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: 05/22/2018

    Ellison leaves Penney, further fueling doubts

    Yes, JCP is in trouble. Ellison's sudden departure doesn't instill confidence, but let's face facts. Apart from some notable recognition for their mobile app, what customer-centric changes has JCP introduced to make themselves relevant to their customers? Most of what we've seen is product related -- bringing in appliances, for example, or adding more Sephora stores inside. Some of these changes were attempts to take share away from other brands (appliances), while others were designed to get more traffic through their doors (Sephora). Even so, did those Sephora shoppers turn around and buy something else after making their Sephora purchase? During the holiday season, maybe, but the momentum isn't holding. If not for how Ron Johnson executed his dramatic changes at JCP, he had the right fundamental ideas about changing what a department store means to shoppers. Dramatic change is what this segment needs now!
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    Will greater transparency drive a digital targeting backlash?

    It's not really about transparency as much as it is about how targeting practices are applied. I think most consumers are wise to the practices these days. Think of it this way -- cross-site web tracking is akin to someone at the mall following you all day as you visit multiple stores then jumping out of the shadows and holding a "special offer" in front of your face for one of the stores you haven't visited yet! If shopper sentiment towards this type of digital advertising is low, it's just telling us that the experience delivered isn't what shoppers want. How many times have we heard reports that shoppers will give up personal data if in exchange they get a truly better and worthy experience? We have to assume the industry just isn't delivering that experience yet. Technology solutions will continue to try and improve this, inserting AI and other techniques into the mix. As long as there are advertisers willing to spend money on these techniques that they believe to deliver the right audience, it's not going away anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    Sexism is still alive and well

    The important thing to consider is that while there is much more momentum on these important issues today, no one should drift towards complacency or we risk the conversation ending prematurely before real change takes hold. I'd agree that progress is being made, but it's a long overdue beginning with much more openness and discussion required to reach tangible solutions with no risk to anyone who speaks out.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    eBay asks consumers what they want

    This discussion reminds me of one of Steve Jobs often quoted opinions about focus groups which I believe applies here -- customers don't know what they want, and it's up to the vendor/retailer/provider to determine what they want and what will appeal to them. Otherwise, you are always chasing a short-term solution versus a long-term relationship. The result -- simply look at the level of loyalty of Apple's customers and compare that to any retailer. While eBay's direct approach may be a good one to fill in knowledge gaps about eBay's customer base (I have to assume they wouldn't need to ask this of their existing customers if any analysis of their purchase history was conclusive), I believe it, like many recommendation engines, misses on one key element of discovery. It's the same element that discount retailers like TJ Maxx and Home Goods have mastered -- the unexpected, the treasure hunt. Sometimes shoppers don't want to find more items just like what they most recently purchased, they want to be surprised by something unexpected that will delight them. If eBay's questions can help them do that, then they will be successful. Two other important notes: 1) For eBay especially, I suspect many of their customers shop there for very specific types of merchandise and as a result, they actually don't know anything about their customers' interests beyond the one or two specialty areas they shop for. That means they need the answers to those questions to fuel any recommendation engine. 2) Anytime there is the talk of using analytics to make product recommendations, there is an assumption of having data on loyal customers. For those customers, results may be more accurate. But, for new customers, there is an assumption that these new shoppers will be just like the loyal shoppers and the data is relevant. I suspect for a retailer like eBay, this is not going to be true, and again, the need for answering these questions becomes quite important!
  • Posted on: 05/17/2018

    Walmart drops Scan & Go tech – again

    This is why Walmart called it a test. Sometimes these tests fail. This is just one example. The lesson to learn, however, is not that Scan & Go doesn't work, it's that something specific (or multiple somethings perhaps) didn't work for certain customers and it created more friction than it removed. Walmart is smart to stop the test, and I have no doubt they'll keep trying it until they find the right formula for success. I believe one issue is that Scan & Go just doesn't lend itself to large baskets of merchandise. It works great in convenience formats and in an Apple store where you come in to by one or two items. The question for Walmart is, how many of their customers shop that way when visiting the store? And in the situation where customers know what they want, why wouldn't they just order online and pickup in-store instead? Surely these are factors in their test methodology. Also, if the feedback is that the app is hard to use, that's not a criticism of Scan & Go -- it's a criticism of the UI design in the app!
  • Posted on: 05/16/2018

    Will Target Restock undercut Amazon’s Prime Pantry?

    While we all love to compare big retailers like Target and Walmart to Amazon, the reality is that they are different businesses. Amazon can explore much wilder, innovative approaches as their profit engine, AWS, fuels the business. Target, meanwhile, takes a more systematic approach adding capabilities like Shipt, remodeling existing stores, opening small stores, and improving their Restock program. While individually these tactics may not seem as innovative as what Amazon can do with in-home and in-car delivery, these are still quite important changes for Target customers. This reflects how Target is taking a more customer-centric view of their business. Are any one of these a game changer? Probably not but taken together, we're starting to see a well thought through plan from Target to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Well done!
  • Posted on: 05/07/2018

    Shake Shack ends cashless experiment

    While I applaud Shake Shack for experimenting like this, I believe they took on too many changes at once at a single location. Had they chosen one location to go cashless and another to try kiosk ordering, I suspect they would have found different results. Small transactions still have appeal to anyone paying cash and suddenly taking that away, plus forcing orders to be taken by kiosk was surely too much for some customers. I’m sure they have data that tells them what percentage of transactions are cash today that led to this trial, but I hope they don’t give up completely on the experiment based on this one location.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2018

    Trader Joe’s and Barneys launch podcasts

    Podcasts can be a great medium to enrich customer engagement with loyal fans. As noted in the article, podcasts are seeing a resurgence amongst consumers during their busy schedules. As an audio only medium, it leverages the listener’s imagination. Barneys and Trader Joe’s have chosen interesting topics for their limited series and I suspect this will further connect them with those loyal customers in a deeper way. I’m not sure this will bring them new customers who are not familiar with what makes these brands special already. Likewise, I don’t see brand that don’t already have a unique cache to them releasing podcasts. I doubt we will see a Sears podcast anytime soon for example, but why not Under Armor or Rebecca Minkoff?
  • Posted on: 05/03/2018

    Does Amazon need a robot?

    Amazon has learned the formula to success is to integrate their brand as deeply as possible into our everyday activities. Alexa does a fairly decent job doing so but being tethered to one space introduces limits. Why else do we see Amazon so aggressively price Echo Dots for us to put multiples in our homes? A mobile robot that becomes your trusted assistant will quickly serve to more deeply integrate Amazon as part of our daily routine. The question is, how deeply do we want to trust Amazon and their robots and devices?
  • Posted on: 05/03/2018

    Do retailers need to update customer persona development?

    One of the keys to successfully using buyer personas in retail is treating them as dynamic and not letting them remain static. Customer tastes are changing rapidly and retailers will need multiple personas mapped to customer journey maps. All of these materials will need constant updating and refreshing with available data on demographics and other sources. This is a great area for AI to be applied! Chico’s seems to be doing a good job applying their personas in advertising and marketing as you get a very clear sense who they are targeting. But even they need to keep evolving the personas as their customer evolves.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2018

    Macy’s latest acquisition is all about STORYtelling

    Conceptually, this is a brilliant move by Macy’s that commits them to experiential retail at scale. The challenge is, as always, in the execution which historically is quite a difficult challenge for Macy’s to overcome. In recent years they’ve not been lacking for great ideas, but have suffered when it comes to executing at scale across all stores. I think the key here is what influence Rachel will have internally at Macy’s given her experience executing experiential retail and, equally important, working with other brands to collaborate in building and curating the experiences and products. This could even include securing outside funding sources when necessary. It will be very interesting to watch this develop! I’d also be interested to know the financial terms of the deal to see how much of a premium investment this is for Macy’s.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2018

    Will shoppers go to Walmart to buy a car?

    Assuming there is a price incentive here that causes customers to buy from this service at Walmart, I don't see it having an impact on foot traffic and dwell time (at least not in a meaningful "buy more merchandise" kind of way. Costco and Sams Club both sell cars to their members so maybe this is yet another way Walmart is trying to bring more value and services to its customers without requiring membership fees. Not all that different to their offering 2-day shipping without an annual fee like AmazonPrime. Consumers who buy cars at Costco seem to recommend the experience as a positive one, so maybe this will help Walmart build some brand loyalty. Let's see how many stores they expand this to.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2018

    J Sainsbury CEO’s singing hits a sour note on social media

    First, he should have realized that if there's a camera in front of you, assume ANYTHING and EVERYTHING will be taped. Especially in this day and age of instant social media fame and fury! That said, I believe while this is an innocent error, in poor taste, on his part, it won't have any lasting damage. However, it does give a glimpse into where his mindset is with the Walmart transaction and it's curious since it's more appropriate for Walmart execs to be singing this song than for Sainsbury's! Having been in the UK this week hearing news report after news report on this deal with Walmart, it really sends the wrong message to the public. UK consumers want to know that their interests are being watched after, and this does nothing to make them feel better about what is happening to their grocery brands.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2018

    Whole Foods to become a Prime perk for Amazon’s customers

    This is what we all were waiting to hear since Amazon acquired Whole Foods. So it's not unexpected, and in some ways just confirms that Whole Foods prices remain too high. It's another great perk for existing Prime members, however. Will it get more Prime members to shop at Whole Foods? Maybe. I personally feel grocery shopping is very much about convenience and location, so if you're a Prime member AND you live near a Whole Foods that you don't normally shop at, you might give it a try with this perk. It's also great for the 75% of Whole Foods customers who are also Prime members. But, for everyone else, I don't think this will change their behavior. Does it justify the extra $20 for Prime for those that shop at Whole Foods? Yes. A better question now would be, should competitors be worried? Absolutely. Amazon is continuing to transform Whole Foods into a brick and mortar version of itself and over time we'll see more of this. Ultimately, these locations will be Amazon stores through and through and that should cause concern for any retailer.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2018

    Is membership really what’s driving RH’s rebound?

    While the membership program has surely had an impact, I believe this is more reflective of moving to an experiential-based retail model which incorporates ideas like cafes and wine bars in addition to a varied product mix that helps fuel that exclusive feeling. Coach and Michael Kors have used the exclusivity strategy before with success but it's only a success as long as you can maintain the exclusivity -- once everyone has the same items, they're not exclusive anymore. At least in the case of RH the merchandise category is much harder to achieve such critical mass as the accessory merchandise you find at a Coach store! The combination of membership, exclusivity, product assortment and great experiences is what's driving RH's success!

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