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: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    At some point, we'll also have to stop referring to these things as "smart speakers" since that implies they're just an advanced music playing device. It's a bit misleading, and you could imagine a survey asking a series of questions related to shopping by voice with a "smart speaker" as being misleading to many consumers.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Isn't this really about convenience? When shopping by voice is more convenient than pulling out a smartphone to buy a given item, that purchase will move to voice shopping from mobile shopping. Today, this works for simple items like soap, batteries, etc. Not so much for apparel -- but what happens when the AI assistant knows what brands you like, what size you wear, and what colors/styles you like? You can see this beginning with items like socks and underwear potentially, then moving on to basics. Some items, like Cathy's dining room set, might be too much of a stretch for quite some time. However, it wasn't too long ago we were having these same conversations about Amazon dash buttons and IoT based shopping and replenishment. As each modality becomes more convenient than the previous one, shoppers mindsets will shift and adoption will increase.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Not to mention the topic we haven't brought up yet -- from which store? Sure, Alexa drives Amazon purchases. But what about purchases from other stores? Google is trying to lead that, but the added complexity of choosing items PLUS which store to get them from, and then the level of automation required to fulfill that multi-store order I just created via voice is something completely different.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Has Prime Day become America’s cue to shop for back-to-school?

    As we've now seen reports that nearly 300 retailers joined the "Prime Day fun" by offering special deals this year, I have no doubt that the traditional back-to-school shopping season has moved to July with Prime Day. In fact, I'm curious to see sales data to understand if much of what used to be August back-to-school sales have now shifted to July vs. July introducing a net uplift in total sales. I know many teachers (and parents) who anticipated finding many items during Prime Day on Amazon as well as at other retailers, so there is something to be said for Amazon lifting the industry's sales in July with their event. More than ever, retail sales are being driven by extreme discounting (or the perception thereof by consumers) during holiday and other "special" event days like Prime Day and the real impact of this has yet to be quantified in terms of how training consumers to wait for these special discounts has impacted sales through the rest of the year.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Conversational voice shopping just feels natural so yes, I expect it to gain adoption, however the real question is in what product categories. There are certain product categories where shoppers simply must see the item before committing to buy. For commodity household items - cleaning products, batteries, etc. - especially products you already know very well, yes, consumers will buy them via voice. Alexa devices are present in almost every room of our home and are mostly used for music, news, and weather, as well as telling the kids a bedtime story. When it comes to shopping, we've only used them to reorder items like batteries and the occasional cleaning product. Of course, we've also succumbed to asking Alexa about the latest deals, particularly during Prime Day - however, we didn't buy any of them. Discovery of new, unfamiliar products is still a bit too unnatural without a screen to see the item so there are some definite hurdles to overcome to make this as mainstream as a smartphone!
  • Posted on: 07/16/2019

    Who owns customer service in an age of co-branding?

    Consistency at scale -- that's what's missing from so many retail stores. The issue Patricia experienced is a great example of where "scale" failed. Attempting to run the Finish Line department on a separate POS from the rest of Macy's is less likely a purely business level operations decision as it is integration, or lack of integration, decision. Legacy brands who see POS integration as a nightmare waiting to happen, fail to look at the problem from the customer's perspective. And these brands then leave various areas functioning on separate POS systems resulting in fractured customer experiences. Yes, undertaking such infrastructure upgrades is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, but it's a must if the overall experience is going to be made better for shoppers. That's the only way to execute consistency at scale!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    Can the Publix customer service experience be brought online?

    For Publix, extending its brand to digital channels is really about delivering convenience to its customers. Just because the person delivering the groceries to a customer is an Instacart employee, doesn't mean the customer forgets they placed this order with Publix. Sometimes we over-analyze brand relationships and in this case, we risk doing just that. Publix customers have such strong loyalty to the brand, I doubt their loyalties will shift away just because they see an Instacart logo deliver their groceries. If anything, this will cause those customers to appreciate their in-store visits even more next time they visit a Publix store. The real issue for Publix is how they go beyond this effort to further enhance their brand relationship. Offering curbside pickup where a Publix associate brings the groceries to the customer's car is one way. Even if leveraging Instacart's platform to do this, it can be done in a way that reinforces the Publix brand. And that's just a beginning!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    Lululemon takes experiential retailing to 20,000 square feet

    Lululemon gets an "A" for effort, design, and concept for their new flagship - let's see what it does to sales in that location as a great test of the experiential concept! This new store format sounds like a great ultimate expression of the brand, analogous to Starbucks' Reserve Roastery concept, and truly representative of the feeling and attitude Lululemon embodies to their fans and loyal customers. The combination of food, merchandise, and classes fits well with how the brand promotes itself, and the fact that they are lighthearted enough to not take themselves too seriously by offering fun foods in the restaurant is a nod to the industry that sometimes experiential can go too far if left unchecked!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    What makes great retail leaders?

    I see two top traits for a retail CEO - the first is culture. Good corporate culture starts at the top, as the Glassdoor data suggests. For a retailer, this means exemplifying a culture around treating employees well to encourage delivering a great service and experience to customers. Second, a vision for change and strength to execute that vision. As we've seen repeated over and over in recent years, retail is an industry of constant change now, no longer can CEOs accept what has gone before as the way forward. CEOs need the strength to execute that constant level of change to make their brand better and better in the eyes of their customer - it's the only way to be customer-driven and customer-first in the Amazon era!
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    What’s the story behind Macy’s partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    This is certainly an unexpected STORY - and isn't that the point? Macy's does something unexpected to bring shoppers into the store! This is the promise of the STORY concept being fulfilled at Macy's. I hope they continue to expand this to more stores and go beyond just an experiment. It's an experiment until you start to see a sales impact. Will this move the sales needle for any of these three brands? Probably not in the short-term, but if Macy's continues to surprise us with STORY then there could be a long-term impact for Macy's and any of the brands they collaborate with - and that's the point to the experiment. I expect we'll see more and more collaboration between brands as consumers will see this as a great discovery opportunity wrapped around a delightful surprise.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    Mom-and-pop grocer gives SNAP recipients an organic foods discount

    This is about supporting the local community and understanding the demographic makeup of that community to know how best to support it as a local retailer. The Local Grocer happens to be in the town my family vacations every summer and we frequently shop there because of the quality of the organic products and because there aren't too many grocery alternatives that offer the same products. This is a great way for the Local Grocer to support a small, local community in this region of New Hampshire - and let's face it if given the choice, price aside, what consumer wouldn't choose high-quality organic produce vs anything conventional? Local Grocer is simply granting additional opportunity for an expanded customer base - of which there may be a sizeable audience in the region to shop at their store for healthy choices. Kudos to a great local retailer!
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    Will Amazon Live video light up sales for Lamps Plus on Prime Day?

    Video is a powerful medium that really resonates to many consumers and provides value in their shopping quest. Lamps Plus is doing a great job at leveraging video in the places their target customers want to shop. Whether it's Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc. they are following their customer and ensuring they make it easy to shop with them. Adding an interactive element to the Amazon video during Prime Day only increases the value for those customers. This is a win/win/win for Lamps Plus, Amazon, and shoppers. All the talk about being omnichannel from retailers really comes down to this point - have you enabled your customers to buy from you when they want, where they want, how they want? This is a resounding "yes" for Lamps Plus!
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Target expands its college tour

    This is about two things: community building and convenience shopping, both of which are embodied by college campuses and students. Target is very wise to increase their footprint in this environment, not because college campuses are suddenly a growth opportunity, but because Target has realized they have a customer base here who not only recognizes their brand, but can build increasing trust with them by being where those customers need them to be, and providing the products they need at that time (the convenience factor). Adapting to what your customer needs when they need it is what omnichannel was supposed to be about, wasn't it? Good move, Target!
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Is Walmart at an online crossroads?

    A few thoughts immediately occur to me upon reading this article. First, deciding to focus on grocery sales online vs everything else is not a customer-first decision, but rather a convenient accounting decision (how 20th century retail of them!) and a channel-focused one at that. Second, there is a lack of perspective -- even a $1B loss (though nothing to sneeze at!) is a blip in terms of overall Walmart profits. Third, looking at e-commerce sales as your one-and-only metric of success is again a channel-centric view vs a customer-centric view of your retail business. We have witnessed over the past year plus what to those of us on the outside looking in appeared to be a completely different approach to retail by Walmart starting with those digital-native acquisitions, to Store No 8, to AI-led experimental stores in the northeast and Canada, to BOPIS improvements, and mobile app developments. Now, we see what appears to be 20th century retail business thinking manifesting itself and creating self-doubt about the overall strategy. All within a year! It's tough to let in-depth retail strategies like these -- at scale -- play out in a year or less. Walmart needs to consider this an investment, not in the e-commerce channel, but in serving its customers better than others. It's not a race against Amazon but a race to satisfy their existing customers and to bring in new customers. At some level, they must realize that their everyday low price strategy has provided a solid customer base, but one that doesn't have much room to grow. Finding new customers outside that base will require experimenting, and investing in new services, new channels, new everything -- until they find the right mix. This is true for ALL retailers, but Walmart is uniquely positioned in that they have the ability to absorb the costs for this exploration until they learn how to get it right! Now isn't the time to slow down!
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    NRF study says customers dig retail tech

    There is a risk of reading too much in studies like this. The study states the results are based on surveying 2,926 adult consumers (age 18+) between April and May of this year. No details are given on the demographic breakdown of those consumers. Also, many of the data points are specified as "of those consumers who used the technology and said they would use it again" -- which means when you see that 88% of those consumers would use a digital "smart" fitting room again, you have to ask, how many say they would use it if offered but have not yet tried it? The report says 57% have not tried it but would like to. Is that enough of a response to warrant every apparel retailer to add smart fitting rooms to their stores? Probably not enough of a data point because the savvy retailer will want to know if that 88% of consumers purchased something they otherwise wouldn't have because of the smart fitting room. Will the fitting room conversion rate increase with this experience? Will the average transaction size increase? And will those customers that say they want to use it again come back and want to try on more items and buy more items, therefore increasing their lifetime customer value? I know there are other studies and data points that can answer these questions, but not in this report! So, reader beware!

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