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 Director, 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, Platform, and Innovation Strategist. Opinions expressed are those of the author only and not his employer.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Will private labels help rapid delivery firms reach profitability?

    At the end of the day, rapid delivery needs two things -- buyers that are in a rush to get products, and products staged awfully close to those buyers to meet that 15 min delivery. That precludes any non-urban location since you need sufficient population density. But the larger issue here is transaction size. You expect that when someone needs a product in 15 min or less, it's unlikely to be a large basket size. You likely need 2 or 3 items. So, the question becomes -- how likely are you to want to buy a private label, and one you haven't used before, if it means getting it in 15 min or less. I am not sure the number of customers that fit this profile is large enough to generate enough volume for these rapid delivery businesses to scale profitably even with private label product helping them to keep the right product categories in stock. Ultimately, what do these companies become? Do they evolve into their own CPG brand that just happens to deliver quickly in urban areas? It's more likely the business model will have to pivot in some way.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Amazon Go is going big(ger) in suburban locations

    Although a single store, for now, should be considered more of a test than a rollout, the Amazon Go concept could see quite a bit of success in certain suburbs. The lack of gas or charging stations may limit its appeal and accessibility in some suburbs, however, particularly those where numerous alternative c-store brands already have a presence. The Amazon grocery concepts are more likely to succeed in the suburbs than the Go stores, but there's no reason Amazon shouldn't try both formats. If these Go stores also serve as customer service points for merchandise pickup and returns, then that alone could be a factor at driving foot traffic away from other c-store brands in the neighborhood.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Will social shopping even the e-commerce playing field?

    The "Shop Local" mantra will come to life via social commerce and livestreaming this year by small retailers looking grow their customer engagement. While large brands will also embrace this approach with production-heavy techniques, smaller retailers will leverage an important advantage -- the authenticity of their frontline store associates as the livestream influencer. Who better to promote their store merchandise than the associates trained to sell them in the store? For many retailers, these frontline employees will already have relevant skillsets and expertise in livestreaming, YouTube, social media, etc. These retailers will let the store associates build a following for them and engage with customers via livestream. I spoke about this in the latest episode of my Retail Razor podcast as I predict we'll see an explosion of this throughout 2022 and the most momentum will come from small to midsize retailers!
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    Will Meijer’s free grocery delivery gesture be rewarded by customers?

    Meijer is trying to build a habit with their shoppers and will hope that it sticks with most customers. We've seen throughout the pandemic that delivery habits are habit forming, but still remain a bit price sensitive. It will be telling if Meijer decides to impose a smaller fee than other brands as a competitive advantage. Free grocery delivery does not seem to be sustainable if your model is to have human labor picking and packing groceries in the store. Now if Meijer somehow transforms this into a micro fulfillment model in some way where they can lower the cost model, then maybe they can approach a free service. I believe these free delivery services will hit their peak soon -- it just isn't sustainable overall, and consumers will have to adapt by deciding if the convenience is worth paying extra, even if the extra is a small amount.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    Should retailers stick to vaccine mandates and change face mask rules?

    The Supreme Court's ruling only impacts OSHA's ability to issue such a mandate, it doesn't have any direct legal impact on what businesses can and can't do to protect their employees and customers. Each business will have to make this decision. Frankly, I find Starbucks's decision quite baffling given their prior stance. Feels like they've been given some faulty-logic legal advice on the matter. Time will tell if this change sticks. It's interesting to see how different sides of the media have portrayed it. Conservative media portrays this in headlines saying Starbucks strikes down their mandate, while other outlets merely say they have paused the rollout of their mandate. Same story, totally different interpretations. Regarding masks -- so far the data seems to indicate vaccines can't protect you from getting omicron, they just make it so the symptoms you get are much milder. Wearing the right kind of mask has much more impact as a preventative measure, so Starbucks's change here makes sense. The science is telling us if we all get vaccinated and wear the right kind of masks for about a month (admittedly a prediction that's been offered) we could finally end this pandemic. But only if everyone, businesses, consumers, everyone, accepts what's needed and does so, and that means mandating vaccines if necessary, and requiring the right kind of masks be worn when around other people.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    NRF 2022: Nordstrom finds freedom in alternative wholesale pacts

    Shopper panel after shopper panel I have attended for many years now inevitably say Nordstrom is one of their favorite stores because they know they can find their favorite brands there. Isn't that what a department store is supposed to be? And when those shopper panels are Gen Zers, Nordstrom tops their list even more for just this reason. Their curation of brands is what makes them special, and couple that to great customer service, it makes a winning recipe. Are there risks to this strategy? Sure -- if your customer is willing to go direct to each of those brands, then they aren't as sticky, or loyal, as you'd hope. That's where exceptional customer service comes in. Nordstrom's needs to show customers why it's to their advantage to shop with them across brands. There are opportunities for styling, for example, that you can only do cross-brand with apparel. That's where being a department store can be an advantage if executed properly!
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    More Americans are making Target runs

    Target gets all the fundamentals of retail right. Assortment, availability and, above all, they are meeting their goal of being the easiest place to shop. Whether online of in-store, however the customer wants to buy and receive products, Target can do it. And they do it well! They have become the new modern department store, which consumers treat as a one-stop shop for many product categories. Add to that their widely successful private labels, both in grocery and apparel, and a reliable execution across channels, you have a winning formula that meets the customer where they want and how they want!
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Are Albertsons and Tesco too late for the retail media party?

    They are definitely not too late! I've been speaking about this across many podcasts and webinars, and it's been part of my own retail prediction for 2022 since October. This isn't about grabbing market share in total retail media ad dollars -- it's about two things: additional revenue source for the retailer, and gaining more data on your customers' shopping habits, especially with cookies going away. There are many incentives for retailers to do this, but you do need to be a large enough retailer with a meaningful marketplace to drive ad unit supply. Home Depot has been doing this successfully, Target is doing it well, Walmart, and so on. Even if Amazon is by far the market share leader, there is plenty of ad revenue to go around. Most of this comes at the expense of other ad sources; it's not a zero-sum game. Google and Facebook may want to watch this trend closely!
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Omicron threatens to mess retail up

    Retailers have certainly learned a lot over the past 2 years of this pandemic and have shown they can adapt quickly to changing conditions most of the time. Where the challenge becomes clear is with labor shortages. Yes, retailers can adopt, or re-adopt, COVID protocols, and hope that customers abide by them, but what happens when your employees start testing positive despite being vaccinated? Sure, they will have lighter symptoms, and hopefully will not require hospitalization, but it still means they'll be at home recovering for many days. With the higher case rates we're seeing with omicron, labor shortages may become more common for short bursts. That can cause havoc in the supply chain or in distribution or even keep stores from opening (see Apple, Walmart). Having more digital channels available for customers is one thing, but as we've learned during this pandemic, every step of the purchase path requires human action in some capacity and when those humans aren't available, everything stops or slows down. Ultimately, retailers need the communities around them to embrace masks, COVID safety protocols, and most importantly, get vaccinated and boosted!
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Will U.S. livestreaming soon take off like it did in China?

    Yes, livestreaming, social commerce, it will all grow significantly. Will it be as big a percentage of total sales as in China? Probably not, but will still be significant. Brands like Estee Lauder used live streaming successfully to increase digital summer sales by as much as 50% so the evidence is there outside of China. We may see a bifurcation in terms of platforms used and retailers using them. One option is to rely on the big social platforms to deliver livestreaming capability, likely favored by smaller retailers if perceived as a faster, easier router to getting up and running. But there are also numerous startups in this space delivering dedicated platforms for livestreaming that link to the social platforms but are not dependent on them. The lack of familiarity and platform choice is one reason for slow adoption, but this will be overcome as more brands try out the technology and see results. One area I like to distinguish, as Dave Bruno has done in his comments, is associate led livestreaming vs influencer led. In China it's all about the influencers, and while younger generations tend to gravitate to these, I see much more potential for associate led livestreaming. We will see retailers hiring associates and training them for livestreaming as a new skillset. This will lead to specialist associates, where some may perform tasks like fulfilling BOPIS orders or curbside, others may focus on livestreams and 1:1 live selling sessions. I am already seeing retailers do this and expect to see more of this in the near term.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Will U.S. livestreaming soon take off like it did in China?

    You nailed it Dave with associate-led livestreaming. I firmly believe this will happen more and more -- and rapidly, especially with smaller retailers who will realize this is a fantastic way to reach younger audiences that don't expect them to have high-end production values. Will it be 10 to 20%? Maybe not, but either way, it will be significant enough dollars that it's worth taking notice of this.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2022

    Is Aldi about more than just low prices?

    Through word of mouth, I hear increasingly that Aldi is more about high quality for the price (e.g. value) and strong curation and discovery of products. With the right marketing, Aldi could certainly grow this sentiment and become much more than just a low-price source of groceries -- they have a loyal fan base that certainly helps amplify that message!
  • Posted on: 01/03/2022

    Hy-Vee creates its own armed security squad to deter crime

    This solution needs to be considered store by store. For shoppers living in a high-crime area, it may very well be a sign of assurance and safety to see an armed guard at the supermarket, but in other locations it may send the opposite message -- that entering the store is a risky business. I can understand Hy-Vee's desire to bring security in-house, but that brings with it a requirement for strict training. Hiring 3rd party services means you're giving up control over how those armed security guards will diffuse a difficult situation, so bringing this in-house implies you want more control over that training. I don't know what the best and proper training looks like, but let's hope Hy-Vee is reaching out to those that do so that this doesn't turn into another deadly incident on the local news!
  • Posted on: 01/03/2022

    Are Nike’s Member Days loyalty’s future?

    We're seeing the results of years of planning and strategic operations by Nike to get to this moment. Strategically shifting to more direct-to-consumer sales to take ownership of the customer relationship and continuing to entice customers to adopt their loyalty membership and mobile apps has yielded these results. Can other brands imitate this approach? Yes, but realistically you need to be a lifestyle brand and a large enough brand to have the devoted customer base necessary to pull this off as more than just an extended sales event. An adidas, maybe a lululemon, could do it - but maybe tougher for other brands. However, there are pieces of this strategy that all brands can learn from and leverage to improve their own loyalty base.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2021

    Who will win the first RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge?

    While they are both heartwarming stories, I give the nod to Macy's as they make a good connection to their traditional holiday theme of "Believe." That established more of a brand connection than the Kohl's message.

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