PROFILE

Ricardo Belmar

Sr Director, Retail Transformation Specialist, Infovista
As brands in the retail, CPG, 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 create business value from technology investments by optimizing their enterprise network and applications to deliver omnichannel customer experiences and drive digital revenue. As Senior Director for Global Enterprise Marketing and Retail Transformation Specialist at Infovista, Ricardo develops the marketing strategy for Infovista’s enterprise solutions, leveraging 20+ years of industry experience to help retail and supply chain enterprises protect digital revenue. Ricardo is a top industry influencer in retail, consumer goods, banking, payments, and restaurant industries on technology trends via Twitter and LinkedIn and is regularly a Top 10 social media influencer at the annual NRF show. He was named Social Media Mayor at the 2015 Retail Executive Summit, the 2015 ENGAGE Summit, the 2016 RetailTech Conference, and the 2018 Retail Experience Summit. He conducts frequent video interviews of senior executives from retail, banking, and restaurant brands and industry analysts and is frequently interviewed by retail publications and podcasts. Ricardo has been a director of the ICX Association and is a supporter of the RetailROI charity organization. For more information, visit: www.infovista.com/digital-transformation
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  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Will recruiting challenges slow grocery’s digital transformation?

    Every organization is almost always short on the talent they need for the latest trend. This isn't new, and certainly not unique to grocery retail as it impacts all of retail. I wouldn't classify this as the number one challenge, although some grocery retailers may do so. Embracing digital transformation across their organizations is in itself quite a challenge for these companies, and that transcends finding new talent. Retailers will rely on SIs and other integrators and consultants to fill the gaps as they have done in the past. It's just more important than ever to move quickly. However, to find and hire the data skills retailers need, they will have to consider all of the factors highlighted in the article -- especially paying market rates -- but they will have to start with articulating a clear digital strategy that job candidates can relate to and appreciate. They will also need to consider location and benefits in the mix as well to attract the best talent.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Was Burger King smart to showcase moldy Whoppers?

    Focusing your message on what you have removed from your product rather than focusing on what makes it great doesn't seem like the smartest approach. However, we are all talking about it so at the end of the day, if Burger King wanted to draw attention to the fact that they are removing preservatives from their product, they've succeeded. How many of us will actually want to go to a Burger King now and eat a whopper is a completely different question. They risked alienating the very customers they want to attract by focusing on what looks like a huge negative to everyone watching the ad.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Amazon goes bigger with its cashier-less store concept

    Many thoughts come to mind! :) It's very impressive that they've made the technology work with produce and other small, loose items -- assuming their accuracy is high and shrink is low. While we don't know those numbers (and it's doubtful we will) this is an impressive showcase of Just Walk Out technology and what the future of retail looks like -- but that's what it is, a showcase rather than a brand new format. What's most telling to me is that there is no discussion of how this new store impacts the full grocery store we know they are building in Los Angeles. Will that much larger store have Just Walk Out technology given the comment about how they can scale to any size now? We don't know what the costs are to implement, but what we do know is that Amazon isn't worried about the costs. They are willing to build as many of these stores as they need to collect the data they want to derive the insights they need for the "next big thing." It's how their business model works and I don't see any other retailer who can sustain a model like that - 5 years in the making with no discernible ROI? Not even Walmart is doing that. As others have pointed out, I expect that the long-term goal is to license this technology to other retailers, just as with AWS and CIBO, so that ultimately Amazon expands the data sources it has available to learn more about us as consumers and what we need. Amazon wants to be synonymous with anything we want to buy. Just as everyone learned to say " I need a Xerox of this page" they want us to say " I need to Amazon this" when we want to buy something. While other providers of this technology are emerging (there were many of them at NRF this year) I am sure all of those vendors will now be asked how large a store size they can scale to. One thing is clear - cashier-less and "just walk out" technology is here to stay and we will be seeing more and more of it!
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Are loyalty cards key to online-to-offline attribution?

    The fact is any reliable customer data source a retailer has access to is critical to linking cross-channel and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Loyalty programs by their definition help to deliver data on the retailer's best customers, typically representing their best 20 percent of customers who may very well be generating the majority of sales (at least for the most successful program). So yes, loyalty program data is absolutely critical -- as is the retailer's own sales data from their POS, external sources like Google Analytics, and various in-store analytics sources from Wi-Fi, door counters, and so on. The issue is really how reliable is each source. No number of sources will achieve 100 percent accuracy -- this is about trends, not individual customer activity. The ability to link customers' browsing habits on your website to their in-store purchase activity is a must to understanding what sells, why it sells, how often it sells, and to what customer segment it sells. The difficulty for most retailers is in analyzing these various sources of data together to derive the insights they need to answer those questions. This requires not only the right toolset (AI will help here) but also the right employee skillset to both understand and interpret the data and to act on it in a timely enough manner that there is material impact on the bottom line.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Consumers hate paying for shipping more than just about anything

    Both fast shipping (two-day standard) and BOPIS are important for both retailers and consumers. Retailers should view BOPIS as their optimal route to achieving "same-day delivery" to their customers. Retailers that implement this effectively, providing one or two-hour in-store availability to consumers will win the hearts and minds of consumers! I expect BOPIS (if executed well by retailers - there are plenty of examples where this is not being done effectively) will grow slightly faster than delivery because this can be the best way for consumers who want that instant gratification of getting their product that same day rather than even waiting two days for delivery. This is why Amazon has moved to one-day delivery - it's their best way to challenge BOPIS given they can't expand Prime Now as widely without having a broad store footprint. The retailer that masters both one-hour pickup for BOPIS and a same-day delivery option will be the ultimate winner (looking at you Target, with Shipt leading this charge!).
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Would Lumber Liquidators floor customers with a new name?

    Rebranding is a mixed bag. People who find the current brand troublesome and refuse to buy from them will inevitably track the rebranding and know that the new name is really the same company they protested previously. Consumers who don't remember all the PR issues aren't going to have an issue buying form the brand today, so why would this change with a new brand? It's doubtful this would have any material impact other than pleasing financial analysts. Brands that successfully rebrand are typically in a position where few people know the current brand, sales are poor, markets don't respond to them, and therefore a new brand becomes an opportunity to create significant buzz. That doesn't seem to be the position Lumber Liquidators is in right now. I don't believe rebranding is something they need.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    I find self-checkout to be quite perplexing for the industry. Most implementations I have used are poorly executed and more often than not require assistance anyway to resolve an issue so any perceived performance benefits are usually negated. If shopper perception is that self-checkout stations will be faster then this is more indicative of a customer service issue the retailer should be solving directly, rather than bypassing the problem with new technology. If 80 percent need assistance, and 30 percent still have to be checked by an associate, how is this a customer service win for the customer? With any other in-store tech this would be considered a failure. Mobile scan and go tech, however, seems to work far better in almost all situations. If we really analyze this, the types of retailers where self-checkout is most commonly found are grocery, home improvement, and mass merchandisers - exactly the kind of stores where the merchandise itself will cause more problems with scanning than customers should have to tolerate. I think this is a mismatch of technology with the problem trying to be solved. Plus, if retailers are saying they want to improve store associates' ability to serve customers, how is a self-checkout process that is prone to problems (80 percent is not a small number) helping to achieve this? Perhaps computer vision-based systems will improve the performance of such systems, but if there's anything Amazon Go can teach the industry it is that there are better ways to create a cashierless experience.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    Bob, you are 100 percent on the money! 30 percent being called over to check the purchases? 80 percent need assistance at least once? If we were talking about almost any other in-store tech those numbers would be considered failures. My personal experience confirms the 80 percent figure - more often than not, there is a problem with something I've scanned, typically because the item is too small or lightweight to be detected properly or has an issue with how it is scanned. Self-checkout is not the same as a mobile scan and go approach - which typically works very well in my experience. I'm normally one to embrace in-store tech in my shopping experience but self-check stations are something I try to avoid - too match hassle.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    Well, I'd say only Amazon can be Amazon! :) So, yes, Amazon can demonstrate e-commerce success without stores (although I suspect a number of BrainTrust members will want to chime in here and debate the point of how much money Amazon makes on e-commerce that is profitable), we can look at many examples of online-only brands that felt compelled to open stores to continue growing and have any hope of reaching profitability. Likewise, there are just as many examples of retailers who see a downturn in e-commerce sales in a zip code where they close a store (see Macy's for example). Brands like Everlane, Bonobos, and Indochino all started online and ended up opening stores. This didn't have anything to do with BOPIS per se, it was about growth and profitability. Indochino, for example, has shown a direct correlation to an increase in sales measured in the millions when they open a new store in a given geographic region. Granted, none of these is grocery -- and yes, food has many unique problems to solve for delivery, in particular, not to mention picking and packing that eat away margin like crazy.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    This further reinforces the notion that any e-commerce success is closely tied to the proximity of stores to consumers. This is in turn compounded by the high-cost, low-margin (if any) business of e-grocery without the backbone of stores to offset the costs/losses of e-grocery delivery. BOPIS is a factor here in that most consumers seem to be using more pickup services for groceries than delivery. This makes sense as many consumers (my household included) can't guarantee they'll be home at the exact time groceries would be delivered - what do you then do with fresh and frozen foods? Lacking stores, pickup points then become a requirement for a successful e-grocery business. The best indicator of this is that Walmart decides to promote its grocery pickup with a Super Bowl commercial rather than focus on delivery. Peapod may have been the first but, without stores to anchor them, they simply couldn't innovate enough to make the business worthwhile.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Can Body Shop build a better workforce with an open hiring policy?

    This approach may have merit in a tight labor market, but its usefulness and appropriateness depends on what positions the retailer is trying to fill. An open hiring process for frontline store associates may not work at some brands depending on how they train and prepare new associates to deliver the best on-brand customer service. The retention and turnover statistics offered are very telling about the effectiveness of an open hire approach for certain job types, however.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Walmart’s Christmas wasn’t humbug, but it was less merry than expected

    If Target's results predicted anything it was that brick-and-mortar sales were not going to be as high as expected for the season. If we also accept the numbers reported by Mastercard and NRF for the holiday season, one might believe that e-commerce is where the real sales happened. That's not hard to understand given the compressed duration of the holiday shopping season. When pressed for time consumers immediately think online rather than in-store. Shoppers view making a trip to the store as more time consuming than online and if the spirit of giving this season was to give things that could be easily obtained with minimum effort, then online was destined to win the day. I argue that 1.9 percent is a good number under these conditions and that we should not read this as a reason to worry about Walmart in 2020 (or Target for that matter). Retailers that further invest in upgrading the in-store experience and increasing the convenience factor in shopping with them are going to be the retail winners in 2020. Lastly, perhaps this is the push the industry needs to stop focusing on same-store sales so much and look at other performance indicators instead.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    How will Jetblack lessons inform Walmart’s conversational commerce efforts?

    If you look on Twitter you can see that among the upscale customers that used this Walmart service was Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway. She tweeted that Jetblack provided amazing value and service for her as a new parent in helping her to juggle her personal and work responsibilities on a daily basis. While recognizing the service targeted the 1% luxury market, she rightfully pointed out that if you're going to target this demographic, you're likely to find success in a city like New York. So what can Walmart learn from this besides the fact that there is a 1% luxury market in NY (which granted they didn't need this experiment to learn that)? For one, running such a service must create exorbitant costs to be losing $15k per customer per year. That sounds quite difficult to do for what is essentially a software-based service, so I have to assume the logistics of delivering any random product a customer requests within the same day meant extreme difficulty in managing inventory and having enough labor to fulfill the requests. Second, I suspect they learned something about using AI in conversational commerce to interact with customers that they can apply in other areas. Ultimately, the fact that a retailer with the deep pockets of Walmart couldn't make this service effective without severe losses tells us that there may be a limit to personalized services.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Did Barnes & Noble engage in ‘literary blackface’?

    When you're a book store and you want to celebrate Black History Month, the obvious solution is to celebrate black authors. Why was this a difficult decision for Barnes & Noble or Penguin Random House? It would seem someone thought they were being clever and creative when in fact they were just being insensitive and inappropriate. How no one could see this as a problem is mindboggling. They ended up showing a complete lack of understanding not only of Black History Month, but also of how they are speaking to their customers. A complete communication breakdown both internally and eternally.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Should retailers brag about doing good?

    These survey results are interesting in that they are like the old joke about how if you lined up 100 economists based on their economic predictions, you would have all of them pointing in different directions. The issue here is about authenticity. Consumers want brands to be authentic about what they represent. If your brand is based on a core principle about "doing good," say around climate change, then yes absolutely you need to tell the world what you are doing. It's not bragging in that scenario. However, if that is not core to your brand, then it's likely not going to seem authentic to your customers. In that case, while you can still tout accomplishments, you shouldn't be promoting sustainability efforts or do-good efforts that lack tangible substance, otherwise you'll be seen as bragging in a negative way.

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