Research report

In brief

In brief

  • Each year, Accenture assesses the IT landscape to identify trends that will have the greatest impact on organizations in the years ahead.
  • Accenture’s 2019 Technology Vision study included a survey of 655 leaders in the retail industry from 26 countries.
  • We found that 86 percent of retailers are experimenting with new technologies to strengthen consumer relationships and forge new paths to growth.
  • Leaders in the coming years will distinguish themselves by taking four actions that, together, change the competitive game.

Where do we go from here?

The digital capabilities that retailers developed over the past decade in areas such as Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud have provided a strong and future-ready foundation for success. But these capabilities and the advantages they afford are now available to every retailer. They are table stakes. No longer differentiating.

Our research suggests that we are entering an era where Distributed Ledger, AI, Extended Reality and Quantum Computing (or DARQ) technologies represent the new catalysts for change. These “post-digital” technologies aren’t emerging in isolation, but in lockstep with changing consumer expectations and behaviors. Using new technologies to deliver instant gratification, hyper-relevance, and a meaningful purpose are the new retail imperatives.

In reverence of relevance

Accenture’s 2019 Technology Vision research revealed the emergence of a retail world characterized by intensely customized and on-demand experiences. It’s a world of marketplaces that bundle products and services to help consumers manage the proliferation of choices they have. It’s a world in which each moment in a consumer’s life is an individual, momentary market.

Retail leaders are already seizing these moments by becoming highly relevant, if not indispensable, to their consumers. They are also changing the way retail works by using new technologies to meet people where they are. In effect, they are changing retail’s competitive strategy from buying quantities of goods and selling them efficiently to enabling consumers to buy exactly what they want from a retailer they trust.

Change is coming. Leaders are preparing.


Of retail companies are already experimenting with DARQ technologies.


Of retail executives agree that the integration of customization and on-demand delivery will mark the next big wave of competitive advantage.

Operationalizing the new competitive strategy requires retailers to do four things

Become mind-readers
Before retailers can deliver relevance, convenience and selection in a given moment, they have to know the opportunity exists. That means identifying consumer needs before their competitors do—and even before consumers do. It means predicting human desires and using AI and machine learning to take optimal advantage of social media’s growing influencer network. And it means thinking outside the box to gain a granular understanding of consumers. Predictive style genomes and digital demographics are new tools in retailers’ arsenals.

Become daredevils
Retail winners in the years ahead will distinguish themselves with bold ideas and even bolder technologically driven actions. They will combine design thinking and design doing to create new business models and new marketplaces to meet customers’ needs in new ways. Beyond revenue growth, retail leaders will also think about how new technologies can transform core operations—from marketing to manufacturing and distribution.

Retail leaders aren’t bracing for change. They’re embracing change and actively looking for opportunities to grow markets of one.

Find power in the DARQ
While 63 percent of retail executives believe that DARQ technologies will transform their organizations in the next three years, many are in for a rude awakening. That’s because they don’t yet have an environment that encourages collaboration or enables a culture of experimentation. A new technology operating model—comprising strong leadership, thoughtful design, and a strong, strategic and secure ecosystem of partners—will set winners apart.

Prepare a future-ready workforce
A human+ workforce—one empowered by data, knowledge and capabilities made possible through technology—will drive the next wave of innovation in retail. New skills and entirely new roles will be needed. That means rethinking how technology can be used to refine the talent strategy and reskill the workforce to achieve new growth.

Theo Forbath

Managing Director - Technology Advisory Products Lead


Technology Vision 2019
Let’s stay together—customer retention in retail

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