PROFILE

Ricardo Belmar

Sr Director, Global Enterprise Marketing, Infovista
As enterprises and brands in the retail, manufacturing, 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 find business value from technology investments by optimizing their enterprise network and applications to drive omnichannel customer experiences and drive digital revenue. As the Senior Director for Global Enterprise Marketing at Infovista, Ricardo develops the marketing strategy for Infovista’s enterprise solutions, leveraging his 20+ years of industry experience to help enterprises protect digital revenue by optimizing their enterprise networks. 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, 2016 RetailTech Conference, and 2018 Retail Experience Summit by RIS News. He has conducted frequent video interviews of senior executives from retail, banking, and restaurant brands as well as many industry analysts and is frequently interviewed by retail publications. Ricardo is also a supporter of the RetailROI charity organization. For more information, visit: www.infovista.com
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  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Caribou appears in Starbucks’ rearview with drive-thru concept

    The best way to compete with a gorilla-sized competitor is simply not to compete -- carve out a different niche. Caribou is doing just that with this new drive-thru/walk-up concept. Starbucks is a destination, and while they certainly have drive-thrus, Caribou is unlikely to be a tangible threat to them at this time or in the near future. I'd say Caribou has plenty of potential growth if they find the right locations for this concept, both in urban and suburban areas. Picture a parent on their way to their children's soccer practice passing through a Caribou Cabin for a quick coffee. I look forward to seeing this concept grow!
  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Innovation: Are retailers trying to do too much?

    Despite claiming to focus on the customer, it's true that too many retailers are losing this focus in the name of innovation. There are really two important factors here. First, is that new shiny innovation doing something the customer values that makes their overall shopping experience better and easier? Or is it just improving an operational process for the retailer? If the latter, then the retailer should consider if there is an additional impact to the customer that is favorable. Otherwise, they run the risk of innovating for the sake of innovating and investing in something that risks hurting the customer experience. Second and equally important - has the retailer asked themselves how this innovation will scale across all of their stores in a way that consistently delivers what the customer wants? That question of scale is so often overlooked. Just because you make it work once doesn't mean you will make it work at 100 stores! If you can't define how you will scale, then that might not be the best innovation to invest in!
  • Posted on: 08/22/2019

    Will shoppers thank heaven for mobile checkout at 7-Eleven?

    Not mentioned much in this article is the franchised nature of 7-Eleven. This makes it difficult for the brand to execute technology changes across the board. In fact, they have multiple POS systems across franchisees, and when you add in pay at the pump, you have a big conglomeration of POS technology to contend with. What could simplify things and facilitate much better data gathering for the brand? Mobile checkout! And this is a convenience retail format we're talking about so, of course, shoppers will find mobile checkout an additional convenience factor! The real question is how many shoppers will adopt it. I suspect most users of the app will already have it up and running on their smartphone by the time they walk in the store, and so long as the checkout line is more than one deep this will be perceived as a time saver. 7-Eleven's only problem now is convincing franchisees to adopt the technology in a timely manner or they could take the next decade trying to roll this out to thousands of locations.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2019

    Will shoppers thank heaven for mobile checkout at 7-Eleven?

    I think you've hit on an important factor, Rick. How often when visiting a c-store is the checkout line more than 1 person deep? If the answer is "most of the time" then mobile checkout should give shoppers a time-saving option. If you're like many shoppers (myself included) chances are by the time you're out of the car and walking in through the door, you've already opened the app and have it ready to scan if you know you're going to use it. I suspect shoppers inclined to use 7-Eleven's mobile checkout will fit this model.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a rental subscription program lift Banana Republic’s results?

    I completely agree. Frankly, for Ann Taylor, or Banana Republic, we're just not talking about high-end, exclusive, designer apparel that commands high prices (that aren't regularly discounted) where a monthly fee that grants you temporary access to such items would make sense. Consumers are too well trained to shop for discounts in fashion. Where is the convenience factor in this subscription approach given the merchandise it applies to?
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a rental subscription program lift Banana Republic’s results?

    This looks like Banana Republic is trying to latch onto a growing retail trend - subscription programs, but the problem is creating such programs doesn't guarantee enough subscribers to make them profitable. The fact is, rental subscription programs work when the product you get is something you aspire to own, but can't otherwise justify the cost of an outright purchase. You still want to use the product and see value in that, but you need a lower cost of entry to get it. Meal kits started out this way (and they have yet to prove themselves). Rent the Runway works because they have unique designer products that many people otherwise would not be willing to pay for, but can leverage the rental model to use those items for a brief period or special occasion. Banana Republic does not have such products - their fundamental sales issue is getting people to want their products. Consumers aren't failing to buy them because they have expensive, desirable products. Shoppers just aren't buying because they don't want the products! We're talking about basics, not high-end designer apparel. My guess is that Gap saw what Ann Taylor is doing and thought they could copy the approach and win over some new customers.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a rental subscription program lift Banana Republic’s results?

    Georgeanne, I think you've nailed a key point about subscription programs - the aspirational element. These programs work when consumers see value in obtaining merchandise they see as too expensive to outright buy but still want to use them. That's the aspirational component that makes such a program desireable. It's just not clear Banana Republic has such merchandise.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Kroger’s trucks roll into food deserts

    This is a great goodwill initiative by Kroger and even if it doesn't result in successful sales, it's well worth the benefit to those communities. Demonstrating that the definition of a "store" is always changing and evolving, Kroger is seeing what can be done to make a difference in people's lives independent from pure sales motivation. Of course, if this proves to be a sales success, I expect we will see more such initiatives not just from Kroger but from other brands as well. Local government agencies would do well to examine this model and find other corporate partners to create similar programs. If more companies acted this way and created similar programs, imagine what a difference could be made in so many communities in need!
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a new grocery private label spur more Target runs?

    Target has a strong reputation for successful private labels in the apparel and home goods product categories - grocery, not so much. Their Archer Farms and Simply Balanced brands yielded mixed results, but this is likely a casualty of Target's haphazard approach to merchandising the grocery section. In my local Target, there are obvious visual differences between the apparel, home goods, and electronics sections as compared to grocery. Shelf-stable products and convenience items have fared better, leaving fresh produce, meats, etc. severely lacking in appeal. It's interesting to note that this same Target store has just begun a massive remodel, so there are clearly changes to come in the grocery aisle. I expect previously announced enhancements with dual entries, separate focus on quick convenience shoppers and longer Target-run shopping visits may prove to be a better-differentiated strategy. This new Good & Gather brand is an example of that new focus on the grocery category and should be an indicator of good things to come from future Target remodels along with new products on the shelf.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2019

    Have emojis become digital’s ice breaker for consumers?

    Emojis certainly draw attention to email subject lines and other similar types of copy, and of course in social media posts. They bring a casualness to the communication style a brand presents and depending on the target audience makes the brand more relatable and personable. Should they become so mainstay that they show up in every type of prose? Probably not! That said, I was at a conference earlier this year when a keynote speaker asked the audience to think about their favorite, most commonly used emoji, and to turn to the person next to them and describe it. The result? It took almost 10 minutes to get the presentation back on track as everyone had something to share on this topic. Actually, the speaker was making a case for why the invention of the emoji may be the most significant "tech innovation" of the modern era! Doesn't seem so hard to believe, does it?
  • Posted on: 08/13/2019

    Grocers develop their own tech responses to Amazon Go

    Having lived the "just walk out" experience at a few Amazon Go stores I can also say that not only is it a great experience, but it is as far removed from self-checkout as a Ferrari is from a bicycle. Once you experience the convenience this represents, you don't want less as a shopper anywhere else and I am sure Amazon Go customers have less tolerance for checkout delays in other stores. The grocery segment is still lagging behind other retail segments in terms of tech innovation and more important integration into the shopping experience. However, I am still skeptical that the technology Amazon uses can truly scale to the size of a full grocery store reliably and securely enough to avoid shrink losses. Scan and go technology using the shopper's device is likely to become the near-term mainstay before we see much more "just walk out" approaches. Is it necessary? Yes, grocers and other retailers need to move faster at improving the checkout experience. Let's face it -- Amazon wouldn't have gone down this path if they didn't see an opportunity to be disruptive and innovative. And that they have!
  • Posted on: 08/13/2019

    Is Nike’s new subscription program for kids a parent’s best friend?

    Brilliant marketing move for Nike to try and build brand loyalty at an early age with kids, and with their parents for increased lifetime value. I'm sure there is an expectation (and data to go with it -- this is Nike after all!) that if parents subscribe to this for their kids they will be more likely to buy Nike sneakers for themselves. But is there true value for the parents paying a minimum of $240 per year for 4 kids sneakers? For certain parents who already adhere to the Nike brand story, this may be a winner (4 pairs a year for $60 each), but for many others, I suspect this won't look like a great deal for kids who outgrow shoe sizes faster than parents can spell s-n-e-a-k-e-r! This will appeal to those parents who already like Nike shoes, and crave the added convenience the subscription brings them to avoid needing to visit the store to buy new kids shoes. For those that crave a value price -- not so much.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2019

    Is FedEx smart to say goodbye to Amazon’s U.S. business?

    FedEx is ending a contract that represents a very small percentage of revenue, likely at a very low margin. If it were with any other company besides Amazon, we wouldn't even be talking about it. At face value, this looks like a sound decision by FedEx to stop servicing and therefore fueling, a likely future competitor to their business. Will it negatively impact Amazon? Doubtful. From my perspective, Amazon packages have been coming to my home and across my neighborhood primarily by UPS and USPS anyway so in the near-term, I doubt this will have an effect. However, it will be interesting to see how this affects any renewals with UPS and USPS. For other retailers, this may allow FedEx to better serve them, but likewise, I don't expect FedEx to suddenly turn around and offer newly low-cost service to those retailers that they were not already offering.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2019

    Does North Face’s new concept point the chain in the right direction?

    As a brand, The North Face has a story to tell, and this new store format will provide a great why to tell that story and allow their customers and fans to fully experience it. Will this result in increased sales? It may depend on where these stores are located. Location is everything after all! In large population centers, I have no doubt this format will play well, not just with tourists, but with consumers that seek out the brand. Shoppers that merely buy The North Face products because they find them on the rack, will continue to do so at the numerous other stores that sell The North Face merchandise, most likely at a discount. There is no shortage of those stores, and in less populated areas, it's quite likely that will remain as the sales mainstay for the brand. Their self-branded stores will serve a different purpose -- tell the story of the brand and turn basic shoppers into loyal brand-loving customers. One key element of this to watch -- the sales associates, or guides as they will now be called. These guides will carry the true weight of the experience and without them expertise driving the experience it's unlikely sales will materialize as expected. This has proven itself in other brands who use their stores to tell the brand story, such as Roots, and Stance. If the store guides are not well trained and fail to deliver on the promise of the brand story, then The North Face may not see the success they expect.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2019

    Nike to marry predictive analytics and RFID to optimize inventory performance

    A brilliant move by Nike to improve all areas of fulfillment and inventory management, Yes, marrying RFID and machine learning is long overdue to support both personalization efforts and eliminating out-of-stocks. In a study by IHL Group that we supported earlier this year, they uncovered that out-of-stocks are driving up to 24% of Amazon's retail sales across product categories. Clearly, Nike is pushing to solve this challenge via AI and ML as they continue to move towards more personalization and just plain better serving their customers. Thinking about Nike's House of Innovation flagship store, I can see this acquisition further driving product mix, increasing relevant personalization for customers, while ensuring the products customers want to buy in-store are there s well as for localized fulfillment via ship from store. An overall win-win for Nike and its customers.

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