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: 11/15/2019

    Is the environment Amazon’s Achilles heel or opportunity?

    Amazon already does two things to help minimize packaging -- offering a checkbox to minimize the number of packages shipped per order, and offering to hold your packages for delivery on a set day of the week of your choosing. I don't see Amazon promoting these options very much and I wonder how many customers even know they are an option. Then there's the question of how many consumers if shown these options, say they would choose them. I bet the answer to that is a high percentage. So why don't we see these options promoted by Amazon more often?
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Walmart has a too much grocery problem

    How is it that Walmart's success at grocery sales has become a problem for them? Grocery is a low margin business, and once it became Walmart's majority revenue source, it was bound to drag down overall margins and profitability, especially by driving online and delivery grocery sales. Interesting that they're having the opposite problem as Target who wants to drive more grocery business, but is killing it with their private line labels and general merchandise. Walmart has taken a very generic approach to their non-grocery business online, despite the increase in e-commerce sales. It's not easy to discover new products and many of the products they offer can be found elsewhere. That said, Walmart has proven they know how to invest appropriately to turn around portions of their business, and I believe they've learned from all of their recent acquisitions (despite having to sell some of those off or shut them down).
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Are mixed reality apps set to skyrocket?

    AR glasses and headsets have one essential negative against them currently -- clumsiness. Meaning, the level of convenience every consumer is used to from their smartphone just doesn't translate yet to those glasses and headsets. That's really why VR headsets have largely failed to catch on. If Apple, or someone else, can introduce a new form factor of these glasses/headsets that truly delivers convenience, ease of use, along with the promised experiential benefits of mixed reality technology, then we may have something to talk about. Otherwise, there will always be interesting applications of mixed reality tools, but it just won't hit mass adoption in the mainstream. Retailers are carefully finding useful implementations of this technology and I expect that to continue, but not at a faster pace until the underlying technology addresses this hurdle for mainstream consumers.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Shoptalk makes a statement with a conference featuring only women speakers

    While there is an element of PR/marketing cleverness involved here, it's a fantastic gesture to draw attention to a real-world equality issue. Ananda nailed the key issue, however, in that while it's great for ShopTalk to highlight the inequality in retail, it takes board-level action to create any true change. I see that some BrainTrust members have raised the question of whether this will impact ShopTalk attendee rates, but I don't foresee that happening at all. It's a bold move and I fully expect we'll see a big uptick in attendance as this event continues to grow and shock the industry. Will this force any real change? I'm not so sure, time will tell, but it's certainly overdue!
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    What happens now that Nike has called off its deal with Amazon?

    Nike can succeed without Amazon because they are Nike. Can other brands that lack their size and stature say the same? Maybe not. While it's safe to assume Nike no longer sees the benefits of the Amazon deal, perhaps the real answer is that they are declaring "mission accomplished." Maybe they achieved the objectives they had for that deal in 2 years' time and they now conclude they simply don't need to continue. Part of the original announcement was that they were doing this to stop counterfeits, so perhaps that goal was achieved. In any case, this is likely to cause other brands to pause and re-evaluate their Amazon relationship. That determination will be dependent on how effective their own DTC capabilities are. Nike clearly has an edge here that not many other brands share.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Retail apocalypse? How about a disruptor meltdown?

    Steve is completely correct. Let's face facts, there could only be one Amazon. If everyone could "get big fast" and succeed, every brand would hit unicorn status. The truth is, even the mighty Amazon needed non-retail businesses to supplement their retail business model. Walmart (and others) write-downs will likely serve as a model for other brands or at the very least a reality-check. WeWork serves to show the world what happens when everyone takes a crazy pill and decides that any brand that calls themselves a tech company suddenly is one -- reality-check: they're not! Retailers and brands that take these lessons to heart will come out ahead in the long run so long as they don't succumb to the allure of "free money" from investors itching to give it to them to help "cover costs" while creating skyrocketing growth. Reality always catches up!
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

    Trader Joe's shows us that not all successful, engaging in-store experiences need to be digital! Bravo! Engaging any shopper at a grocery store can be challenging enough to make it a great experience, certainly more so for kids. Cooking classes for kids and parents can certainly create a fun activity for the family while also endearing the brand and generating loyalty, but those are planned and won't impact the actual shopping experience. Hiding kid-friendly elements around the store, offering tastings, providing free fruit - these are all great ideas that can make grocery shopping with kids more enjoyable and memorable. As a parent myself, all of these are much appreciated at the stores we frequent.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    Let's be frank, Gap's real problem today is on the product and merchandising front, not operational excellence. If the CEO search is focused on operational excellence, then Gap needs a second search for a new creative director for product, new merchandising lead and, while we're at it, how about a new chief merchant? These are the areas in which Gap continues to be deficient compared to other apparel brands. Processes are one thing, and while it's great they are focused on making themselves more omnichannel-friendly, if you don't have a product consumers want, optimizing processes won't bring them into your store.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Kroger to make fresh marketing start with a new logo, tagline and ‘Krojis’

    While it's a great brand promise, they're not the only grocery brand promising "fresh," so the proof is in the execution. What is Kroger changing in their stores that's going to prove to shoppers they fulfill their "fresh" promise? Overall, from a marketing standpoint, the new brand works, it looks good, feels good, and should resonate with their customers. The real question is, will it help retain those customers, encourage them to increase their spend, and will it attract new customers while keeping them away from Walmart and Amazon. I'd like to hear more about how new technology, processes, and associate training are driving improvements to keep that "fresh" promise. Kroger is well-positioned to accomplish that, so I expect we'll be seeing more of this message in the coming weeks and months.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Why do digital transformations often fail?

    As they say, "culture eats strategy for breakfast, every time" so yes, organizational culture and structure is a significant obstacle to successful digital transformation. But it's not the only one. One of the more frequent obstacles I run into with retailers is that the attraction of those new shiny technologies that vendors claim will drive digital transformation in the store is so strong, they forget to take care of the basics. Most of these new technologies are built on top of older tech that delivers the foundation needed to support that new digital experience every retailer wants to launch. If the core infrastructure can't support it, there's no chance the new technology will succeed. Often times retailers experiment at a concept store or designated "test store." The problem is, these tests almost always succeed enough to justify deploying to other stores. Unfortunately, that's when retailers realize they forgot to examine the basics like store networks, Wi-Fi, operational processes, associate training, back-end servers, cloud connectivity, and the list goes on. Of course, these aren't as high-profile or interesting as AI, mobile devices, digital fitting rooms, and the like so they get neglected until failures happen. Every digital transformation requires looking at the core -- infrastructure, processes, and people. The challenge for legacy retailers vs startup bands is that their core is quite bloated by comparison and that creates a slow process to transformation. This is where the leadership team needs to take control and drive the overall process or the transformation falls flat. Startup brands are inherently more nimble -- after all, digital is the great equalizer here, making small brands feel big! Can larger brands act like a startup? Absolutely. Look at brands like Nike and Apple, for example. Were they always so nimble and skilled at transformation and all things digital? No, but they learned and now they show us how it's done quite often. And the culture of innovation and transformation shows.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    Penney's is undoubtedly taking the right approach directionally by introducing a new concept that is nothing like the Penney's store most shoppers have experienced. Gone are the overflowing racks of products, the dull gray color scheme, and lackluster styling in their apparel merchandising. The overall look and feel, more white space, brighter color scheme, and significantly improved merchandising is quite a departure -- and a welcome one, I think. The new concept is a case of less is more -- 13% less inventory, shows in the upscale look and feel. But is it enough? And is it too late? As others here have pointed out, the brand has an identity issue. Too many consumers think of JCP as where their parents shopped. They need to be bold and daring to create a sense of intrigue that will draw shoppers back in. Sephora wasn't enough. Will services do it? It's taking a page out of the Nordstrom playbook. If done right, and that means scaling it across their stores successfully, they could rise above the dull retail middle space and lift the brand to a new perception. But that's no easy task! Scaling these types of experiences is quite the challenge; just look at Macy's and their STORY challenges. There is also a technology investment required here that JCP hasn't engaged in over recent years, and that requires new capital to get it right. They have aging tech infrastructure in many stores, and unfortunately, JCP doesn't have a history of upgrading tech when necessary to drive the experience. Let's hope the executive team recognizes the need for new infrastructure and sets aside the right level of investment. The new store is a great start, and I hope they learn a lot about what customers want from the brand and that they can find a way to scale that across their stores. I'd also suggest they look at the Nordstrom Local format for another inspiration -- maybe JCP's future success will depend on multiple store formats to reach customers. And they'll still need to close locations in underperforming malls -- there is no way around this, they have too many stores. Their brand identity remains in a state of flux despite this new concept store, and until they sort that out and clearly articulate it to shoppers, they're not going to climb out of their current financial situation.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2019

    Walmart creeps on Christmas with promo deals before Halloween

    I'd say Walmart took one look a the calendar and the shortened Christmas shopping season and made this an easy decision. Will it pay off? Probably but mostly because they beat other retailers to the punch, not so much because consumers are looking for or expecting early holiday shopping deals. I suspect many consumers are tired of this Christmas creep. Walmart is effectively using technology to make shopping with them easier, but if I put on my shopper hat, their stores still look the same as they have, it's not easy to find something, not easy to check out -- at least that is the perception. So the real question is, will these nine new tech-based ways to shop help eliminate that image and therefore encourage new customers to shop with them? I think the answer again is yes, but only until other retailers start to creep along with them. At that point, the technology stops being the key differentiator and the overall shopping experience takes over on shopper sentiment.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2019

    Will debt-free college make Chipotle the place to work in the restaurant biz?

    This is a great move by Chipotle to retain and recruit employees, not to mention creating their future corporate leaders. This is a meaningful benefit and Chipotle should be applauded for it. Now, if they raised wages it would be an even bigger win, but this is a step in the right direction!
  • Posted on: 10/17/2019

    Gymboree to get a new start as part of The Children’s Place

    Like other recent brand "reboots" (Toys "R" Us, and FAO Schwarz come to mind), Gymboree still has positive brand value and it makes sense for The Children's Place to capitalize on that using their existing stores plus online. This isn't so much about revitalizing the Gymboree brand as it is increasing traffic to The Children's Place stores so it's a logical approach. I would not expect to see Gymboree stand-alone stores any time soon as that would dilute the benefit to existing Children's Place stores.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2019

    Is e-grocery less convenient than shopping in stores?

    This one fascinates me and was actually part of a RetailWire Live discussion between myself and Dave Weinand. Yes, it's about convenience. As the person in my household who does most of the grocery shopping, I find the in-store experience at most of the grocers near me to be uninspiring and too time-consuming. I'm in a fairly dense suburban area and while we have many grocery store options, most people choose to shop at the same time of day on the weekends and that makes for a very long, slow in-store journey that the stores are just not set up to support well. So any online option should be amazing for, right? Well, not exactly.... My online options are limited to Instacart through Wegmans. And while I do save time overall it's not an ideal experience either because product selection, list building, and discovery still leave a lot to be desired. Sure, it may be easier to find new products by looking at a shelf than choosing from a product search online, but does it have to be? I'd argue the current set of online grocery options have focused too much on the checkout and delivery aspect rather than the product selection aspect of the overall experience. For example, if I use the Wegmans app to build my shopping list for in-store visits (which I do) why can't I click one button and transfer that list to Instacart to build my basket? That would offer true convenience considering most of the items I am buying I buy almost every week. Then, what if I want something new? Looking at rows of same size images of products on the screen is not the same experience as a careful merchandized shelf display. So why don't grocers design webpages to show new products in the same manner? Instead, they give us more of the same infinite scrolling list of similar products with thumbnail images. Until those types of user experience elements are improved, online grocery will continue to have slow adoption and slow growth.

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