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.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Will ending minimum purchases turn Walmart+ into a serious Amazon Prime rival?

    There is no doubt that access to free next-day and two-day shipping is a perk consumers want from a paid loyalty program. This will help bring in new subscribers to Walmart+ but I don't believe this will happen in very large numbers. Walmart is banking on its grocery and gas perks to drive subscribers but they will need something more to pull customers away from Amazon Prime in the long run.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Sephora to set up shops in 850 Kohl’s stores

    A few weeks back, Kohl's CEO stated their goal of tripling their sales in health and beauty - this partnership with Sephora is a giant leap in that direction! Shortly after Target announced their arrangement with Ulta Beauty, discussion emerged in Twitter circles about how Sephora would respond. My prediction was that Kohl's would move quickly to grab Sephora away from J.C. Penney. Sephora already wanted out of that relationship and when they look to other big box stores to partner with, who would give them the best locations - ideally off-mall and able to compete with Ulta? Kohl's of course! This is a great marriage for both parties. Kohl's needed to bring in customers interested in buying rather than returning Amazon purchases and their own apparel mix just isn't enough any longer. For Sephora, this brings them out of the mall giving customers easier access to stores and puts them squarely within reach of Ulta customers. A great competitive move for them. Finally, there's no question this will hurt J.C. Penney. Sephora was one of the lingering reasons consumers came to their stores. This will significantly weaken the J.C. Penney story in health and beauty so they will need to make serious investments in that category to compensate along with rationalizing and improving their apparel assortments.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Were record Cyber Monday/Week sales enough to help retailers salvage 2020?

    Depending on the metrics used to gauge success, the holiday season may look better than last year, but it's hiding certain factors that may skew the analysis. It does seem consumers were successfully encouraged to shop early for the holidays which pulled seasonal sales into October, starting with Amazon's Prime Day. This makes spending trends look good going into Black Friday/Cyber Monday. However there has been a strong focus on online sales vs in-store sales in these analyses. In-store traffic over BFCM was down (depending on who's measuring) by around half compared to last year. That was expected due to the pandemic and shoppers not wanting to visit crowded locations. Retailers, accordingly, didn't offer doorbuster sales to try and keep those crowds low and instead incentivized e-commerce and curbside pickup options. So again, we have elevated online sales figures making the season look good overall. However when we add in-store sales to this equation we see that while those shoppers that went to stores had higher conversion rates (they had strong intent to buy going in), the average transaction value was only modestly higher than last year. That would indicate shoppers are not spending more than they did last year for their annual holiday spend. We also have a skyrocketing category of online grocery sales being lumped into these figures that we didn't see prior to the pandemic. Those sales are coming in at the expense of restaurants. Next we have to ask the question - if shoppers started buying earlier this season, do they still have purchases to make (apart from grocery) in December that will keep the trends moving upward? This is very dependent on economic demographics. The NRF believes that the top one-third of shoppers by income will continue their spending rate, while the rest of consumers may not. They are counting on that top one-third to spend so much that their forecasted gain for the holiday season holds true. I am not so sure we can count on this trend if all the other factors are considered.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2020

    How will Tony Hsieh’s legacy live on at Zappos?

    Bottom line, Tony Hsieh showed retailers that they can have heart as a business and openly show it through their actions to their customers and still be successful. Too many business leaders don't want to believe that can be done, but he proved it's possible and that customers will reward you with more business as a result. Will other retail executives follow this path? We can only hope!
  • Posted on: 11/30/2020

    Amazon aims to keep holiday deliveries ‘spoiler free’

    These small details are yet more ways Amazon distinguishes their delivery capability for consumers and shows how they keep the customer experience at the forefront of everything they do. While not all of these options are new, letting customers know they can use them and defaulting to having Echo devices refrain from announcing package contents are all great convenience factors that will encourage consumers to shop with Amazon over other retailers. Some of these capabilities are similar or equivalent in theory to what other retailers could offer For example, retailers shipping with UPS could rely on customers using UPS apps to track their packages and see on a map when they are delivered The difference is retailers are not in control of these capabilities the way Amazon is with their own logistics network. However even Amazon can't guarantee this for all deliveries. In my neighborhood, for example, Amazon delivery vans appear throughout the day right alongside UPS and USPS deliveries of Amazon packages. Not all of the options described in the article are available to you as an Amazon customer when Amazon itself isn't providing that last-mile delivery. This is the gap other retailers must be able to exploit in messaging to their customers.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2020

    Was Black Friday a bust?

    Black Friday 2020 set new online shopping records which at a minimum makes it continued success for retail given we are in the middle of a pandemic. In-store traffic was down, and RetailNext reported their data showed a 48 percent drop, in line with Sensormatic - but that was expected. Many locations have capacity constraints, and the fact is many consumers are trying to heed health officials' warnings about large gatherings and avoiding stores - especially mall-based stores which are heavily represented in these foot traffic data points. As others have already pointed out, one would want to look at conversion data from those in-store shoppers and basket sizes - both of which I suspect were up if consumers made the effort to shop in-store. The bottom line is retailers that started the pandemic well-positioned for omnichannel sales, implemented curbside pickup and in-store pickup, bolstered their online infrastructure and shipping capacity, and started their holiday sales promotions early this year in October were all going to do well from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is expected to break records this year, too, as a result. Retailers who were not able to position themselves this way may not reflect such strong performance over these shopping days. As far as the entire holiday season - the jury is still out, although these sales numbers look promising to show that consumers are willing to spend on great deals. The question is, will that continue, or are shoppers finished with their holiday spend?
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    What will an ex Crate & Barrel CEO bring to her new job leading CVS Pharmacy?

    If Neela Montgomery can bring the essence of what makes great digital and in-store experiences at Crate & Barrel to both the CVS digital and in-store customer experience it will be an amazing accomplishment! CVS suffers on both fronts today - digital and in-store need much improvement. And then there's that excessively long receipt to address! Perhaps her focus will lead to more attention and care placed on these retail experiences versus the healthcare experience CVS has focused on in recent years. A balance is needed to make CVS a place customers want to experience and not just be a life necessity.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    To furlough or not to furlough?

    Brand loyalty isn't just for customers, it's an emotional bond for employees, too. It took a pandemic for many retailers to finally realize and acknowledge that their store associates are not only the face of their brand and the frontline of their customer experience but one of their most valuable assets in customer acquisition and driving sales and conversions with a great customer experience. It's simple - treat your employees well, build brand loyalty internally, and those employees will reflect that brand loyalty externally to your customers. The sales start flowing from there!
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    To furlough or not to furlough?

    I just can't hit "like" on these comments enough times to express how spot on you are, Bob! 100 percent on point. If only more retail execs could see what's right in front of them!
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    Target CEO points to one-stop shopping as key to chain’s success

    Target has three main factors generating its success:
    1. One-stop-shopping: Target is truly the modern department store. While I would not say Target has become the "everything store" (a moniker I'd reserve for Amazon and Walmart), they do have a department to cover almost any area a customer wants to shop and, during the pandemic, customers want to minimize the number of shopping trips and the number of stores they visit in one trip.
    2. Products customers need and want, starting with grocery (the need), to apparel and electronics (some needs, some wants), and many other departments in-between (kitchen/housewares, home furnishings). Customers not only find what they need at Target, but they also find products they love and want to own. It's a testament to the quality and desirability of the private label lines Target has created that consumers enjoy buying them so much.
    3. Convenience. Target has fulfilled its promise to be the easiest place to shop. Starting with top of the funnel search and filters (you can choose fulfillment options at the top of the search settings) and all the way down to purchasing options, Target has customers covered whether they want to shop in-store, online or via mobile, and have their purchases shipped, delivered same-day, or picked up in-store or curbside. Every option is there and easily identified and selected. Plus, one order can combine any of these options in a single transaction for the customer. How easy is that?
    It's this killer combination that has made Target so successful during the pandemic and that will help them remain successful post-pandemic. Of course, having made the necessary technology and operational investments pre-pandemic is what has enabled Target to execute so successfully!
  • Posted on: 11/23/2020

    Will sports marketing become a victim of the pandemic?

    The pandemic has caused significant disruption to everyone's lives, but the strongest disruption has to be around people's emotional responses. Entertainment has shifted from something meant to either divert or pump adrenaline-inspired emotions into pure escapism from the everyday negative realities of the pandemic and what it has done to the world around us. News has gone to primarily negative activity, so people have turned to their entertainment as a form of escape. The fact is, sports just aren't doing that when the stands are empty in the stadium, the season is out of place, and the level of play has suffered. Instead, what has become popular? Binging movies and shows on Netflix and other streaming media where one can just forget the outside world for a while. Marketers have had to adjust for this as well, and shift to supporting those services in some way. The more consumers shift to ad-free streaming media, the harder it will be for marketers to get consumer attention. Will this trend continue post-pandemic? Somewhat, yes, but I expect many people will be excited to see their favorite sport return to its former glory. However, we all know new habits are forming now, and many people will likely have abandoned their sports-watching habits and replaced them with something else. So, while I expect marketers can count on sports promotional activity post-pandemic to be better than during the pandemic, it may not reach the levels it had pre-pandemic.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2020

    Will home furnishings soon be a ‘digital-first business’?

    There will always be a mix of digital and in-store buying for home goods products. It will vary based on which products we're looking at -- furniture pieces, despite Wayfair's pandemic success, will still favor store-based buying, but many decor products will shift to online first. We can't underestimate the difference that age demographics can make in this respect. The notion of "impulse buying" when you see a product you "must-have" can be quite different across demographics that have grown up buying online first for every product category. Yet there will be many others who will never feel right buying that next sofa online without sitting in it first in a showroom! The idea of right-sizing your store count makes sense, however. I believe what the Williams Sonoma CFO said could be a bit oversimplified. You can't ignore that when you close stores in a region, you risk cutting off some of your online sales as well because you're now out of mind for that customer segment. However, Williams Sonoma is in a good position here because much of what they sell online are 3rd party brands for kitchenware that customers know well and don't need to see before they buy. Every retailer needs to understand both their sales data and their customer data to know what the impact of closing stores will be on overall sales.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2020

    Big chains are raising pay and more retailers are likely to follow

    After many years of hearing retailers and industry pundits declare it the "year of the associate," it took a pandemic for this to come true. Large retailers like Home Depot, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, and others have finally recognized that their store associates are not merely a cost to endure, but a strong asset that can drive sales by directly impacting the customer experience. Investment in associate wages and training have become clear differentiators for large retailers and they now see the benefits of doing so much more clearly than previous years. I fully expect more retailers to follow! The issue is more with a nationwide wage increase and smaller and independent retail brands. Smaller retailers have fewer means with which to absorb the wage increases. Larger retailers can choose to raise prices of merchandise if necessary, to offset the increased wages, or even choose to discount products less rather than pure increases. The price differences are not going to be that noticeable for most products and if the wage increases are publicized enough, most customers of those brands will gladly pay those increases if they know they are helping to deliver a living wage. Smaller and independent retailers may have to consider fewer employees as their only means to compensate for the costs. It's a tradeoff and balance they must strike, and this will vary by retailer. Given that the sheer number of small and independent retailers far outnumber the larger brands, this is likely to be a highly debated topic in Congress for some time to come. We will more likely see this change region by region across the country based on the cost of living in those areas before we see a nationwide change.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2020

    Big chains are raising pay and more retailers are likely to follow

    Gene, said another way, for many retailers they would not even have to look at this as raising prices by 2 to 3% as much as they would simply stop discounting their sales by 30% and use 25% instead. In other words, many ways to absorb the cost delta!
  • Posted on: 11/19/2020

    Walmart goes to the dogs (and cats, too)

    Walmart is looking to expand its customer base and the pet care market is certainly larger this year than ever before, so why wouldn't they try to grow in this direction? I'm not sure how these new pet services align with existing Walmart customers, but, Walmart has already taken more market share than ever before due to the pandemic so perhaps this will prove to be a wise move for incremental revenue and growth. What's important here, is that Walmart is moving quickly via partnerships to expand into adjacent market areas - in other words, they're willing to experiment. If this doesn't produce the results they want, they can quickly end the partnership with little repercussions. Smart move by Walmart and they continue to show retailers how it's done.

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