Ricardo Belmar

Sr Director, Worldwide Enterprise Product Marketing, InfoVista
As large enterprises in the manufacturing, retail, logistics, banking/finance and related industries embrace and accelerate digital transformations via unified communications, collaborative, mobile and cloud-based applications, the need to deliver the best user experience to all users, customers, applications, and devices is ever increasing. Ricardo helps these organizations find business value from technology investments by optimizing their enterprise network and applications to drive user experience and omni-channel customer experiences.

Ricardo is the Senior Director for Worldwide Enterprise Product Marketing at InfoVista. In this role, Ricardo develops market positioning and strategy for InfoVista’s enterprise solutions globally, leveraging his more than 20 years of IT industry experience.

Ricardo actively engages with industry influencers in retail, consumer goods, banking, payments, and restaurant industries on technology trends via Twitter and LinkedIn. He was named Social Media Mayor at the 2015 Retail Executive Summit, the 2015 ENGAGE Summit and 2016 RetailTech Conference by RIS News. He has conducted video interviews of senior executives from retail, banking, and restaurant brands as well as many industry analysts and is frequently interviewed by retail industry publications. Ricardo is also a supporter of the RetailROI charity organization.

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  • Posted on: 09/20/2017

    Will others follow Neiman Marcus’ return to a full-price focus?

    I don't see this as a potential trend for the industry to move away from off-price concepts as much as Neiman Marcus recognizing what their brand REALLY represents and going back to it. While certainly no stranger to sale/discount pricing (Last Call was originally their big annual sales event post holiday season before it became an off-price store), Neimans is a brand that represents luxury merchandise with an exceptional, personalized shopping experience. Long before we introduced technology for assisted selling, Neimans sales associates were going head over heels to service their customers and that's what made them keep coming back. It wasn't about the sale pricing. This action is just a recognition of that brand history.Department stores in general are going to have to come to the realization that discounts and sales alone will not continue to drive traffic to their stores. Retailers are brands, too, and they have to stand for something for customers to keep coming back.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2017

    Will retailers drive the next phase in digital marketing?

    This still seems a bit outside the core competency of most retailers. Plus, you really need scale to rival Facebook or Google in any way and the only retailers who could pull this off are Amazon and Walmart. Would Walmart do this? It's hard to say if they would really see a benefit. Amazon? Yes, but then again Amazon isn't a retailer -- they're a technology company and if advertising and digital marketing drive revenue that helps in another product category, sure, they'll do it!Now, when it comes to better targeting of shoppers, there is definitely potential for retailers to get much better at it to drive store traffic at the right time in the shopping journey. We're seeing the early stages of this approach and retailers will continue to get better at it as they better understand the data they have on their customers.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2017

    Kohl’s to accept product returns for Amazon

    Just to prove that Amazon is still thinking outside the box (as if we doubted that) yet another partnership with Kohl's appears! While this may lead to foot traffic gains for Kohl's, this really looks like a big win for Amazon. Ask yourself what the customer pain point is that is being alleviated here -- it's merchandise returns. No one likes to deal with this friction-laden activity. But wait! Now there's an easy answer to this -- just take your Amazon return to Kohl's and they'll process it for you! Friction removed! Where is the friction point Kohl's shoppers experience that is being removed? I don't see one.It would be interesting to understand the following points to better evaluate this announcement:
    1. Just how much of the returns processing will Kohl's do? Does the Amazon customer give a Kohl's customer service associate their Amazon account info (or login through a POS screen) and then Kohl's handles ALL of the processing, not just physical packaging? Or does the customer need to bring their printed return label with them to Kohl's to be processed? Depending on how this is done, it implies quite a bit of integration between Amazon and Kohl's ordering systems and infrastructure technologies.
    2. How did Kohl's choose the LA and Chicagoland markets for this? Do they believe those stores have a deeper source of Amazon customers than other regions and/or do those stores need the increase in foot traffic the most?
    3. What metric is Kohl's going to measure (if any) besides foot traffic to specifically attribute success to this initiative?
    It certainly leaves us with the impression that Kohl's will do anything to get a better tie-in to Amazon -- is an acquisition far behind?
  • Posted on: 09/19/2017

    Does aggressive seasonal hiring portend a merry retailing Christmas?

    There is a clear opportunity to impress shoppers this holiday season. It stands to reason that the smart retailer will hire a large number of seasonal employees -- and properly train them -- to produce an outstanding customer experience that encourages shoppers to come back AFTER the holiday season. The big numbers we see are aligned with the brands we know to be doing better than others and those that are known to be putting an extra effort on in-store experience.Now, as important and critical as store associates are to that experience, I do wonder how many retailers have looked at their technology infrastructure and defined appropriate upgrades/improvements to coincide with these efforts in advance of the full holiday season.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2017

    Five skills every retail manager needs to succeed

    Leading by example, especially in how to treat customers. Customer experience is everything in a retail store, and managers need to have a strong understanding of how to deliver it and be able to impart that to their associates. Retailers just can't underestimate the importance of their store associates, even in this age of digital experiences.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2017

    Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy, enters ‘new era’

    While curious that Toys “R” Us claims they will not need to close stores, I am doubtful Chapter 11 will cause them to take a necessary hard look in the mirror and emerge successful. Toys are becoming more and more dominated by big name CPG brands -- and as many of them come to the realization they can sell direct to consumers either via their own stores or online, Toys “R” Us days are numbered. Under private equity they remained perfectly content to run their stores as a warehouse that were no longer inviting places you wanted to shop at. As a parent, I can say that while we have each year visited a Toys “R” Us to shop, we use it more and more for showrooming as we just don't get a sense that the stores even want us as customers any longer. That perception is shared by many other parents we know and is a major source of problems for the brand.Unless they are going to undertake a true transformation into an experiential destination, it seems unlikely they will survive. Competing on price and assortment will not work for Toys “R” Us in the face of Amazon and Walmart or even Target. They have to bring something more to encourage shoppers. Create branded islands or themes of toys -- not just aisles and shelves and maybe shoppers will come back.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Can v-commerce give brands the edge they need online?

    Verticalization may work well for sports fan types of products, but I'm not sure how the model translates to other product categories. Does extreme personalization and on-demand manufacturing have a future? Yes, no doubt. Especially when we factor in the future of 3D printing -- which I'm surprised didn't enter the discussion in the article. It's also interesting to note that this type of disruption has the potential to make retailing very interesting in the future if taken to the extreme -- otherwise, it doesn't really sound revolutionary at all if done in small doses.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Did this startup make a big mistake calling itself Bodega?

    I'd say the name reflects a lack of creativity for the product offering. At the same time, I don't think this is a new concept. While the idea of relying heavily on machine learning to identify the top 100 products to stock has some novelty to it, why wouldn't any retailer interested in the same idea follow exactly the same approach? Best Buy has proven this can work with the right assortment, and we've seen that Uniqlo is replicating the approach in airports for apparel. Maybe they want to be the Redbox of general merchandise, but I didn't see a nod to franchising in their description. Will have to wait and see if this idea really takes off or not, or, if other retailers just copy the idea.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Retailers: Beware the Equifax breach

    It's often too easy to speculate about breaches as large as the Equifax breach, but there are some interesting related topics to consider. This year's Verizon report on PCI security compliance is noteworthy for how poor it makes many industries seem with respect to security compliance. While improving year over year, there is still a long way to go for most organizations, retailers included. Just achieving a certification state, like PCI, often makes businesses become complacent about security -- and their processes lapse. The Equifax breach should sere as a strong reminder that you can never back away from security -- it's an ongoing process not just a one-time occurrence to obtain a certification.It also brings to mind something many security leaders are fond of saying -- there are only two kinds of brands. Those that have been breached, and those that don't know they've been breached. No matter how great your security may be, the real test comes from your risk mitigation plan once a breach becomes public knowledge. Equifax demonstrates once again how not to treat a breach. Target had some missteps in this area, but Equifax is setting the new low standard.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Kmart ditches plus sizes for ‘fabulously sized’ clothing

    Kmart is making a great decision to turn a potential negative merchandising mark into a positive. This shows they are listening to their customers. However, it may be too little too late when it comes to driving more sales from this customer segment. Kmart will need to follow up this change with a good marketing campaign to bring more women into the store to shop, otherwise this is a bit like a tree falling in a forest where no one is there to hear it.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

    I think BOPIS is an absolute requirement for consumers these days. It's expected. The critical task for retailers is to stage the pickup area in a way that provides convenience plus encouragement to shop for more items. Walmart's tower goes to one extreme -- speed and convenience of a quick in-and-out visit to the store. Kohl's has tried a different approach with digital signage at the point of pickup designed to suggest on-screen recommendations of other, complimentary, items you could buy while in the store.Techniques such as this can help provide that upsell encouragement retailers need to extract from a BOPIS visit. And don't forget about associates! A well-trained associate can provide the same capability as that digital screen to make recommendations!
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

    I completely agree. How in-store pickup is staged in the store is critical to the retailer seeing an upsell benefit from that customer visit. Walmart's tower may provide speed, but does it encourage a customer to stay and shop for more? Plus, you've hit on one other critical factor -- the store associate, who is so often overlooked in the experience equation. It astounds me how easily some retailers can miss this point -- those associates are your brand ambassadors and they have the biggest impact on the in-store experience.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Survey says grocery has reached its digital tipping point

    Two of the top retail segments influenced by digital to date are electronics and apparel. Look at how those brands are doing today. The majority of them waited too long to realize they had passed the digital tipping point with shoppers and reacted too slowly. Grocery retailers are just hitting that point now but still have time to react in this increasingly hot market. While traditionally very slow to innovate and embrace new technology, this segment is rapidly trying to improve its image.With Amazon now fully embracing the segment with their Whole Foods acquisition there is no time to spare for grocery brands to think about how to incorporate new pickup and delivery capabilities, and how to leverage other technologies in the store to enhance the shopping experience. Mobile will be key, both for shopper apps used for product search and with in-store technology that helps shoppers find what they want more quickly. Use of digital signage in-store will increase, but not to overwhelm the shopping experience. Earlier this year I wrote an article giving a report card on the use of digital in the grocery segment -- it will be interesting to see how the segment fares next year in a post-Amazon-entry environment!
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Artificial intelligence makes brand personalities come to life

    AI is just one more tool in the toolbox for brand marketers. Used well, and enhanced by voice, it can absolutely deliver a great experience for customers. If exploited, like any other marketing tool, or depended on for too much, it will not lead to authenticity but just the opposite. Maybe this really will come down to the writers of the personality behind the AI. Then again, let's not forget what happened to one of Microsoft's early chatbots on Titter in recent years that was fooled into spreading hateful messages. Hopefully the technology is beyond that now, but technology is only as good as the marketers who control it!
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Gap Inc. leans more heavily on Old Navy and Athleta

    This is a smart outcome for Gap, Inc. although not necessarily a smart fix for what ails them. Yes, Gap and Banana Republic stores have been in decline for some time -- Gap Inc still needs to address that or a year from now we'll be hearing that they will close another 10% of those stores. Fundamentally they are a victim of two major consumer trends -- active-wear taking a bigger chunk of the overall fashion market, and a decreasing desire to spend on upscale clothing by middle class shoppers. While extreme luxury brands may be immune to such trends, many specialty apparel brands are suffering from bland product assortments. Gap and Banana are perfect examples of this. They are largely selling the same fashions they sold two decades ago while their customer base has moved on to other fast fashion brands with a more reasonable price. Heavy discounting is not saving Gap and Banana because the merchandise just isn't what customers want. Until they change that, both brands will continue to decline.On the other hand, Athleta is in the right place with respect to current trends in active-wear and Old Navy is hitting the price/value point consumers want, so opening more of these stores simply makes sense for Gap Inc.

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