February 14, 2019

What to Expect at eTail West: Bridging the Gap between In-store and Online

Written By
Andrei Faji
The retail industry is in a conundrum. While retailers have remained laser-focused on the online shopping experience for more than a decade, consumers’ inclination to shop in-store shows no signs of slowing down, with 87% of retail sales still taking place offline.

The rise of online personalization, through increased access to shopper preferences, has created a new set of consumer standards. And while retailers are quickly transforming their online experience to meet these new demands, the state of brick-and-mortar has remained relatively stagnant.

Next week at eTail West, I’ll be speaking with executives from leading retailers including Walmart, Lowe’s, Decker Brands, Away Luggage and more about how they’re evolving the in-store experience and bridging the gap between online and offline.

One of the central themes we’ll be discussing is how retail is evolving the in-store experience to complement the digital interactions shoppers are having with a brand before and after a purchase. While there’s been buzz about the technologies that will transform the physical store -- i.e. robotic mannequins or VR mirrors -- research shows consumers have no desire to interact with these new in-store technologies. Rather, consumers simply want a personalized, welcoming experience, that makes them feel rewarded for coming in-store, and takes past digital interactions with the retailer into consideration.   

Take loyalty programs for example -- the foundation of a brand’s customer strategy. Loyalty programs of today remain burdensome, leaving the onus on the consumer to track their loyalty status and remember to redeem their reward points in an allotted time frame. Overall, this type of approach creates feelings of frustration rather than a desire to return. In fact, our Consumer Loyalty Survey revealed 48% of consumers don't feel that major retailers value their loyalty, and 91% of consumers feel little to no reward from tiered reward systems.

Meanwhile, consumers’ lifeline and pulse to their day-to-day lives -- their phones -- have gone largely ignored by in-store retail. Although online shopping and mobile have been weaved together for some time, the in-store shopping experience and mobile remain siloed.

According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, consumers spend more time on their phones than on desktop, around 3.3 hours per day. Mobile is no longer just a megaphone for brand visibility, but should be treated as a way to bridge the extensive gap between online and in-store. From geo-targeting to gamification to card-linked apps, the possibilities to weave mobile into the in-store experience are endless, and yet largely untapped.

So, as we head into 2019, can we expect to see a renewed focus on leveraging mobile to complement in-store and a new approach to loyalty programs? What other changes and innovations to physical retail can we expect to see?

Check out our eTail panel, Reimagining Online and Instore, on Thursday, February 21 starting at 2:05 pm PT to hear how both traditional and ecommerce-born retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, Decker Brands and Away Luggage are thinking about and approaching these challenges.


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