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: 05/25/2017

    Are some retailer CEOs too old to learn new tricks?

    Past success is oftentimes not a good indicator of future success. Retailers have witnessed this in substantial ways and many retail CEOs are paying the price for their complacency and possible arrogance at ignoring the changes technology was bringing to the way their customers shop and their overall purchasing habits.Are retail CEOs to old to change? Maybe some are, but I would say it has more to do with their ability to accept rapid rates of change. This is an industry that was used to change being measured in decades not weeks or months. Those that have adapted quickly (e.g. fast fashion brands) have thrived where others (e.g. department stores) have faltered. Retail CEOs need to take a step back and objectively look at their past success and recognize that imitating those actions today and into the future is no guarantee of future success. Innovation and customer experience are what reign supreme today and retail CEOs need to adapt quickly.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Can Hershey help grocers transition to a digitally-dominated future?

    CPG companies like Hershey have realized how important data is to their relationship with both retailers and consumers. Both CPGs and retailers need to work together more to increase conversions and basket size in the grocery store. The article and video are correct that the grocery experience has been largely unchanged for at least 50 years now. Using VR and other immersive technologies to completely change the paradigm for how consumers shop for food products is a clear direction brands are investigating. Will it resonate with shoppers and produce a desirable experience? We shall see, but it's important that brands like Hershey are trying to lead this innovative behavior. Experimenting with new experiences is the only way both CPGs and retailers will find the right path forward.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Is a self-service model Macy’s ticket to success?

    While short-term testing may show improved sales in the shoe department from self-service, this feels more like Macy's rationalizing a common complaint they've gotten from their customers for years -- not getting the service they want from the associates on the floor. This symptom of poor service has set a low baseline for comparison. As others here have commented, Macy's has removed a sore point of friction in the shoe buying process so naturally this is reflected in a substantial sales increases simply because customers had to wait too long to get the shoes they wanted.The larger questions Macy's need to ask themselves are about defining their identity. Are they a service-based department store that wants to be another Nordstrom, or are they headed down-line to becoming another bland department store that has product after product but isn't based on great service? Or will they be something different? Self-service shoes seems to be leading them down the discount store path and away from their past as an upscale department store. A telling moment would be if they adapt this self-service model at their flagship Herald Square store.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will recruiting military vets give Walmart and Amazon a competitive edge?

    It's hard to say if these incentives by Walmart and Amazon would gain them a competitive advantage in the hiring market as it depends on how desirable those jobs are to veterans to begin with. On the other hand, it seems a natural thing to do to win some publicity without any real cost to either retailer. Should other businesses (retailers and otherwise) follow and offer the same or similar? Why not? What does it say about us a a society if we can't offer appropriate treatment for veterans who have given their time and service to our country? Certainly veterans bring many great qualities to the retail workplace that make them excellent candidates for these positions.I would hope that in even the absence of incentives like these businesses aren't treating veterans unfairly when considering them for such jobs. For that matter, why aren't similar incentives (or equivalent ones) being extended to other parts of the workforce by these same businesses? It would certainly attract more candidates!
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    What does it take to thrive in an over-stored marketplace?

    One topic we have yet to approach in this discussion of retail being "over-stored" is a two-sided issue. One side relates to the product and customer demand. In a quest to differentiate we are seeing countless variations in certain product categories that simply do not perform well because customers just don't want them -- no amount of merchandising will sell something undesirable. The other side of this has to do with identifying the inflection point for each retail brand at which they will have too many stores. This will vary by category and brand. These examples are playing out in front us right now -- department stores closing more and more locations while fast fashion and off-price formats are expanding.When we compare product demand against number of stores and the reach each store has to their customer base, we find that some brands can claim not enough stores while others have too many. This emphasizes the need to understand who your customer is and how they shop. Clearly consumer taste is changing and how we all buy and what we buy is having an immediate impact on store counts.On the discussion of needing new metrics -- I couldn't agree more. The old days of opening new stores to boost revenue by reaching new customers are gone. It's all about the shopping experience in the age of the customer. Metrics like conversion rate, customer LTV, share of wallet and average transaction size are more important than store comps. Retailers need to make this adjustment throughout their corporate culture.One thing I believe is missed in the point about easy merchandising is the ability to improve product discovery for shoppers in the store. Yes popular products need to be made easier to find in the store, but where physical retail can leverage an advantage is the ability for shoppers to find products they wouldn't have even thought to search for online. By getting that tactile, physical interaction with the product they may be more likely to buy. This is what Amazon hopes to accomplish with their Amazon Books stores.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will Amazon’s use of data transform how retailers operate stores?

    In typical Amazon fashion they are attacking what they see as a significant source of friction in the shopping journey by applying their online, data-centric approach to retailing. With Amazon Books they are trying to provide a unique discovery experience that I feel is lacking in most bookstores. Ask yourself -- the last time you walked into a book store, did you already know what book you wanted to buy or did you actually browse, hoping to find a unique read? Amazon is trying to create a store where customers who know what they want won't need to enter -- they will buy online. Customers who want to explore in a physical, tactile way rather than staring at a screen will enter Amazon Books and walk out having purchased something unexpected. This experience will be memorable and will keep shoppers coming back. That's what Amazon can teach other retailers with this store format.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    Will Hy-Vee’s grocerant strategy set it apart from rivals?

    Sit-down operations demand a different service model that most supermarkets are not prepared for. Some brands, like Hy-Vee and Wegmans, which have been doing this for some time have mastered the operations. For others, providing upgraded grab-and-go options may be a better path. Both are interesting options for supermarkets to grow their revenue and increase customer loyalty. They'll need to figure out how this fits with their brand identity to know if it will succeed with their customer base.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    Will pop-up only malls catch on?

    This is a great way for brands to reach their target customers in a very local-centric way. Plus it gives mall owners a way to leverage unused space. The idea of frequently changing store concepts in a mall space should be a great way to attract consistent foot traffic -- pleasing retailers and allowing online-only brand to establish a physical connection with customers. As customers want a more experiential shopping visit, this could be something to watch closely in the future.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    How should self-checkout be incentivized?

    The problem with most current forms of self-checkout in stores is that they are not designed to make the process easy, seamless or positive for the shopper. Instead they are designed to solve a problem for the retailer. This lack of customer-centricity produces more friction in the checkout process rather than reducing it. The exception to this is the mobile and/or app-based checkout in luxury brands like Apple and Rebecca Minkoff, or the check-in approach demonstrated by Amazon Go. Until self-checkout systems are designed from a customer-first viewpoint focusing on the customer's needs rather than the retailer's, these systems will fail more often than not. It only takes one failure for a customer to not come back to the store if forced into this sort of non-functional experience.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2017

    Is influencer marketing all that it’s cracked up to be?

    Like all forms of advertising, using one medium excessively can result in negative side effects. Consumers being to distrust the source if it's over used. Retailers and brands should of course continue using influencers, but maybe they need to evaluate their definition of an influencer. While it may seem natural to rely on someone with a following of hundreds of thousands, it can quickly become too much if the same "face" is the only influencer consumers see. Spread the reach of influencers by relying on more of them rather than a few with larger followings. Social media is most powerful not in its ability to create mega-influencers as much as it is in crowd-sourcing the influence brands seek via millions of smaller followings.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2017

    Is Dick’s Sporting Goods smart to wait on more retail failures before opening new stores?

    Yes, lease prices for retail real estate will head downward in the near term and even long term. Dick's is making a great strategic decision to avoid over growth in store count and instead focus their investments on digital, digital, e-commerce, marketing, and their private brands. This long-term approach should help them gain more organic growth without relying on new store openings to prop up their numbers short-term.While it's true there are too many stores overall, part of the problem is location, location, location. Perfect example -- I can reach over 8 Macy's stores in about a 90 minute driving radius. In that same distance, I can reach 2 Apple stores, and 2 Dick's stores. Maybe about 5 Kohl's, and at least 6 J.C. Penneys. Looking at how each of those brands are performing, what does that store count tell you? Some brands simply got too greedy opening too many stores in close proximity (granted some are through M&A) without considering the long-term sustainability of that business.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2017

    Is Walmart on track to offer customers a seamless shopping experience?

    So far, Walmart's strategy seems to be paying off, especially as compared to other retailers. A 1.4% sales bump for a retailer the size of Walmart is impressive given how many other brands we see nose diving last quarter. They have finally realized the impact digital can have on in-store sales and are making significant strides in leveraging that with new omnichannel capabilities.Is it a seamless experience? I wouldn't say that as you can point to many other sources with easier to use websites, apps, etc. I'd say the importance of what Walmart is doing is in building out the right infrastructure to support future omnichannel initiatives that will look more and more seamless to customers. While other brands may focus on cosmetic improvements, Walmart is keying in on fundamental infrastructure and "plumbing" to ensure they can innovate into the future. Well done, so far -- let's see what they come up with next!
  • Posted on: 05/18/2017

    How safe is America’s food supply?

    Like so many issues we have today, this starts with raising consumer awareness. The fact is most of us don't really know in any significant detail much at all about how food is processed and shipped around the world. Are we safer today than a year ago? If you're measuring stick is based on how long we go without another Chipotle incident, then maybe we are, but that's a weak way to measure anything. Lack of failure doesn't always imply great success!As far as regulation, there's nothing we've seen from the current administration that tells us we should expect anything but less regulation, and less enforcement. There's just too much big money involved and being protected to worry about "regular people." Just look at how climate change, the environment in general, healthcare, and privacy concerns are being treated (or mistreated in this case) for an example of what we can expect for food safety.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2017

    Will Apple get customers to go back to school?

    This is a great path to continued success for Apple stores. A textbook example of leveraging a great customer experience to build trust and loyalty with your customer in a personalized way. This may not result in any immediate sales lift but what it will do is create even more feverishly loyal customers to the Apple brand. Customers having learned how to best use their Apple products will be ready to return when it's time to upgrade and they most likely won't even consider other brands because they'll not have done something as valuable as this to build trust. People buy from brands they trust -- that's how loyalty is created.We shouldn't overlook the significance of the last point shown about "Today at Apple" -- the 3 new positions created for store associates. Apple has the highest employee retention and lowest turnover of any retailer. There's a reason for that -- it comes from investing in their people and giving them a growth path. This adds yet another reason for employees to stay.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2017

    Is the $400B prescription drug business ripe for an Amazon disruption?

    Let's face facts -- Amazon is a massive logistics engine. They're ability to ship anything anywhere is unparalleled. Couple that with the potential for a great customer experience (not around discovery since that doesn't apply for prescriptions) you have a winning formula.Imagine the interaction a customer will have for prescription drugs with Amazon. They have their Mayday technology, chat, etc. all of which would immediately build customer loyalty in a way no current pharmacy has. Who among us wouldn't switch pharmacies for one that delivers an "Amazon-level" experience? I doubt any of us have any true loyalty to brands like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.

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