Ornella Urso (Senior Research Analyst, IDC Retail Insights in Europe)

Retailers are moving beyond the concept of omni-channel as they aim to engage customers in real time across the commerce-everywhere extended value chain. According to IDC’s 2020 Global Retail Innovation Survey, customer experience personalisation remains a top C-level priority for retailers that aim to innovate their business models over the next five years.

Real-time contextual personalisation is a big opportunity for retailers as it enables customer experience differentiation across multiple demographics, locations, day/time, weather, purchasing patterns and other parameters.

What Characterises Customer Experience in Retail?

By leveraging the right technologies, retailers build continuous and consistent interactions across personal data consent, conversational commerce and customer journey. Technology enables retailers to define their Empathy at Scale strategy while focusing on 6 retail CX foundational gears.


Figure 1: The 6 Foundational Gears of Retail Real-Time Contextual Customer Experience

real time customer experience
Source: IDC, 2020


Partnering with key stakeholders (e.g., software and service providers, start-ups), B2B and B2C businesses and peers enables retailers to access new customer audiences while managing customer-oriented data creation.


Retailers’ cookies policies need to be compliant with customers’ data privacy and regulations. Customer consent on data usage is central to improving quality and trust-based customer data collection.


Chatbots, images and vocal assistants are the interfaces through which customers can connect with their brands and retailers anytime, anywhere. AI allows retailers to integrate and process all relevant information for contextualised marketing, advertising and loyalty initiatives along the customer life-cycle process.

Connected Stores

Stores are increasingly turning into service and experience hubs helped by the application of technologies such as automated checkout, automated drive-through order pick-up, AR/VR, computer vision to merge online/offline, seamless and self-served, and mobile customer journey.

Customer Journey

Customers and consumers can easily connect with their desired brands through multiple interaction points, using different interfaces, even after the purchase (e.g., for return, customer services, recommendations). Transparency, sustainability and personalisation should characterise the customer journey from back-end operations (e.g., supply chain visibility, recycling packaging, goods provenance and authenticity) to post-purchase.

Consolidated Trust

Ensuring an increasingly transparent and sustainable supply chain allows retailers to enhance customer loyalty and improve a mutual trust relationship between brands and consumers.

Join IDC’s Retail Executive Community in Europe

In preparation for the next normal, retailers need to fill existing gaps between people, assets and process along the extended value chain, aiming to meet customers’ and consumers’ expectations and needs better. This pushes different retail subindustries to innovate their customer-driven business models by addressing common challenges, sharing best practices and making targeted new investments.

On October 20, IDC will host the European Retail Executive Digital Forum 2020, during which we will look at retailers’ ability to proactively respond to the product, workforce, partner and operations needs that will shape the future of shopping and customer experience. To learn more or join the event, contact Helena Chappell.