PROFILE

Ricardo Belmar

Retail Transformation Thought Leader

As retailers, CPG brands, retail tech, and supply chain industries accelerate their digital transformation via collaborative, mobile, and cloud-based applications; the need to deliver the best user experience to all users and customers across all devices is ever increasing. Ricardo helps these organizations achieve business value from technology investments by optimizing their store infrastructure and unified commerce systems to deliver omnichannel customer experiences and drive digital revenue.

Ricardo also helps emerging retail tech organizations develop marketing strategies segmented and targeted to the best audience for their solutions, leveraging his 20+ years of industry experience, marketing expertise, and retail influence and relationships across media and analysts covering the industry.

A top industry influencer in retail, consumer goods, payments tech, and restaurant industries on technology trends, Ricardo can be actively found on Twitter and LinkedIn and is regularly a Top 10 social media influencer at the annual NRF Big Show. He was named Social Media Mayor at the 2015 Retail Executive Summit, the 2015 ENGAGE Summit, the 2016 RetailTech Conference, the 2018 Retail Experience Summit, and the “Chief Twit” for Twitter engagement at RetailROI’s Super Saturday 2015 and 2016 events. He conducts frequent video interviews of senior executives from retail, CPG, and restaurant brands and industry analysts while also frequently interviewed by retail publications and podcasts. Most recently, Ricardo was the Sr Director of Global Marketing and Communications for Infovista and an ICX Association director. He is also a strong supporter of the RetailROI charity organization.

As retailers and brands accelerate their digital transformation via collaborative, mobile, and cloud-based applications, the need to deliver the best user experience to all users and customers across all devices is ever increasing. Ricardo helps these organizations, both large and small, achieve business value from technology investments by optimizing their infrastructure from store systems to unified commerce and beyond to deliver omnichannel customer experiences and drive digital revenue. As a trusted advisor, Ricardo also works with emerging retail tech organizations, leveraging his 20+ years of industry experience, marketing expertise, retail influence, and relationships across media and analysts covering the industry to develop go-to-market strategies. A top technology influencer in retail, consumer goods, payments tech, and restaurant industries, Ricardo is a Top 10 social media influencer at the annual NRF Big Show and was named Social Media Mayor at four RIS News events from 2015 to 2018 as well as the “Chief Twit” for Twitter engagement at RetailROI’s Super Saturday 2015 and 2016 events. He regularly interviews senior executives from retail, CPG, restaurant brands, and industry analysts and speaks at retail industry conferences. Ricardo is a contributor to numerous retail publications and podcasts. He was most recently the Sr Director of Global Marketing and Communications for Infovista and an ICX Association director. He is currently a RETHINK Retail Advisory Council member and a strong supporter of the RetailROI charity organization.
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  • Posted on: 10/26/2020

    What’s the best recipe for holiday ad messaging during a pandemic?

    This is the year for positive, feel-good holiday messages to counter all the negativity and pain felt throughout the year by so many people. Less commercial, more welcoming, and show some holiday spirit -- that's what retailers and brands need to focus on in their holiday messaging this year. It's what consumers want to feel!
  • Posted on: 10/26/2020

    Google Shopping makes price comparisons easier

    Google is increasing the value of their search as a shopping tool for consumers. The benefit for retailers is less obvious. While this might bring a shopper to a new retailer based on price and/or proximity to their location, it may end up encouraging a race to the bottom based purely on price in certain product categories. Google continues to be a double-edged sword for retailers in that they look to add value for consumers first and then struggle to show similar value to retailers. This is an example where the benefit to retailers is questionable vs. consumers. Google needs to look for new ones to embrace retailers into their platforms and tools while still providing convenience to consumers. That's what has made Amazon such a powerful search tool for most shoppers versus starting their journey on Google.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2020

    Where are curbside and BOPIS services falling short?

    Poor communication is the most significant factor hindering a great curbside pickup or BOPIS experience for the customer. As with any customer-facing service, the execution is critical, down to the last interface detail. For example, if the customer makes the purchase from the retailer's mobile app, they will expect to get notifications via the app when their order is ready for pickup. Once arriving at the store, the customer expects the app to detect their arrival and communicate where they should park, or where in the store to go for in-store pickup. For curbside, the customer also expects a notification when the associate is bringing the order out for a contactless pickup. Those little communication details matter to deliver a great experience. This holiday season, more than ever these details are what consumers are expecting when they shop.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Can Gap prosper without mall stores?

    This statement says it all - “overly reliant on low-productivity, high-rent stores.” Gap's namesake brand has lost relevance with customers and, as a result, created too many unprofitable stores in B and C malls. Gap is wise to eliminate these underperforming stores, but they should have been planning this since before the pandemic. The writing has been on the wall for those poorly performing mall locations. Gap and Athleta stores will likely perform well off-mall, but they have a long, hard road ahead of them. This is only the beginning. Gap still needs to understand what its brand means to its customers. If Gap disappeared tomorrow, would any of their customers care? Product assortment is also an issue for Gap stores. As others here have pointed out, why pay $60 for jeans at Gap if you can buy them for $20 at Old Navy. The quality isn't all that different, unfortunately. Shoppers need a reason to want to buy at Gap stores and today that's just not there. Banana Republic may be suffering from less demand for business casual work attire these days but could be turned around post-pandemic with the right store count and locations. Old Navy and Athleta are the growth engines, but Gap stores need significant changes to succeed.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Can Target assure customers they’ll be safe shopping for the holidays?

    Target could teach the masterclass in agility and adaptation in a crisis based on their performance during the pandemic. Their stated improvements in the name of safety are also making Target easier to shop during the holiday season when many consumers are worried about crowded stores. I am most pleased to see they are adding a mobile checkout capability and equipping store associates with the ability to check out a customer anywhere. Every opportunity to avoid a checkout line or a delay in shopping with Target is addressed now whether you are shopping in-store, via the web or mobile app, and using mobile checkout, curbside or in-store pickup. I applaud Target's ability to lead the way during a difficult retail moment. Of course all of this is theoretical, and the real success story will come from execution. Target will need to ensure store associates are well trained and able to support customers purchasing while managing store capacity and enforcing mask policies. It is no easy task for this holiday shopping season! Especially if we assume that they will become even more attractive to consumers to shop with them. I expect these changes to make them more appealing to a broader set of customers, so they will certainly be stress-tested this season.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    How crucial is last mile fulfillment to 7-Eleven and the c-store channel?

    They're called convenience stores for a reason, but the definition of convenience has irreversibly been changed during the pandemic as far as consumers are concerned! Last-mile fulfillment options like same-day delivery and one- or 2 two-hour delivery plus curbside pickup are now practically table stakes in retail. However just ask restaurant owners what using third-party delivery services have done to their bottom line. C-stores are not immune to this and as volumes increase, they will need to find alternative ways to compensate for the reduced profit from these services. Customers will continue to expect faster and faster delivery times so this problem is not going away. Costs will need to be managed, or other business areas will need to adjust to compensate.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    Are immersive technologies ready to build online buying trust?

    The more expensive a product, the greater the consumer's need and desire are to physically experience it to evaluate its quality and desirability. Consumers fear buyer's remorse from such purchases, and immersive technologies like AR, VR, etc. can help alleviate that fear and establish a sense of trust in making the purchase digitally. While it's hard to believe these technologies will completely satisfy all consumers' desires in the future, I can believe that younger, more digitally savvy consumers will seek out brands and retailers that deliver this experience as part of their initial digital shopping journey before making a purchase. The issue will become, how can a retailer or brand afford NOT to have this capability?
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    Amazon will pay you to know what you bought somewhere else

    What’s your purchase data worth to you? That's the question consumers will be asking themselves when they learn of this offer from Amazon for their precious shopper data. If there's one area Amazon is blind to about their customers, it's what they purchase, why they purchase it, and how they purchase it when it isn't purchased on Amazon.com. The value of this program to Amazon is quite clear - it will allow them to paint a detailed picture of their shopper demographics and buying habits, assuming they achieve a good cross-section of their shoppers. The question is, what kind of shopper will participate and what type of receipts will they submit? Is it more or less valuable to Amazon if a participant submits 10 grocery receipts vs. a mix of grocery and apparel? I suspect the answer is Amazon will take any data they can get as it will make their existing customer data set that much more detailed. Consumers are becoming more and more numb to the idea of their personal buying data being used by retailers and brands so I suspect this program will be quite successful. You can also look at the Ibotta app in the Apple and Android app stores for an example. Over a million reviews with a very positive rating overall. So it seems $10 may be a good price for your data after all!
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    COVID-19 Essentials is a startup designed to end with the pandemic

    Maybe morphing into the "Emergency Response" store in the future? Adding products for home safety, etc.? It's a bit of a stretch and still very niche, but it could happen!
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Lowe’s customers ‘gift’ their homes for the holidays?

    Lowe's is making a strategic move to become THE store for your home -- beyond home improvement projects and into general home goods, using the holidays as a backdrop to tell this expanded brand story. What a great way to differentiate from The Home Depot! I don't see the expansion to other categories as being too far off their core categories. Yes, it's more than home improvement, and that may not be how many customers think of Lowe's -- yet. I see this more as a test for Lowe's to see how well-received this could be as a long term strategy. Again, if the goal is to be THE destination for outfitting your home, no matter what the area - decor or improvement -- this could be the start of something much bigger for Lowe's.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Whole Foods draw more Prime shoppers with one-hour curbside pickup?

    In a rare moment, Amazon is playing catch-up to other grocery stores. But in typical Amazon fashion, they move quickly to address a customer need -- convenience -- by providing curbside pickup in an hour. I have no doubt Prime members will jump at this opportunity. The question is, what impact will this have on shoppers who want to go into the store for their groceries? Reports of crowded Whole Foods with empty shelves due to Prime pickers may get worse instead of better. However, what if this is the convenience factor that migrates many of those in-store shoppers to curbside? That could provide a winning combination for Amazon and may even lead to their opening more dark stores to service digital orders for Whole Foods. The one area that remains murky -- how does all this fit into their broader grocery plan with their new Amazon Fresh formats?
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Retailers need to prep for in-store COVID conflicts

    Unfortunately, there are no good answers to this dilemma. Frontline store associates simply shouldn't be asked to deal with extremely unruly customers that refuse to wear a mask. While most of these do not turn violent, the risk is there, and no associate should be forced to deal with that. Unfortunately, many small stores cannot afford to have security and have no alternative other than a frontline associate and a store manager to deal with such problems. Retail workers should do their best to ask customers to follow these policies, but when the situation escalates beyond their ability, despite any training they may receive, it's time to call for help. If security is not an option, then a call to the proper authorities is in order. It's insane that something as simple as wearing a mask to protect the public has become such a polarized issue, but that is where we are.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?

    I applaud the ABA for helping independent booksellers compete with Amazon. However, this feels like it may backfire. Apart from making existing local bookstore customers feel justified in their support (but you already have them as customers), I'm not sure this helps convince anyone to buy from that local shop. The campaign tells the customer what Amazon is not but doesn't tell you what the local bookstore can do for you. It leaves you wanting. In my mind, this is a great first half of a campaign, but it's missing the "so what" -- from the customer's point of view, great, you just told me what I couldn't do with Amazon, but how do YOU make that better? Granted, some people automatically know from experience what that something is that makes that local shop so wonderful. But are those the target audience for this campaign? I wouldn't think so -- the goal is to convert an Amazon shopper and make them feel like they've been missing out!
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Is YouTube a shopping powerhouse waiting to happen?

    It seems every consumer platform is vying to be the next commerce mega-site! YouTube has many of the building blocks for a strong future commerce solution, especially if we factor in live streaming video, as seen in China and other regions in Asia. If retailers embraced this selling method, and Google makes YouTube a bit more engaging like other social networks (current comments capability is a bit lacking), there may be something worth talking about. Until those pieces all start to fit together properly, YouTube will not be the next Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok. At the moment, most people think of YouTube as a search tool for how-to experiences, but not for shopping. There is an opportunity for a new paradigm of learning + shopping combined if YouTube can connect the dots both on the tools' side for creators and brands and on the interface side for consumers.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Macy’s is turning stores dark for the holidays

    A smart move for the holiday season as Macy's expects a surge in online orders and needs to improve their fulfillment ability. However, this is really a short-term fix for a long-term problem -- what to do with underperforming stores? Unfortunately, Macy's is currently on a path to producing more underperforming stores than successful stores. While they are placing a band-aid on a problem they have for the holiday season, they're not solving the real issues with the in-store experience, product assortment, and long-term fulfillment solutions. Assuming Macy's reports a reasonably successful season (but then, what is reasonable under the circumstances for Macy's?). I have no doubt they will consider this test a success. It's difficult to see a scenario where the test proves unsuccessful, so the question is, what will Macy's do at the start of 2021? Announce they are going "all in" with online sales and convert more stores to dark stores if they are underperforming? Presumably, this would be expensive real estate per square foot to use as fulfillment centers, but perhaps the math they have calculated to account for labor, etc. shows something different? It wasn't that long ago that Macy's declared curbside pickup would be their holiday season savior, so this doesn't present a positive outlook overall.

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