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Retail has hit a rough patch. It’s undergoing tremendous transformation as physical stores close and once-venerable brands shrink their footprint. E-tailers, on the other hand, are establishing their own bricks-and-mortar presence and acquiring others.

The key to survival in the age of Amazon is customer experience, but few are doing it well enough to gain the necessary competitive advantage and are leaving their customers indifferent, according to the recent 2017 Global Customer Experience Trends report by Forrester Research. It found most firms in digital and traditional retail around the world only earned the research firm’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index) score in the “OK” range. In short: digital isn’t necessarily better.

For retailers who want a glimpse into the future and understand what will make or break their brand, they should look no further than Doug Stephens, who has risen to become one of the most influential retail futurists in the world. He is the founder of the Retail Prophet and rated among the Top 50 global Retail Influencers by Vend. Well-established retailers and brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, Walmart, Disney, Google and Intel have all leveraged the research and insight of Stephens to understand exactly how mega-trends in demographics, economics, technology, and media are fundamentally transforming the consumer-brand relationship.

Stephens, who is the guest speaker at our next webinar, is co-host of the popular retail-focused web series The Future in Store, a syndicated retail columnist for CBC Radio Canada, the author of The Retail Revival, which documents the rise of a new era of consumerism and redefinition of retail.

Data is essential to delivering a superior customer experience

Stephens understands the role of data in retail and how it’s essential to creating a customer experience that will enable brands to rise above their competition in the eyes of consumers.

In a recent article for Wired, for example, he outlined the real drivers behind’s Amazon recent acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Stephens articulates what many often forget: Amazon may be in the retail business, but it's really a data company that sells things. More importantly, it doesn't view its business as a series of product verticals; instead, it’s “a horizontal continuum of value.”

As Stephens notes, there is no other category of merchandise that offers the frequency of visits and the repetition of purchase that grocery does: one out of seven adults visits a grocery store each day, and the average American makes 1.6 trips per week to the grocery store. For Amazon, being in the brick-and-mortar grocery business provides it with a weekly opportunity to extend the relationship with customers and reaffirm customer loyalty. It also offers a uniquely robust data-window into consumer and household preferences, and for Amazon, that’s a goldmine of correlations to other products, services and content that fit a consumer’s broader lifestyle.

Hear more from Stephens

As his analysis of the Whole Foods acquisition shows, Stephens has deep expertise in retail. To explore Stephens' insight on the future of customer experience, read our recap of our webinar Retail’s blind spot: Why companies can’t get CX right.

The Retail Survival Guide: Retail isn’t dead…but your brand soon might be

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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