Retail Technology Vision 2013: Future Trends and the Digital Customer Experience
Our Retail Technology Vision highlights future technology trends impacting the retail industry. Check out these 5 stories that examine emerging retail technologies and the accompanying diagram that shows a retailer’s path to innovation.
Retail Technology Vision 2013: Future Trends and the Digital Customer Experience
Retail Technology Vision
1 Retail Technology Vision 2013
The Accenture Retail Technology Vision 2013 examines the
technologies that will have the greatest impact on the retail
industry over the next three to five years. We have simplified
these trends into three categories:
• Customer experience – exploring the technologies that
impact a customer’s experience in the store, online and
across different channels.
• Data and analytics – identifying new forms of data
and new opportunities to improve operations and better
understand customer behaviors.
• Infrastructure and core IT – demonstrating how cloud
and related technologies could streamline operations,
lower costs and strengthen the business overall.
In this retail industry overlay of the trends outlined in the
Accenture Technology Vision 2013, we begin with a view of
how technology – and the customer – is changing in retail.
We then illustrate the future retail landscape through five
stories, each designed to highlight different aspects of
technological change, along with the associated opportunities.
These scenarios might seem optimistic to some, but in many
cases, they are early examples of these technologies in action
at small start-ups and more innovative retailers. Finally, we’ll
outline a roadmap for retailers to prepare for – and succeed
in – the seamless, technology-enabled future.
The Accenture Technology
Vision 2013 highlights
seven technologies that will
have a transformative effect
on businesses over the next
three to five years.
Read about these trends at
Retail Technology Vision 2013 2
Technology Outlook – 2013 and Beyond
We believe that every retailer must be a digital retailer. The pace of technology
is accelerating, and the barrier to entry is lowering. It’s no longer enough to be
friendly with customers, have good industry connections or have a presence in
the most desirable shopping area in town.
Tomorrow’s high-performing businesses
will use technology to strengthen their
relationships with customers, leverage their
data, optimize and secure their critical systems,
and enable their workforces with leading tools.
Technology is also enabling customers
to take more control of their shopping
experiences, and new approaches to
shopping and fulfillment are opening the
doors to competition that would not have
been viable just a few years ago – and it’s
all changing at warp speed.
Look at Amazon. Less than 20 years ago,
“eCommerce” created Amazon.com, which
has transformed from a small, innovative
bookstore earning $1 billion in 1999, to the
world’s largest online retailer with net sales
of $61.09 billion in 2012 – a 27.1 percent
increase from the previous year.1
More and more retailers are digitizing
categories and channels to deliver a seamless
experience. The stakes continue to change,
and the danger lies in not keeping up.
Ever-present technology for
today’s non-stop customer
• martphones. The majority of shoppers
will have mobile apps and connectivity
anywhere they go. Of the 1.88 billion
mobile phones to be sold in 2013, 1 billion
units will be smartphones, compared with
675 million units in 2012.2
• ocial media. Pinterest shoppers are
spending significantly more per order,
averaging between $140-$180 per order
compared with consistent $80 and
$60 orders for Facebook and Twitter
• loud computing. We expect the retail
cloud market to triple from $4.2 billion in
2011 to an estimated $15.1 billion in 2015.4
• earable technology. Sales associates
wearing Google Glass, for example, could
be equipped with timely information
about customers and products.
• In-memory databases and Big Data
analytics. Retailers can construct offers
in real time based on up-to-the-minute
• 3-D printing. Shoppers can customize
products through 3-D printers like
MakerBot and Shapeways, and engineers
can prototype products with greater
speed and ease through this nascent
These developments show that the
technologies underpinning the retail
experience are in the midst of a dramatic
shift in terms of capability and ubiquity.
The technology available to the customer,
the sales associate and the back office
will force many retailers to rethink their
business at a fundamental level.
3 Retail Technology Vision 2013
Customer Outlook –
Every Customer is a Digital Customer
Today’s customers expect to be able to connect with the
retailer digitally – because they live digitally connected.
Global Internet usage will more than double by 2015,
and most of these users will be mobile.5
On an average day, smartphone users spend
132 minutes communicating and using
social media on their phones and 79 percent
have their phone on or near them for all
but two hours of their waking day.6 This
mobile growth is global. Brazil and India are
forecast to be in the top four countries for
smartphone shipments by 2018.7
Increasing numbers of customers are
browsing and buying online and via mobile
devices. For example, the amount of time
consumers spent with online retail jumped
104 percent to 34.9 billion minutes in
February 2013, compared with 17.1 billion
minutes in February 2010.8 Mobile payments
are expected to quadruple to $630 billion
by 2014.9 And these digital consumers
are of all ages.
A recent Accenture survey shows that
all generations are catching up with
“Millennials” in terms of technology adoption
and usage. More people, regardless of age or
background, are using smartphones, tablets
and the Web. The same survey showed that
customers are increasingly comfortable
buying online when shopping outside of
normal store hours. The result is a new breed
of 24/7 shoppers, with rising expectations
about the quality and consistency of their
digital shopping experience. This new type
of shopper isn’t fickle; they are simply
better at finding the best choices for
themselves, using the best tools available.
The power shift: from
retailer to customer
Today’s customers hold the reins, choosing
when, why and how they buy products.
Their primary loyalty is to themselves,
and they will happily switch allegiance
to whomever provides the best service.
They guide each other through sharing
and reviews, exerting more influence
than traditional advertising. The average
customer mentions brands 90 times a week
with family, friends and co-workers and 53
percent of people recommend companies
and products on Twitter.10 They expect a
retailer to serve them quickly, consistently
and seamlessly across channels. If not, a
better retailer is literally only a click away.
The technology changes of the last five
years have changed customers and their
expectations. Looking ahead, these changes
will continue to influence the relationship
between the customer and the set of
retailers they choose to interact with.
Some may view these changes in a negative
light. We prefer to think of them as
opportunities; opportunities for retailers to
view technology as an enabler to providing
richer experiences that appeal to discerning
customers and that differentiate the business
enough to stand out among a sea of online
and offline competitors.
“The next five years will
bring more change to retail
than the last 100 years.”
CEO of shopkick.
Retail Technology Vision 2013 4
Retail Outlook –
Five Stories of a Future Shaped by Technology
Each of the five stories in this section illustrates what the retailer of the future will need to do to be successful.
What can and should be done now to keep up with the expectations of the seamless customer? How can retailers
outpace a growing number of tech-savvy competitors? What next steps can retailers take to capitalize on trends
and define the innovative changes that will mark the next generation of commerce and customer service?
All Channels Lead to Annalisa
Annalisa has simple
needs, and today, she
needs a t-shirt. Starting
with her tablet, Annalisa
opens the app for her
Item in stock
The app remembers her prior purchases and
personal information, and in just a couple of
touches, Annalisa is looking at a selection of
women’s t-shirts, in her size, sorted by her favorite
styles and colors. Two touches later, a red scoop
neck is in her cart and she’s ready to check out.
She wants to wear the shirt this coming weekend,
but it will be three days before the shirt arrives.
The app proactively searches for alternative
delivery options (because the system knows that
extended delivery can be frustrating for active
customers like Annalisa). The app quickly finds
the same shirt in stock at a nearby physical store.
One last touch, and she has checked out. The shirt
is hers. Grabbing her keys and her mobile phone,
she’s out the door and on her way to the store.
Annalisa arrives at the store. She heads to the
service counter, which uses the Wi-Fi signal from
her phone to validate her identity. Moments
later, bag in hand, she’s making her way to
the door. That’s when she sees the shoes...
Using the retailer’s mobile app, she snaps
a picture of the shoes. The app recognizes
the shoes and automatically gives her the
price and the availability of her size. She
posts them on Pinterest and adds them to
her wishlist, all in one action. Someday soon,
she’ll be back to try on the shoes, and she’s
confident that she’ll find them waiting for her.
Back for those shoes?
Annalisa’s experience spanned four different
channels, two different devices and two possible
delivery methods. She was able to perform the
transaction on one device, validate it on another
and pick up the merchandise at the store –
seamlessly. Her experience was tailored to
her history across all of these channels.
This retailer doesn’t see Annalisa as an “offline
customer” or a “mobile customer.” She’s a
customer. They don’t segment their inventory
across channels – they have one distributed
inventory across stores. Compared to other,
less forward-looking retailers, Annalisa’s
experience is seamless, convenient and the
retailer met her needs in the best possible way.
Chances are, she will return for those shoes.
5 Retail Technology Vision 2013
mpowered Employee Elizabeth
Elizabeth is enjoying
her summer break from
college, working for one
of the more fashionable
stores in her town.
“Beth,” like many of her
peers at work, has had
minimal training. Instead,
Beth has been given a
small, wearable display
that she dons like a pair
of stylish glasses.
When Beth arrives at work, the glasses allow
her to quickly clock in and see any immediate
to-do items. Task #1: put a new display in
the store window. As she wrestles with a
pair of mannequins, her display provides
hands-free access to images and instructions
that show her the outfits that need to be
displayed and the poses of the mannequins.
When she’s done, she stands back to admire
her work and uses the glasses to take a quick
snapshot. She tells the glasses to send the
image to her manager.
Some clothing may require to
adjust in the back for better results.
Next, Beth sets out to help a customer named
Annalisa who is looking for a pair of shoes she
saw on an earlier visit. After asking permission
to access Annalisa’s wishlist, Beth quickly
finds the shoes Annalisa wanted in stock. She
brings them to her and as Annalisa is trying
them on, Beth sees additional shoes that are
suggested based on Annalisa’s past purchases
and interests. Beth brings over a second pair
and Annalisa tries them on. Minutes later,
Annalisa leaves the store smiling, carrying
two new pairs of shoes.
The technology touch
For Beth’s employer, the wearable technology
is a game changer. With one simple device,
they’ve seen a surge in customer satisfaction
and sales. The average sale has gone up
15 percent, with equivalent gains in customer
visits to their physical stores. At the same
time, they no longer need to invest as
much in up-front training. Sales people are
empowered, staying longer, selling more and
building lasting relationships with customers
because of the high-caliber service. Technology
has allowed them to deliver personalized,
meaningful experiences for customers, while
driving growth for the retailer.
Retail Technology Vision 2013 6
Renovating the Customer Experience with Pallav
Pallav is planning a
project, using the best
tools online to get great
ideas. He’s looking at
home improvement blogs
and online magazines.
He browses the Houzz app on his iPad and
uses Flipboard to aggregate all the popular
home design feeds into one magazine-like
interface. He pins the things he likes and
invites friends to comment and share ideas
on his Pinterest boards.
All of Pallav’s research is happening outside
of traditional marketing channels. He’s not
watching commercials on HGTV, and he has
yet to step into a home improvement store.
Pallav’s “invisibility” should be worrisome to
most retailers, but not to Heye’s, an innovative
chain of home improvement stores.
Through online analytics, Heye’s is able to
see that Pallav has been exploring options for
roughly three months, and that his tastes have
been consistently biased toward a modern
design. He’s been watching many of the
YouTube videos, fitting a strong do-it-yourself
profile. They’ve offered Pallav the choice of
allowing Heye’s to follow his Pinterest page
or to sign in to their site with his Facebook
profile. When he does, Heye’s begins to analyze
his pins to better understand his interests. They
analyze his profile, looking at employment
history, age, education and interests, to gain
a better understanding of what he can afford,
which DIY projects he’s capable of, and how
much of his free time he’ll actually be willing
to spend doing the work himself.
Using the data they’ve gathered, Heye’s offers
Pallav three potential starter packages, with
product choices that fit his budget and skill
level, along with instructional materials, and
strong references for contractors who can do
the more complex and time-consuming work.
Connecting with the
Last year, Heye’s made a strategic decision
to dedicate half of its marketing budget to
non-traditional channels. Now, they post
images on Pinterest, run a Twitter feed and
YouTube channel of home improvement tips
and tricks, and have even created strategic
relationships with popular online tools. They
can watch a potential customer’s journey
from Pinterest ideas to their website. Their
investment in a strong mobile app has
allowed them to track that journey into
the store and to the point of sale. In essence,
Pallav Ahmed Proﬁle
Education: BA (Hons)
Budget for Kitchen:
they have come to know the customer, and
his or her intentions, in a way that was never
In Pallav’s case, this rich level of customer
insight has taken place before he is even a
customer. Based on their analysis of Pallav’s
online behavior and patterns, Heye’s locked
out the competition before they were even
considered. Like a good contractor, Heye’s
not only knows Pallav as a customer, but as
a homeowner and active family member.
Because of this, Pallav sees Heye’s as a
trusted partner in his next big project.
7 Retail Technology Vision 2013
Online or Bust for Phoenix Electronics
Phoenix Electronics is a
global electronics retailer
with many physical
stores. A few years ago,
their business started
to suffer as customers
found better deals and
better information online.
In s tore n ow.
Their stock price started to crumble,
and many investors walked away. A few
continued to invest. Today, those investors
are very wealthy.
Shortly after reaching rock bottom, Phoenix
began investing heavily in their online
presence, quickly reaching parity with other
online retailers in terms of price, service
and enhanced product information. They
were now a viable online business, but they
still had a large footprint of physical stores.
Some analysts saw this as a liability, but
Phoenix turned it into an asset.
A key differentiator was their mobile app.
Phoenix’s app provides a seamless bridge
between the customer’s online and in-store
experience. When customers arrive in store,
the app guides them to the products they
are most interested in and it informs sales
associates of the customer’s needs so that
they can assist. The app also features videos
and responsive interfaces.
Customers can use the app to scan products
and see reviews from like-minded customers.
In some cases, the app offers specialized
pricing to specific customers. This mode of
scanning provides Phoenix a view of what
customers are doing as they browse, and
what their intents are. This allows Phoenix
to better tune all aspects of the store, from
inventory, to sales associate training, to
promotions at both the store level and the
Other improvements were made to instore technology. When customers could
find everything they needed on their PCs
and tablets, they had little reason to visit
a Phoenix store. To counter this, Phoenix
added technology that was better than
what most consumers had. Holographic
displays allow customers to view products
in different virtual rooms and in different
configurations. Interactive technologies
allow couples to manipulate and discuss
different options, with skilled designers
contributing to the conversation. The stores
have become destinations for collaboration
and experiences that extend far beyond what
is available online.
Toward seamless success
Before this transformation, Phoenix
shareholders were concerned that the stores
would face challenges from customers using
mobile apps to compare prices with other
competitors. Phoenix solved this problem by
making their mobile app better, easier to use
and more seamless across channels. Many
customers choose to purchase from Phoenix
because they value this level of relationship,
experience and continuity across their
purchases. In some cases, Phoenix still
needs to compete on price, but it does so
intelligently, based on inventory levels,
current traffic or customer value.
Today, Phoenix is a strong online retailer and
a very strong brick-and-mortar retailer, in
large part because they don’t think of the
two separately. By enriching digital shopping
with neighborhood stores, and maintaining
a continuing relationship, Phoenix is
differentiated as a seamless retailer.
Retail Technology Vision 2013 8
Behind the Scenes, Ahead of the Curve for Val’s
Val’s is a large, upscale
serving the cutting edge
of fashion for over 100
years. Val’s merchants
have a long history of
working with suppliers to
understand fashion trends,
forecast sales and stock
the products that their
customers want most.
However, in the past few years, trends have
accelerated and markets have become more
segmented and specialized. A couple of years
ago, Val’s predicted this change, and set up a
digital capability that allows their merchants
to better understand trends in real time, and
make more intelligent buying decisions based
on that insight.
At first, they relied on “social listening,”
scouring Twitter feeds to see what their
customers were saying about Val’s. Today,
their tools are much more sophisticated.
Val’s still monitors social channels, analyzing
magazine articles to better understand
what consumers are interested in. They also
monitor the fan pages of clothing designers,
watching for surges in popularity of certain
brands or products. They have tools that help
their merchants see the most popular “looks”
on Pinterest and similar sites. This information
influences the merchants and also the team
that designs the in-store displays.
With a better understanding of the trends,
merchants are in a better position to work
with suppliers. They reach out to their
Facebook fans and ask them which products
they’d be likely to buy. By analyzing the
data associated with each response, they
are able to see which demographics and
geographies are likely to buy which products.
In short, they can make smarter decisions
about which products to buy, which stores
should hold the most inventory and how
each product should be marketed. Last year,
Val’s credited this system with substantially
lowering their overall inventory costs by
13 percent, reducing the number of clearance
items (because they are making wiser choices
up front) and increasing their Net Promoter
Score by 25 percent.
The digital difference
While their competitors are still focusing on
the digital customer experience, Val’s has
transformed themselves into a fully digital
business. They are making the best use of
digital channels and analytics to be as nimble
and dynamic as their customers, thereby
redefining the customer experience.
9 Retail Technology Vision 2013
Paths to Innovation Actions to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Every retailer is at a different point in the journey to realizing the
vision of being truly seamless – maximizing the power and promise of
technology across channels, and across the enterprise. But how can a
retailer quickly move from what’s now to what’s next, capturing some
of the differentiating capabilities outlined in the retail stories?
Accenture has created a roadmap that outlines the journey,
and the steps along the way. These paths to innovation
illustrate – at a high level – where retailers should focus
efforts to build a competitive edge for the future. Progression
along each path will be dependent on the specific business
needs of each retailer, but we believe each retailer will travel
through three distinct waves, ideally as quickly as possible.
LEAD AS A SEAMLESS
Ensure real-time store
data (inventory, etc.) is
shared across channels
Develop realtime, responsive
Develop “fire and
Develop and test
(Re)develop online and
to provide seamless
Build real-time analytics
infrastructure to allow
for real-time insight and
Inventory and cull
Optimize IT to
to the needs of a
Integrate external data
sources to augment data
Report “Seamless Metrics” to
shareholders and partners
data for new
system to allow
Populate data store with
current and new data
data store for
in real time, across
Augment digital experiences
with deeper personalization
Provide employees with
strategy based on
cloud for core
ensure there are
barriers to innovation
11 Retail Technology Vision 2013
Fit for the future
Each “wave” of the journey outlined in the diagram presents
a critical milestone and point in time where the retailer can pause,
measure progress and plan next steps. Below are some key
considerations for each of those waves:
Building the foundation.
Rather than focusing on the same efforts as
the last 10 years – building a better online
infrastructure, MA activity, and entering into
mobile apps and social engagement – plan
for the future by building a scalable technical
infrastructure and an organization that is
aligned to tomorrow’s business realities.
Innovate and adapt.
This wave should be dedicated to building
an analytical base to support new modes
of customer engagement and personalized
service, along with a build-up of the
different channels that deliver those
The future may seem uncertain at times,
but we do know that every retailer must
be a digital retailer to outpace competitors
and appeal to the unique wants and
needs of today’s customer. The task may
seem insurmountable, but new tools and
technologies can ease the journey.
The five stories in this paper illustrate some
of these tools and technologies and offer a
view into retail of the future. Some retailers
have embraced these disruptive technologies,
others are just getting started. No matter
where you are on the journey, the finish line is
always changing. By getting started today and
following the paths to innovation, you can
take a bold step into the future.
Lead as a seamless
Going forward, the future will be
characterized by a truly seamless set of
systems, the business and IT will support
continual adaptation, the digital experience
will be supported by analytics and scalable
IT, and the in-store experience will be
integrated with digital channels.
Accenture has invested time, resources and thought
capital into helping retailers plot their own unique course
into the technology-fueled future.
Learn more about actionable steps to seamless in our point of view titled:
“Seamless Technology: Unleashing an Integrated Shopping Experience”
available at www.accenture.com/seamlessretail.
Seizing the Opportunities 12
Take the next step
For more information please contact:
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