Why is in-store experience important while developing a digital retail strategy?

Saptarshi Das

With the rise in the number of users opting for online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers have been changing their digital retail strategy. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when you discover that global e-retail sales amounted to 2.8 trillion U.S. in 2018. But that was two years before the world was introduced to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scenario is changing, and even though the supermarkets are reopening to boost the economy, the scare of Covid-19 is still in the back of shoppers’ minds. So, what can retailers do to create a balance between the digital and physical world of shoppers?

In this article, we will explain how technology can become a comprehensive part of implementing an in-store shopping experience in the digital retail strategy.

What is an in-store shopping experience?

Customers still value the in-store shopping experience. The ability to view, touch, and feel the product, the sounds and scents are still part of the customers’ shopping in-store and will remain as the foundation of the retail industry.

Online shopping has disrupted the retail industry. However, customers still want to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. You cannot deny that people will always overspend their budget while shopping in-store while being online.

The effect of Coronavirus has had on the world economy is devastating. Although online commerce sales allowed a few of the retail businesses to stay afloat, it was not enough to offset losses caused due to the slump in physical store sales.

Retail will see a $2.1 Trillion loss globally in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic. – Forrester

With many countries like China, Germany, Switzerland, and some states in the U.S. working on their reopening schedule, there is no denial of the fact that COVID-19’s impact on the social and business processes will be seen for a more extended time.

Retailers must offset any inconveniences in the shopping experiences caused due to the various safety measures stated by their respective governments.

So, this where the reliance on personalization and better customer service will come into play and blur the boundaries of physical and digital stores.

How does omnichannel shopping experience fit into this mix?

A whopping 98% of Americans switch between a variety of devices each day. This has resulted in consumers coming into contact with six touchpoints on average per day (and 50% using four or more on a daily basis). — Knexus

This finding makes it important for businesses to design an omnichannel shopping experience for their customers. When retailers decide to take the omnichannel path, they practice a customer-centric approach where they provide a seamless and contextual shopping experience to their customers irrespective of the platform their customer use.

Modern customers keep switching mediums while looking for their favorite products and also use multiple available options for post-purchase service based on their convenience. In the post-covid, world retailers will have to provide a solution to their customers for seamlessly switching between platforms.

The devices customers use for such interaction range from desktops, smartphones, tablets, smart home devices, and touchscreen self-help kiosks. The channels involved are telephonic lines, in-store assistance, and online chat support. Within the channel architecture, retailers can be using chatbots, virtual messenger app, or even a customer service agent.

Businesses that use an omnichannel strategy are more likely to keep customers over a year-by-year basis (91% more likely, to be precise). — Loyalty 360

The modern customer journey, in comparison to their older counterparts, has become more dynamic than ever. Many customers keep switching between traditional and digital channels for making their purchases. Mapping the custom journey across the diverse touchpoints has become more and more essential for retailers now. This is where they can make good use of big data analytics and create a cohesive experience for their customers.

For instance, let’s say that a customer wants to purchase a gaming laptop. Their journey will involve these steps. They will:

  • Start searching on the world wide web using specific features.
  • Compare their findings with other brands, read online reviews, and create a list of their probable products/brands.
  • Visit the brands’ website stores to take a look at the price.
  • Head onto various ecommerce shops to compare the prices, discounts, promos
  • After their initial research, head into the brick and mortar unit to get the look and feel and try those features first-hand.
  • Interact with in-store customer agents and get more details on the key features and in-store offers.
  • From this point onwards, the pattern might change. They might go for an in-store purchase or might go back and decide to make an online purchase.
  • They might approach the physical outlet for registering service or do it via email, chatbots, social media interactions, or a telephonic conversation.
  • Meanwhile, the customer might have bought other accessories for the laptop online.

Highly engaged customers also interact with the brand over their online pages and often leave reviews and suggestions. After a year or two, they also might upgrade to another model of the same brand or go for another brand altogether.

We hope we didn’t miss out on anything and covered the typical purchase journey customers take. This example also highlights the fact that customers interact with the online and physical stores while they are

  • deciding whether to make a purchase
  • after they make a purchase

Retailers can opt for an omnichannel approach; then, they can make sure that their customers do not face any difficulty switching from digital to physical while enjoying a unified brand experience.

Modern customers switch between touchpoints for

  • ease of access and convenience
  • availability of discounts
  • availability of the desired product model
  • research
  • decision-making
  • service assistance or complaints
  • Leaving reviews
  • Repurchase or upgrades

Challenges that retail stores will face after reopening

Let’s take a look at the challenges that retail stores will face and overcome once they start to reopen.

1. Safety of customers

Safety of customers

What will be the safety measures that have to be taken to avoid the safety of the customers without overlooking their in-store experience? At the same time, they have to make sure that the safety measures cover their staff too.

The solution

This part has already been taken care of by the governing authorities of individual countries so that the implementation will be quite smoother. Here are the standard actions that retailers must take to operate smoothly.

  • Limiting the working capacity to 30-40%.
  • Installing protective checkout measures.
  • Sanitizing and training the staff about cleaning commonly touched surfaces every few hours.
  • Providing masks and gloves to the store associates.
  • Advise shoppers to wear personal protective equipment while in the retail store.

2. Implementation of safety measures

Implementation of safety measures

Although this point is related to the first, the implementation part can be different based on the retail owner’s size and budget.

The solution

Undervaluing the presence of actual humans, i.e., your store associates are a big no for retailers. Although it might go against minimizing staff recommendations, it is also essential for having friendly, knowledgeable associates available to customers. Your customers might have specific needs, questions, or concerns, and the reassurance that associates provide to shoppers is valuable to them.

3. Changing the store footprint

Changing the store footprint

This has to do with the enablement of in-store services like curbside pick-up and sanitization of all the products in the retail shop at regular time intervals.

The solution

Retailers will need to reconsider their store’s footprint by going for a reduction of shopping space as much as 20% for increasing the operational area.

We suggest a few points that can be included for integrating cross channel marketing into their retail strategy:

  • Use of in-store signage for promoting SMS and email subscriptions
  • Sending out predictive product recommendations using email and digital ads based on user browsing behavior
  • Reminding their present customers regarding the products they might have left in their cart using in-ap notifications or even their social media channels!

This can be done by using the historical data of the customer’s stored within their data silos via big data analytics and merging AI technology. They must develop an architecture that will allow them to see how their customers interact with their apps and online stores and club it with the footfall in the physical stores. Using big data analysis, retailers can easily understand the customers’ current behavior and predict their actions. This will enable the retailers to float the right content to the shoppers via the right medium.

Integrating digital with an in-store experience

If you have paid close attention, you must have noticed that in-store shopping has been digitalized a lot in the past few years? The reason behind this move can be credited to the emergence of technology like AR/VR, digital mirrors, etc. that go beyond the notion of merely installing a digital screen in-store.

Many brands have invested heavily in these modern and upcoming technologies, and with the physical distancing norms, their use will become more permanent. Of course, the AR/VR sets have to be sanitized and heavily observed to reduce the chances of spreading the virus from potential barriers to healthy carriers. But with the PPE kits and temperature measuring units in place, the fear of mass spreading can be easily curbed. 

We profoundly believe that you cannot stay locked down at a single place and that to roam freely is of great importance for every human being. Many brands have started investing in their physical locations to migrate them into the digital world. Some companies are planning to spend up to 50% of their budget on-brand experience.

Conclusion: Integrating the digital into your retail in-store experience

Integrating the digital platform into your in-store retail experience is more than installing TV monitors throughout the shopping space! It is more about planning the customer experience.

In this digital age, where Augmented Reality is heavily looked upon as a solution to provide customer’s taste of the future, you need to integrate that digital experience into your store. 

Mainly because human touch is vital for the decision-making process, here are some ways you can ride the technology trend and implement these emerging technologies in your retail space.

  • Use the AR/VR technology for providing an immersive digital experience of your products.
  • Adding touch screens devices throughout your store
  • Installing interactive mirrors in the dressing rooms so that customers can request new sizes and patterns without touching the physical products.
  • Implementing voice search to redefine the way customers search for your products without the need to be face-to-face with the in-store associates

After engaging the customer with your in-store retail technology, you can bring the shopping experience to the comfort of their home. Utilize your cross-channel marketing effort and build a better connection with the customer and take them through the sales process.

With the covid-19 threat crippling the traditional shopping experience, you need to partner with companies that can ease your digital transformation process without grandly affecting the budget.

Choosing the right digital product development partner for your business will decide your fate in the market. Rapidops is a digital product development company with which you can partner to integrate physical in-store shopping experience and the digital retail strategy.

We have the right tools and people who understand the need for keeping up with the trend to maximize the opportunities.

We have developed various award-winning digital products, helping different retail businesses provide a ‘wow’ user experience. You can connect with us to know more about machine learning and artificial intelligence and its role in providing a better experience to your customers.

At Rapidops, we give all our attention to creating the best digital product for your business without compromising on the quality. A well-versed team of developers and testers, combined with cutting-edge technologies, develops digital products that contribute to the growth of businesses of all shapes and sizes.


Saptarshi Das

I am a content writer and a geek in the digital marketing sense of it, who likes to read and write about revolution, expertise and startups.

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