVC and still charging $2K for a bag that might not last as long as one that uses animal products. Traditional luxury retailers justify that sort of price because the materials they are procuring are both rare and (when taken care of) will last for years, which does not seem to be the case here. As companies innovate on the quality of faux leather and others continue to use real leather, do you think she will still be successful while charging such prices and relying mostly on her brand name to sell them? In order to avoid that but to also not get involved in something that isn’t a core competency, I am wondering whether going forward she would consider relinquishing some control over the sourcing. It might make more sense to partner with start-ups like Modern Meadow (a company that is focused on replicating the cell make-up of real leather in an artificial way) to produce her products. Otherwise it seems like a hard sell going forward as more companies become sustainable and find better alternatives!