A Q&A With Accenture Retail’s Natt Fry—The Man Who is Never “Just Browsing”

Natt Fry sees the retail industry changing every day—but he believes the biggest transformation is yet to come.

Tell us about your work at Accenture?

I am grateful to have served many of the largest retailers in the world. I’ve worked with grocery, drugstore, department store, mass merchant, big box, specialty and foodservice retailers on everything from major channel redesign to implementations of store and ecommerce systems.

What areas do you like to focus on?

The notion that the “customer is king” has never been more true. So I am very passionate about customer centricity, customer experience-based design and customer loyalty.

What sparked your interest to work in the retail industry?

In high school, I had a job as a stock boy in a department store. I really enjoyed the work, especially the interaction with folks in the store. Retail has provided many interesting opportunities for growth, so I’ve stuck with it.

Describe the best seamless retail experience you have had.

I haven’t had it yet.

Are you an online shopper?

I have to be because there’s just not enough hours in the day to get it done. I do my shopping at the same time I’m doing everything else. Off of my laptop or my mobile phone or my tablet, I think, “oh I need batteries,” so I just go online quickly and 15 seconds later, the batteries are ordered and will be waiting for me when I arrive wherever I’m going.

Can you walk into a retail store and just shop without analyzing?

For me there is no bifurcation between personal and professional. It’s just all one life and so, if I’m in a store, I’m working. Whenever I walk into a store, I’m always looking at it from a client’s perspective and competitive perspective and just trying to get ideas on what needs to be done differently. Retail has been transforming, but it is not done, in fact, I would argue the biggest transformation is still in front of us.

What retail trend do you have your eye on this year?

I think computing is going to disappear; I think that smart phones are going to disappear. The form factor we see now is going to cease to exist and I think that creates opportunities and challenges for retail. I think consumers are going to be much more interested in contextual retailing—understand what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, how I’m operating, and bring, proactively bring, solutions and ideas that enhance my life.

Are there technologies you are especially excited about or interested in?

It’s all about context. My device…whatever the device is, knows me, has a sense for what my patterns are and then offers recommendations based on those patterns. I wear a Fitbit where I keep track of my level of activity. It’s synced up with my iPhone so if I happen to not be looking at my wrists, like today I have a French cuff on, my iPhone will ping me and say, “hey, you’re not moving enough.” With health being a big issue in the world, I think that will probably be the leading edge, but I think there are some other retail applications that would work as well.

How do you expect consumer behavior to evolve in the future?

I think expectations for speed and pace are ramping up dramatically. I order something on Saturday and I have it on Monday. In New York, Amazon has teamed up with the postal service and will actually do deliveries on Sunday.

Do you have favorite news sources?

I’m doing YouTube more and more. Video, I think, is becoming more and more important than text. You can consume it faster and much more contextual. I think video is where digital is headed, and I’m curious to see how we make all of that work for retail.