PROFILE

Ricardo Belmar

Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist

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.

Named a top 100 retail industry influencer for 2021 and 2022 by RETHINK Retail, Ricardo is a go-to-marketing strategist, host of the Retail Razor Show podcast, and most recently joined Microsoft as their Director, Partner Marketing Advisor for Retail & CPG where he strives to grow Microsoft’s retail tech partner community. In this role he advises retail tech organizations of all sizes with their go-to-market, brand strategy, and integrated marketing by leveraging his many years of tech industry experience, and media and industry analyst relationships. He also works with partners to advise retailers on how to build & scale transformational customer experiences. Throughout the past two decades, Ricardo has worked for technology and managed services providers targeting the retail ecosystem in roles as head of their product, product marketing, or marketing organizations. A frequent contributor to blogs, podcasts, and publications in the retail, payments, and enterprise software industries, focusing on digital transformation and customer experience, Ricardo is a Top 10 social media influencer at the annual NRF Big Show. He is a featured member of RetailWire’s BrainTrust panel, a previous ICX Association director, a RETHINK Retail Advisory Council member, and a founding Advisory Council member of George Mason University's Center for Retail Transformation. He has been named Social Media Mayor by RIS News four times at retail conferences and is a contributor to Retail Customer Experience, Mobile Payments Today, and The Robin Report. He is a supporter of the RetailROI charity organization and can be found leading industry discussions on Clubhouse in the Retail Razor Club and on Twitter and LinkedIn. Ricardo holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia and is a Section4 Certified Strategist, Brand Strategist, Product, Platform, Innovation Strategist, Viral Growth, and Scaling Marketing strategist certifications. Opinions expressed are those of the author only and not his employer.
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  • Posted on: 06/23/2022

    Will ‘coopetition’ enable retailers to profitably deliver online orders?

    Hearing about cooperative approaches such as this one always cause me to ask the same question -- why aren't mall owners coming up with these ideas and offering their "consolidated locations" as the aggregation point for this type of last mile service? Yes, there have been a few examples of this, with 3rd party startups offering this service to mall owners and then seeking out retailers to participate (a true platform/marketplace approach), but given the challenges to organize the operations of this collective approach as suggested by Shekar Natarajan, it seems this would be a lower cost and less complex starting point.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2022

    There might soon be no one left to hire at Amazon’s warehouses

    Being customer-obsessed does not have to happen at the exclusion of being employee-obsessed. While I do not subscribe to the theory that Amazon's level customer-obsession is flawed, it's clear they have not applied the same focus to employee relations and creating the best employee environment and culture across their organization, as the numerous warehouse examples have shown. Sure, automation will be a factor at mitigating this situation, but it will not solve all of the challenges. Amazon will have to change their culture and develop an employee-obsession to counteract this labor crunch. Power has shifted to the employee workforce and Amazon is no different than any other employer in realizing they need to deal with these concerns now, not later.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Will Walmart become the go-to shopping destination for cord cutters?

    Walmart just extended their marketplace to the Roku TV viewing audience - a smart move! You have to wonder why Amazon hasn't made this process equally simply on their Fire TV devices. Connected TVs are a largely untapped audience that most have failed to crack successfully. I don't know how pervasive Roku's OneView platform is across channels on the Roku device so it isn't clear to me just how large an opportunity this may be, but it does reflect how Walmart is motivated to expand their reach beyond their owned digital and physical properties It also will show how effective Roku will be at monetizing their audience for advertisers. The big question this doesn't answer is just how willing streaming viewers are to shop while watching the latest season of their favorite show!
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Are retailers and consumers misaligned on trust?

    There are many factors that define trust between a consumer and a brand, and these don't always translate to an entire industry or segment. Those factors are heavily influenced by the environment the consumer is living in day in and day out when prompted by the survey. You could see quite different results to such a survey if asking today versus having asked 6 months ago or 6 months from now. And of course, the demographics of the consumers you're asking about trust also matters. Different generations establish trust with a brand in diverse ways. Do all generations value ESG the same? Not likely. Younger generations attribute more value to this. The bottom line is that retail executives always need to worry about the fundamentals of the brand relationship if they want their customers to trust them. It starts with the product and continues with every visible interaction the customer has with them. That means how their frontline staff act towards customers' matters - and that has quite a bit to do with how the brand treats their employees. Customers' experiences after the sale also establish a layer of trust, and so on. Focusing on these customer-facing interactions will have the greatest impact on trust. Where do things like ESG fit in? Perhaps execs should consider that getting ESG wrong can have a strong negative effect on trust. ESG alone will not establish strong levels of trust, but couple that with a great product and great customer experience, then you'll establish a higher degree of trust.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Kroger CEO says customers are ‘rethinking their shopping’ habits

    If we want to understand the impact of inflation on grocery shopping habits we should watch sales reports from Aldi, Lidl, and Costco. As more shoppers seek out value pricing for their groceries, these are the primary places they will jump to from other grocers. Consumer willingness to shop at different grocery stores may increase along with the shift to more private labels. Whether or not we see similar trends to past inflationary periods is difficult to say, we are seeing a much larger divide between lower income and higher income families than in past decades so we may be looking at a tale of two extremes.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Do Twitter users want to hear and tweet about product drops?

    This gets a solid "it depends." In many ways, Twitter is playing catch up with other social platforms when it comes to shopping. It feels a bit too little too late, but those are interesting brands trying it out so maybe there is hope. Ultimately, if Twitter wants to be a shopping destination, they need to roll out more shopping relevant features at a faster pace. By trickling them out like this it's more challenging to build a consumer base that knows to expect shopping capabilities on Twitter as a normal part of their shopper journey. Right now, it's hard to see this capability achieving critical mass.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Does Amazon need a great Prime Day now more than ever?

    Prime Day is always important for Amazon in any year, but there will be more people watching the results as a leading indicator for retail going into the second half of the year. I'll be extremely interested to see what other retailers do to jump on the Prime Day bandwagon as Target is doing with their Deal Days to see what they can do. Many retailers will be looking to this event to offload all that excess inventory we've heard about in so many recent earnings calls. The unanswered question is, are consumers looking for deals in July? Or are they trying to save their dollars and avoid spending?
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Ultra-fast delivery may burn out or fade away

    It's tough to make a profit when you're delivering something for less than nothing! While the "word of the day" in retail for the past two years was always "speed" or "agility," it's now become "profitability." I agree with the consensus of the BrainTrust in the comments so far -- the quick commerce model just cannot be executed profitably. As the provider, you need scale to make your unit economics work. That means you want to drive large orders. Problem is, it's tough to pick and deliver a large order in 15 minutes or less. Which means you end up trying to get scale by finding a larger volume of orders. Except then you're back to the original problem where you can't charge a high enough delivery fee to break even on each order. Lastly, customer demand for getting grocery items in 15 min just keeps getting smaller and smaller. There are just too many headwinds for most of these companies to succeed. Could one or two manage to make this work? Possibly, if they're tied to an operator like Walmart or Amazon that can bring the needed scale. The fact that neither of these two organizations seem to be pursuing this business may be all the information we need.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2022

    Should Instacart discard shopper ratings from chronically grumpy customers?

    Seems the real issue is that their 5-star rating system isn't the right rating system for this type of performance measurement. I understand the desire to make it simple for the customer, but this approach assumes that any shopper who does their job should get a 5-star rating by default and if they don't it assumes there is something wrong with them. Is that the best we can do for a performance evaluation system? I would suggest Instacart come up with a new system instead of relying on a 5-star approach. Rating the performance of a shopper is not the same as rating the quality of broccoli -- and that's what they are trying to do.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2022

    Will $22 starting pay squelch unionization efforts at Apple?

    It's about both - fighting to retain and attract talent in a hot market as well as disincentivizing unionization. While salaries is one issue that will matter to retail job seekers, it is not the only one. Apple, Starbucks, and any others need to look at their overall compensation and benefits to ensure they're creating an enticing workplace that meets the needs of the workforce.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2022

    Why are retailers struggling so hard to balance inventory?

    This is partly a result of retailers learning their lesson on shortages during the past two years and managing their inventories to overstock to avoid out-of-stock situations. That lesson caused more consumers to switch brands than anything else over the past two years. The challenge for retailers isn't having the right predictive analytics tools and the right people to run them (although this is still an underdeveloped muscle for most retailers lacking both the tech and the experienced people). The challenge is the fluidity of the situation and the need to keep up with a rapid pace of change to manage those inventories. Unfortunately, even if consumer demand keeps up in one category it may not in another - especially as many consumers revert to pre-pandemic shopping behaviors. The fact is many retailers predicted poorly and ordered more of the wrong goods to meet the incoming demand. So yes, there will be more discounts. And yes, it will last for at least another quarter. I expect this won't even itself out until the holiday shopping season is upon us later this year - if consumer demand keeps up!
  • Posted on: 05/27/2022

    When the going gets tough, consumers shop dollar stores

    It's all about consumer perception. If consumers perceive the dollar stores to be significantly cheaper than other stores, they will shop there. That means there is room to raise prices to cover cost increases. But it doesn't mean there is a lot of room! The idea of everything in the store being a dollar is a great marketing line, but that's not where shoppers believe the value comes from. We will see price increases from these formats, but they'll remain lower priced than the mainstream competition. And that's what counts for shoppers.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2022

    Is Macy’s for real?

    Just like Macy's annual theme -- Believe! -- I want to believe they are turning the ship around and headed in the right direction. But even the numbers Mr. Gennette talked about merely indicate that Macy's is benefitting from current consumer trends in just the product categories they need. How sustainable is that? Next quarter could see vastly different rends and result in a quite different story. Is Macy's product mix diversified and curated enough to compensate? That remains to be seen. It also seems that Bloomingdale's stores may be in a better position that namesake Macy's stores. There are some glimmers in the reports - especially if what Macy's is seeing from their personalization efforts continues to mature, this could be leveraged into more reliable and consistent buying habits. Efforts like Market by Macy's may ultimately prove unique and interesting to consumers, but the fact is until more of these locations are opened, it is not going to move the needle much. Macy's has many experiments like this running but they need to determine which of those will be the ones to double down on and move to a scaled execution phase across their stores. And this is where Macy's currently suffers the most -- store level execution and a lack of consistency. Too many Macy's stores simply look like a mess. Associates are nowhere to be found. Flagship stores may be working well, but it's not translating to others. Remember how their rollout of STORY went? Not something they want to repeat. Again, there are glimmers of hopes contained in the numbers. Macy's retail media network is doing well and showing growth. This is yet another piece of the puzzle Macy's must use and scale to achieve better performance. I remain hopeful that they can pull it off!
  • Posted on: 05/26/2022

    Is now the perfect time for grocers to sell imperfect food?

    Consumers only worry about imperfect produce because they've been trained to look for perfection as a competitive differentiator. We have brand marketers to thank for that! Likewise, it's more a marketing problem to solve than a product problem to convince consumers it's OK to buy such produce. You can look no further than your neighborhood farmers market for examples of this that work. At my local farmers market there are many vendors offering those imperfectly shaped fruits and vegetables and no shortage of consumers buying them up. Grocers should take a serious look at this and think hard about how they will market these items. It can be done, and there is surely a market for it in the midst of rising food prices.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2022

    Will Deliverr help Shopify better compete with Amazon?

    This is a smart move by Shopify and an operational boost to efficiency for merchants on their platform. One does have to ask, however, is it too little, too late to move the needle in competing with Amazon? This might have been more impactful two years ago at the start of the pandemic. That said, I don't believe Shopify has to compete with Amazon head on in the logistics and fulfillment space - that's a losing proposition given how far in front Amazon truly is compared to everyone else. Shopify is focused on providing value to their merchants that solve challenges they have today. To that end - Deliverr is good idea. I would recommend Shopify focus on finding ways to help their merchants better integrate their operations across all the channels they need to be on. And that includes finding ways to help them in physical stores. Stores are more than ever an important channel as we're reminded every day about the lack of profitability of digital-only DTC brands. Overall, Deliverr is a good step in the right direction but Shopify needs to step on the gas and do even more for their merchants.

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