Ricardo Belmar

Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist

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.

Recently named a top 100 retail industry influencer by RETHINK Retail, Ricardo is a marketing strategist and founder of Retail Razor, where he advises retail tech organizations of all sizes with their go-to-market, brand strategy, and integrated marketing by leveraging his many years of tech industry experience, and media and industry analyst relationships. He also advises retailers on how to build & scale transformational customer experiences. A frequent contributor to blogs, podcasts, and publications in the retail, payments, and enterprise software industries, focusing on digital transformation and customer experience, Ricardo is a Top 10 social media influencer at the annual NRF Big Show. He is a featured member of RetailWire’s BrainTrust panel, a previous ICX Association director, a RETHINK Retail Advisory Council member, and a founding Advisory Council member of George Mason University's Center for Retail Transformation. He has been named Social Media Mayor by RIS News four times at retail conferences and is a contributor to Retail Customer Experience, Mobile Payments Today, and The Robin Report. Ricardo is a supporter of the RetailROI charity organization and can be found leading industry discussions on Clubhouse in the Retail Razor Club and on Twitter and LinkedIn. Throughout the past two decades, Ricardo has worked for technology and managed services providers targeting the retail ecosystem in roles as head of their product, product marketing, or marketing organizations. Most recently, he joined Microsoft as their Sr Partner Marketing Advisor for Retail & CPG where he strives to strengthen Microsoft’s retail tech partner community. Ricardo holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia and is a Section4 Certified Strategist, Brand Strategist, Product, and Platform Strategist. Opinions expressed are those of the author only and not his employer.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

    Very simply laid out, Paula! if only this level of clarity could reach everyone!
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Can Kroger offset its margin headwinds?

    There is some room, but Kroger must strike a balance across items to ensure only items that are experiencing cost increases and/or supply chain issues are the ones experiencing price changes. Other products should hold the line as long as possible to avoid customers deciding they need to look for alternate brands. I wonder how much of the cost increases are coming from their national brand partners versus their own private labels. They may need to evaluate which they wish to promote more with customers depending on where those increases are hitting the hardest.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Amazon marketplace sellers are becoming retail giants

    This trend will continue -- successful smaller sellers with hyper-growth become very attractive to investors -- and is set to accelerate with even more investment and acquisition. There is currently no downside to Amazon as the number of sellers is always increasing. Should any of them become a threat, as a number of China-based sellers learned this year from having fake reviews, Amazon will boot them from the marketplace regardless of their sales success. For consumers, this shouldn't affect their choices in the marketplace. The one risk for consumers will be the temptation these sellers may find around customer reviews and their authenticity as they become larger.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

    No doubt consumers will feel safer shopping in stores and malls with these mandates in effect. The science is quite clear -- the way out of this pandemic is through vaccines. That means the 80 million people not getting vaccinated need to be vaccinated if everyone wants to return to stores without worrying about masks, social distancing, or becoming ill. There are quite a few thumbs down on this discussion today and that is very telling. You have to wonder if everyone clicking a thumbs down is equally opposed to all the other vaccines our children have been getting, via mandates, at younger ages than the eligible age for COVID vaccines when they entered school. And there are many such vaccines that school-age children receive every day without the fanfare and resistance we're now seeing. We also know the government has a Supreme Court-approved ability to issue such mandates. For retailers, this action takes some of the pressure away -- it's no longer the retailer's sole discretion to vaccinate their employees which hopefully means they'll hear from fewer angry consumers. Yes, it's unfortunate this action is necessary, but everyone wants to put the pandemic behind us and return to what everyone feels is "normal" -- that won't happen without everyone doing their part to get vaccinated.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2021

    Will its Public Lands concept store help Dick’s conquer the great outdoors?

    A cultural blend of REI and Patagonia, this new concept by Dick's is right on target with what consumers are telling them they want to see. Not every store can be transformed into this concept, but I expect we will see Dick's open more of these in the future. They are hitting on all the environmental and outdoor life notes sports enthusiasts and outdoor lovers want to see in a retail brand that caters to them.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2021

    Higher wages can boost retailers’ bottom lines

    In retail, too often we speak of optimizing things as a clever way to rephrase the words "cost cutting." The pandemic has taught the industry that cost cutting might not be the right answer in supply chains, and now retailers are learning it's not the right answer in labor either. Frontline retail workers are an asset, when properly trained and invested in they deliver a better customer experience. We don't call them frontline for nothing! Customers experience the brand through those store associates. Wages are an investment in that asset. While not the only investment (training, benefits, etc. all play a role) we have seen study after study show that happy employees that are well-trained and earning a proper living wage perform better than the alternative. Retailers who view these wage increases as short-term cost increases are missing the boat and might not survive in the long run. The retailers that see this as one part in a long-term investment in their workforce will reap the benefits in reduced turnover (which does have a positive cost impact!) and better customer experience - which we find always results in higher sales!
  • Posted on: 09/08/2021

    Will Gen Z ditch Brandy Melville for wanting only pretty, thin, young, white workers?

    We've seen this play out before - remember American Apparel? At a minimum this will result in the removing of the current CEO. At worst, it will cause a downfall in sales by consumers who have shown the world there is no tolerance for this behavior. For the brand to survive they'll need a new CEO, and a dramatic reinvention.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2021

    Allbirds simplifies growth drivers to three trends

    All 3 trends are quickly becoming (if not already) foundational for any retailer, especially number 3, cross-channel buying experiences. Allbirds' store growth strategy is directly addressing this need. It will be the first trend that differentiates their brand, however. This is what made Allbirds who they are in the minds of their loyal customers and it's what draws attention to them for acquiring new customers. Focusing on their brand purpose will be the core to their success going forward.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2021

    Can 14 and 15-year-olds solve the labor shortage?

    Yes, there are many 14 and 15-year-olds eager to learn from formal work experience. Will this solve the labor shortage? Probably not, as I don't expect there are enough even in this age group to satisfy current demand. As others have pointed out, retailers thinking about tapping this age group need to also consider their training programs. What works for a 20 or 30 yr old may not work for a 14 yr old! As a result, the investment needed to adapt training may be a factor that prevents some retailers from doing this, but not others. The other factors described, while involving some risk, can be mitigated with proper management and understanding of things like total hours eligible to work, etc.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2021

    Can marketers successfully shift focus from acquisition to retention?

    Retailers became too distracted by customer acquisition with the rise of DTC brands that disrupted their product categories. As those DTCs were mostly startups, they focused and optimized for customer acquisition and hoped that the product would "speak for itself" to drive retention. And let's face it, many of those brands were looking for an exit through acquisition by a larger, legacy brand who would then worry about retention. That said, it's a fundamental premise that your most loyal 20% of customers (to pick a number) will represent about 80% of sales. Just ask Ulta Beauty about their loyal customers! Investing in retention is an investment in the long-term success of the business. Investing in acquisition is investing in short-term gains to impress investors or acquirers. It's another well-established retail norm, that retaining customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones. To retain, you're essentially competing against yourself and if you do it right, you're continuing to deliver great experiences to those loyal customers, thus continuing to secure their extreme loyalty. Give them a bad experience, and they'll leave you. Acquiring means competing against every competitor (and frankly everyone else vying for discretionary dollars) -- a much more expensive proposition. Historically, legacy retailers struggled to leverage the vast 1st party customer data they had, and it was perceived as easier to acquire new customers with simple digital and traditional acquisition strategies -- just ask wireless carriers! Now that more AI-driven solutions are available that allow retailers to derive insights from that first party data and really know their customers, retailers can shift their focus to retention and rely more on lower-cost acquisition strategies so long as they keep growing their most loyal customers.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Lagging distributors send restaurants grocery shopping

    For local, small business restaurants, these supply chain shortages encourage more local and diverse sources. I have heard of some regions banding together between restaurants and local farms to encourage this, but the situation gets more complicated for larger restaurant chains. Perhaps there is an opportunity for grocery brands to step in and offer new services to restaurants. These grocers may already have established relationships with local farms or other regional suppliers that they can leverage. While these costs may not be as low as direct sourcing for the restaurants, it could provide a stop-gap until the supply chains normalize. The consumer desire to spend their dollars with restaurants is still high as many people grew tired of cooking all the time during the pandemic, so the motivation is there!
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Do downtown shopping districts need their own loyalty programs?

    These downtown loyalty programs are a great way for local municipalities to partner with retailers and restaurants to fuel the local economy. If the balance is right between how consumers earn points and how they redeem them, it's a win-win for all parties involved. These should be seen as an opportunity to encourage and grow a downtown lifestyle, not just reward shopping behavior. Why not incorporate activities in downtown parks into the mix? Going beyond store loyalty points and rewards can make the entire city area more enticing to both live in and shop at by consumers and that helps the region grow overall. Finding ways for other local businesses to participate can expand this even further and create a much deeper sense of community when everyone involved is not just earning rewards, but encouraging the spend that creates those rewards.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Has Target ‘only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible’ for its business?

    Target is America's modern department store. In many ways, they are the biggest winner out of the pandemic. They have hit a perfect storm with customers in terms of product selection and fulfillment capabilities. While there are still some stores in need of a remodel, and incremental improvements to be made in their already successful customer services, including delivery and pickup, the greatest opportunities for Target will come from categories such as beauty with their Ulta Beauty partnership and in departments that still need more attention. Electronics, outside of Apple, could still use a boost in terms of selection, merchandising, and marketing. Grocery, while showing strong signs of success, is still a growth area for Target where they can acquire share from other competitors by continuing to add impressive private labels and better showcase national brands they curate. Adding more items to the drive-up list from grocery will fuel growth in this category. In terms of operations, Target is leading the way in showcasing its store footprint as its primary superpower. Even Walmart doesn't seem to have mastered this capability as effectively as Target. Fulfilling 95 percent of digital orders from stores is an amazing accomplishment! Where else can Target improve? I would look at in-store capabilities both from their mobile app and what customers can do with that - scan and go purchasing for example - and what their associates can do to help customers. Enabling frontline staff with technology to help customers make purchasing decisions and become more service-oriented could lead to higher basket sizes and increased lifetime customer value. Target's digital transformation hasn't focused as strongly in these areas as others, so there is plenty of room here.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2021

    Should retailers keep brands honest on their public commitments?

    There is a growing consumer segment that wants to shop exclusively for ethical, sustainable, and otherwise socially and environmentally friendly brands. That customer base will seek out this information and any retailer that makes it easy to understand the brand's position on these factors will win those customers. I expect more retailers to zero on on some of these key attributes and promote those values with "badges" or other sorts of labels to make it easier for shoppers to find these products. Over time, as this customer segment grows, retailers that make this easy will see increased lifetime customer value from those shoppers!
  • Posted on: 08/13/2021

    Walgreens finishes its trip to the cloud and its retail journey is just beginning

    There's no question that the future of retail lies in the cloud whether we're talking about digital, online sales, or physical stores. A retail business is significantly more agile when it runs in the cloud for key business functions, like ERP, not to mention more compute-intensive processes like those involving computer vision and AI. If there's one lesson all retailers should learn from the pandemic, it's the need for agility to adapt quickly to changing conditions. The cloud helps accomplish this and enables more powerful compute applications retailers need going forward. Walgreens is one great example, but look at most DTC startups that went from online-only to opening stores and you'll find these businesses live in the cloud for all their critical business functions.

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