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: 10/19/2020

    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.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    I would not be surprised if there is a vision at Walmart where some portion of these services become part of, or maybe include discounts, Walmart+. Imagine if Walmart+ included discounted options for repair services of electronics items purchased! And as Cathy Hotka mentioned, what if this expanded to cover smart home items? It all depends on how efficient and skilled the True Network Solutions staff is compared to the Geek Squad from Best Buy.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    Staples to accept returns from other stores

    Relying on platforms like Optoro makes this much more palatable for the retailer and adds a value-centric service for their customers. The result? More for traffic to the retailers' stores, but that leaves the question of conversion. Kohl's wants us to believe they're achieving that, but their sales numbers make that difficult to accept. In the end, if you want to convert a customer that enters your store with zero intent to purchase and only intended to return merchandise, then you need to have something in your store that they want/need or you won't see that conversion. Those rules of retail haven't changed! You can incentivize them at the returns counter with a discount or other incentive, but that only goes so far if the customer isn't interested in the merchandise. Still, this is a win for Staples customers and a potential win (in terms of sales uplift) for Staples itself, at a relatively low cost. The primary cost to Staples is in the time spent by store associates serving these customers that could have been spent serving customers intending to make a purchase.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    What’s behind the Amazon/SpartanNash deal?

    Where has Amazon seemed weak compared to established grocers? Exactly in areas that SpartanNash has expertise and operations. It's an easy move for Amazon for little money (to them) and sets them up for future vertical integration in the grocery segment. That's a strategy that works well for Amazon historically, and it needs to grow its market share in grocery. What better way than to set yourself up for vertical integration? Since Amazon likes to test and experiment first, the deal's current structure speaks to that approach, while in the future, they may expand, and it could lead to an outright acquisition. I am sure no one will be surprised by that!
  • Posted on: 10/08/2020

    Amazon rolls out virtual vacation tours that include shopping

    This is intriguing on many levels. A combination of satisfying the urge to travel and visit far-flung locales mixed with shopping for items you might not otherwise discover. Throw in a little bit of learning (aka cooking classes) and this could turn into something meaningful for Amazon - certainly they will learn more about how customers are willing to leverage video-based shopping for future applications. Some interesting aspects of this - one-way video, so there's no pressure on the part of the consumer to be seen by the guide. And the fact that this is a 1:1 experience, which will appeal to younger demographics. The one downside I see when I check Amazon's site for more info is that it's only available on a desktop browser experience and not mobile-enabled yet. That could be a limiting factor. Otherwise, I'm sure we'll see many people signing up for this!
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Will a new round of panic buying empty grocery store shelves?

    It certainly can't hurt for grocers to take this approach. I don't expect we'll see the levels of panic buying that we saw in the spring, even if there is a second wave of the virus coming. People were shocked then and reacted accordingly. This time people will hopefully exercise some control and realize they would only cause the shortages by overbuying, but that's precisely why it can't hurt for grocers to plan for that eventuality!
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Retailers say the new stimulus plan can’t wait until after the election

    This is simple -- pass a stimulus that delivers dollars into individuals and families who need it and are currently trying hard not to spend because of all the uncertainty they see ahead and guess what happens? They'll spend it. Given we're entering the holiday season, they just might spend more of it than at any other time. Waiting until January is foolish, plain and simple, and won't do anything to help people today in the here and now. Is it really that hard to understand that if you help save small business retailers, midmarket retailers, and basically any retailer that isn't an "essential retailer" who have been doing just fine this year, you will boost the economic recovery? Have we forgotten what kind of indicator consumer spending represents? Perhaps it's just the President that needs reminding of how economies work. Act now. The country expects it.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves

    Apple's stores (online and physical) are not a marketplace. They're intended to sell Apple products, and in categories where Apple does not make a product, but the category is complementary, they will sell 3rd party products. They'll also specify how those products are to be merchandised and define specific requirements for those products' packaging. If Apple is ready to introduce new audio products, it makes sense they would pull competing 3rd party products. Apple stores aren't a destination for competing products for most consumers. As Apple broadens the categories for accessories they produce, we can expect to see this happen again and again, and manufacturers, frankly, expect this from Apple based on their history. I don't see Apple trying to become an Amazon marketplace, and Google isn't known for these product categories Apple is expanding into, so I don't see any issues for Apple in this area.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2020

    Did Amazon just end criticisms about its COVID-19 safety record?

    I agree that the comparison to the general population is nothing more than PR spin. You've asked all the right questions that any company or other organization, reporting such data, needs to be asked. It's not enough to just tell us how many cases you have. What everyone wants to know is what you have done about it, what you're doing to introduce new safety standards, etc. Given Jeff Bezos announcing to stockholders that they shouldn't get used to any profits because he's investing $4 billion+ into protecting his end-to-end logistics operation, we should expect to receive more details than what has been presented so far.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2020

    Will Amazon’s palm reader reveal the future of retail payment?

    Smartphones have effectively trained most consumers in the use and advantages of biometric authentication systems, but the use of facial recognition to identify someone outside of a personal device still carries a strong negative connotation for most people. Amazon's palm reading technology is a great compromise on this and should feel much more like the Touch ID-like experiences consumers are used to. Usage beyond Amazon locations, however, is more dependent on the willingness of retailers and other venues to trust Amazon with their data. While it appears to be quite secure, consumers tend to think twice when they see devices and brands out of the traditional context they expect to find them in. So while a shopper may not have any issue using Amazon One at an Amazon Go or Amazon Books store, they may hesitate if they see Amazon technology at their favorite c-store. Generally, I expect this type of advanced biometric payment to become more and more popular despite those potential concerns. Mobile wallets and contactless payment systems have become much more desirable in 2020 due to the pandemic and consumers will be asking to see this in more locations because of the convenience factor coupled with perceived security.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2020

    Will Amazon’s palm reader reveal the future of retail payment?

    I think we all know the answer, Neil, about why banks aren't involved in this technology development! They don't view developing these technologies as anything other than invading their payments territory and they'd much rather keep things the way they are, despite the potential to reduce fraud. Too many industry leaders that want to stay in the past and reject the future unless they see an immediate ROI benefit. Perhaps they see all of these technologies as tools retailers and consumers would use to avoid all of the fees that they live off of in the payments flow.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2020

    Walmart reimagines its supercenters

    There's no question that "dwell time" needs to be rethought. While many people will question why you should have a store if you're not trying to get customers to stay long enough to buy, I think that's oversimplifying the situation. The reality is that customers are supplementing their shopping experience pre-purchase before they arrive at a physical store. That means the purchase experience inside the store has to change to match. Walmart sees this and is adapting. I agree with you - stores in 2030 won't look much like stores in 2020, but that's not a bad thing! It's retail evolution and it's a necessary thing!

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