PROFILE

Ricardo Belmar

Sr Director, Global Enterprise Marketing, Infovista
As enterprises in the retail, manufacturing, logistics, banking, and related 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: 03/15/2019

    Will Walmart’s new tablet burn into Amazon Fire’s market share?

    As many here have said, this is about experimentation, not for the tablet market, but for something greater that has yet to be revealed. The tablet market is a mature market. (Really it's an iPad market with small leftovers -- Amazon Fire tablets take up a special corner of this market and are all about consuming media/content from Amazon's ecosystem than anything else). Walmart will not make a dent in tablet market share at any price point as consumers are not going to associate real value to a Walmart branded tablet. This has to be about experimenting with broader electronics via private label, and/or be about future media offerings Walmart may pursue to build their own ecosystem. Watch for Walmart to introduce these devices with some sort of content play to make it interesting.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    This modular kit of parts approach is a great start - but it is a start. I would follow this with a new set of metrics to measure success that goes beyond the traditional measures of conversion rates and same-store sales, etc. It's definitely time for a change and this model is a great way for retailers to look at how their stores are designed to serve customers. the cookie-cutter approach of yesterday won't work anymore and the need for that restraint has passed - consumers expect more relevance than those old approaches allow.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    What will it take to make department stores relevant again?

    What we define as department stores have changed dramatically in recent years. Frankly, Target and Walmart are more "department store" by traditional definitions than a Macy's. So let's stop talking about how department stores find relevance with consumers (it's too late for that now) and talk about how these retail brands will reinvent themselves for the future under a new definition. My money is on taking the online marketplace and bringing it to physical space. Much like what Macy's is doing with Market @ Macy's and b8ta. But at a larger scale. Can you envision a future Macy's store that includes large square footage chunks of marketplaces alongside highly curated themed "departments" much like STORY, followed by VR-based furniture shopping experiences? What about apparel, you say? Well, this is where the future remains murky -- do they go with store-in-a-store concepts based on designer and private label brands? Or something completely different? I vote for something different as the brand islands are no better than a specialty store and consumers have already voted they prefer the specialty store. This is where services will make the difference for a department store brand. Offering more services around apparel than what a specialty retailer is willing to commit to is what they need to focus on. And of course, the product is key here -- Nordstrom has a niche carved out for themselves that Macy's does not serve (even with their Bloomingdale's banner). Neiman Marcus and Saks fit at the luxury end all to themselves. Others, like Lord & Taylor, and regional brands like Belk sit in the same boat with Macy's and need reinvention. I doubt we will recognize any department store in 10 years compared to today.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will Costco’s new $15 minimum wage hurt or benefit the chain?

    Costco continues to serve as the proof point that if you treat your employees well, they, in turn, treat your customers better, and the sales flow upward from there! Costco has every reason to continue to act this way in support of their employees -- their results speak for themselves. Other retailers would do well to look closely at this example and learn from it.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores?

    While I think it's a bit extreme to be passing laws like the Philly one, there is a valid discrimination issue to be resolved. Some retailers will have no problem excluding a segment of the population from their potential customer base. Should they be forced by a new law to accept cash? Difficult to answer. I believe this should be left to market forces to naturally arrive at a conclusion. If we accept that this is more of an issue in urban areas with a certain demographic, then it becomes a function of whether or not those retail brands that want to go cashless choose to pursue that demographic or not. Forcing their hands with laws like this could produce a backlash in the opposite direction from the brands, and no one wins in that scenario.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    7-Eleven to take a page from Starbucks with a café concept

    While it's true that the c-store segment is moving as a whole beyond just "convenience" and into fresh foods, cafes, and many other non-traditional modes, this one just doesn't seem to fit with the 7-Eleven brand. Unless this is a test to see if a total brand shift is needed going forward, I don't see how it moves the needle in a meaningful way. You just don't expect to hear anyone in a group of people say, "let's go grab some coffee and sit around at 7-Eleven" -- it just doesn't happen and adding a few tables and chairs won't change that. As most other brands move into this non-traditional c-store concept, perhaps 7-Eleven is best served as the "last man standing" in the segment that is 100% about convenience. I also can't imagine their franchisees being thrilled with this sort of directional change.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Amazon puts a pin in its pop-ups to focus on permanent stores

    Pop-ups by their nature are transitory and are a primary means to collect data about customers and their preferences towards your products. Amazon is simply stating that they have completed this fact-finding mission and will now apply those learnings to permanent physical stores. It's clear they have big ambitions with physical stores, and as I've said before, we should be watching what they do with the 4-Star concept more than the others as that format will continue to provide them with valuable data. Other retailers should already be reacting to what Amazon is doing and not altering their plans just because the pop-ups are going away. This should not be seen as a weakness from Amazon - it's just the evolution of a long-term strategy.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2019

    Target crushes it with strongest holiday results in years

    Target's success is a great example of a retailer trying multiple things at once, and executing them well. That has driven their success. From trying new store formats, including smaller stores, to redesigns of existing stores, to new private label merchandise, to having multiple, easy ways for consumers to buy from Target. All of these have come together to produce outstanding results for Target, and they have done this in a way that is different from Walmart while in many ways better than what they have done (notwithstanding Walmart's tremendous gains in e-commerce). This just shows that long-term investment (as noted, they started this investment in 2017) can pay off for a retailer that recognizes the benefits and waits for them to properly materialize. If there is one area of improvement to be called out, it might be in grocery, as Neil points out. To date, this simply hasn't felt like they've put maximum effort into it. However, Paula raises a good point --should they even bother? I can see Target finding their place here by focusing on shelf stable and convenience foods, rather than fresh. And also continuing to offer other consumable goods. They certainly are the paper products destination in my household for paper plates, paper towels, napkins, etc. I wouldn't abandon this category completely, but it's not clear to me they can win at fresh foods.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2019

    Retailers take on massive legacy system challenges one module at a time

    The most important question to address in any legacy system change or upgrade is how it impacts the customer and their shopping journey. The goal should be to maintain a customer-first approach and from there determine what legacy systems stand in the way of great customer experience. Sometimes, this will point to non-obvious systems that need to be addressed. For example, deploying mobile POS as an upgrade to a legacy POS system is not only a payment processing system upgrade, but also potentially a wi-fi upgrade and store network upgrade to ensure the best performance. Adding a slow mobile POS would defeat the purpose of improving the customer experience. It's true that for retailers who have been around a long time, it is much more difficult to enact system-level enterprise-wide technology changes as compared to a young startup retailer with few stores. Youth has its advantages in enabling quick technology deployments where fewer legacy systems are involved. For mature retailers, this will always require planning and it makes sense to break such projects into phases and smaller focused changes that can be more rapidly deployed. Otherwise, large-scale upgrades will end up disrupting operations and that will lead to customer experience issues.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Walmart says ‘goodbye’ to greeters and ‘hello’ to controversy

    Not the best way to humanize your shopping experience! Sure, there are many business reasons for Walmart to change the role of the greeter to something else given how they are changing their in-store experience overall, but they certainly mishandled this from a PR perspective. For many, the greeter added a needed personal touch to the experience at shopping at what most see as a giant, almost warehouse-like, shopping experience. Perhaps Walmart should have looked at how Costco handles greeting and exiting their stores.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    Will Google’s modular tech change how consumers buy smartphones?

    This is yet another of those moments where I equate Google today to the Microsoft of the '90s -- both competing against Apple. When the world talked about PCs vs Macs, one of the benefits of the PC world was modularity. What we're now discussing as a modular smartphone back then was what we called a "Tower PC" -- the ultimate expression of upgradeability and modularity. It wasn't pretty, but it was functional in the long-term. It was the antithesis of the small, lightweight laptop or notebook computer. Then came the first ultimate expression of integration in desktop computing -- the first iMac. Microsoft and the PC world continually reminded us that the flexibility, upgradeability, and expandability of their world was the greatest advantage over Apple's Mac world. Fast forward to today in the desktop computing world, and who cares about any of that? Now we look at smartphones, which themselves were a huge evolution/revolution from the cell phone and phone in general. Before the smartphone did we ever talk about "devices" as a product category? In today's world, there are consumers that just want the complete package and they want it to work seamlessly integrated with their lives. The definition of a lifestyle product. This is the Apple promise with the iPhone. Google, and any Android phone today, promises what Microsoft promised in desktop computers -- flexibility, expandability, and now with this new patent -- modularity. Yes, there will be a segment of consumers that want this -- the same ones that reminisce about upgradeable PCs that let them use any component they want, and those that consider themselves "makers" in the tech scene. They will want a modular smartphone. The rest will continue to think about how they will afford the next expensive Apple iPhone and not worry about "modular upgrades." Google might be better off thinking about the next great device that will replace the smartphone -- something that integrates the functionality even deeper into our lives without having to hold a device at all perhaps? "Ok, Google..."
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    eBay looks to lead a ‘retail revival’

    eBay has to find a way to stay relevant, so why not do so by enabling small business retailers to succeed on their platform in a way Amazon can't or won't. The long-term question is, what does this mean to eBay's brand? Associating eBay with P2P auctions seems to be heading towards a distant memory.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    Will Amazon’s decision to bail cause a New York backlash?

    Let's face some harsh realities of this whole HQ2 process. There's no question Amazon expected to choose either NY or the Washington DC metro area as it's HQ2 winner. It may have surprised people that they picked both. The process was never about making a choice but about 1) gathering tremendous data about every major geographic location Amazon may ever want to build into, and 2) securing the sweetest deal they could form the winners. Did Amazon really need the $3B in tax credit (which as Gene Detroyer points out is not a cash payment)? No, considering they still aren't paying any federal taxes (how much discussion do you think that earns at Walmart board meetings?). But they wanted to show the world they really are a big-boy company and they not only play by big-boy rules, but they can also MAKE the rules any way they want. However, they underestimated the local backlash that ensued -- mostly due to today's highly divisive political environment. They underestimated the opportunity their presence created for political gain by local politicians. So, Amazon now walks away keeping all of this great data they accumulated from the process -- they still have an HQ2 in Northern Virginia, and they still have 5000 employees sitting in NY with every likelihood that number will grow by some modest amount (who doesn't grow an existing presence in NY? It's simply too tempting a talent pool and too powerful a financial center. So in the end, after some clever PR, Amazon walks away a winner, and everyone talks about them thus granting them even more PR newsworthiness. What does NY get? Not much. Will they lose customers in NY? Doubtful.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?

    I don't know that having a dedicated sonic tone or melody will change anyone's buying habits, but in a voice-driven, Alexa world it makes sense to have something to distinguish your brand from Amazon's. Let's face it - most consumers who would interact with Alexa as Bob shows us in the video would remember that interaction as an "Alexa experience." That doesn't help Mastercard, does it? They want you to remember it as a Mastercard experience and the sonic tone will help with that brand recognition. They want a consumer who does this to tell their friends and family about it so that they want a Mastercard experience, too.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    This is a more complex question than it appears. Yes, it's well documented that the U.S. has the highest retail floor space per capita of any Western nation. However, the very wide geographic distribution of the population necessitates this. That doesn't mean that wise retailers shouldn't evaluate the performance of their stores and close those that underperform. At the same time, retailers will want to open stores closer to their consumers. Many digital native brands have found that anytime they open a store in a new zip code, online sales from surrounding zip codes increase dramatically. Not to mention that looking at raw store closing numbers says nothing about the quality of the retail brand closing those stores - it's equally well documented why Toys "R" Us failed and closed their stores and it has nothing to do with a retail apocalypse or competitor online sales driving them under. Financial positions of retail brands must be considered as well when evaluating store counts. There is much more than meets the eye to this question!

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