The future of retail… online and physical stores locked in battle… ecommerce dominating… brick-and-mortar fighting to retain market share…

It’s a story many of us have heard, and the plot is almost perfect for the next Hollywood action flick.  And that’s about where it ends.

The question isn’t whether the store of the future will be digital or physical; it’s how retailers and brands are able to create an experience that seamlessly blends the two worlds.

A Forrester study predicts that cross-channel retail sales will represent $1.8 trillion of the $4+ trillion retail market this year. Similarly, a soon-to-be-released InReality study found that 72% of shoppers see a seamless shopping experience as being important or very important to them.


So, how will brands and retailers create that seamless experience? The following are 5 ways companies are taking that next step:

1) Bring In-Store Inventory Online

According to Google, “near me” searches are no longer just about finding a specific place. It’s now about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, and in a specific period of time. “Near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” have grown over 500% over the last two years. Consequently, showing consumers the items you have in stock at nearby stores has been proven to drive more traffic. Using Google Local Inventory Ads, for example, REI, Williams-Sonoma, and Sephora have all had great success turning smartphones into local store magnets, driving in-store traffic and sales.

2) BOPIS

The growing appeal of buy online and pick-up in-store (BOPIS) to shoppers continues to have a positive effect on traffic and sales. A study by two professors at Dartmouth College and Northwestern University found that BOPIS options increase store sales overall, thanks to upselling, successfully merchandising by the “pickup” area, and shoppers often walking around the store and making additional purchases before leaving. Retailers like Lowe’s, which has reported that 60% of its online orders are collected in-store, and Kohl’s, which saw 36% picked-up, are just a few of the many BOPIS success stories.

3) Interact in Real-Time, Everywhere

Throughout their shopping journey, shoppers get a rich, interactive, and relevant shopping experience online—but rarely find them in brick-and-mortar retail settings. Consider enhancing the store  experience to actively engage shoppers. Offer tools to empower shoppers and seamlessly continue the journey on their own. Additionally, keep in mind that the days of the static store and generic, mass-marketing are over. Shoppers expect an engaging experience, and responsive technologies allow retailers to dynamically respond to shoppers and their behaviors in real-time creating the perfect experience.

4) Learn from All Shoppers

It’s one thing to develop a seamless experience for known shoppers through loyalty programs or mobile applications, but that still only makes up a small percentage of shoppers. There’s a large number of unknown shoppers that walk through the door everyday, and brick-and-mortar retailers need an instant window into how their shoppers (both known and unknown) are behaving in-store. Relying solely on mobile tracking, POS data, loyalty programs or purchased research is not enough to move the needle. The good news is advances in technology is finally closing the gap and providing a level of shopper insight similar to online, and just as fast.

5) Create Painless, Worry-Free Buying

Don’t fall into the trap of online-versus-traditional with online-only and in-store-only deals. Maybe the goal is to promote one channel over the other, or maybe it’s because of a financial model that says one is less / more costly, but does it really matter whether shoppers are researching online and buying in-store or vice-versa? It’s time to end the gimmicks that only frustrate and impede shoppers and deflate the experience. Try to adopt policies that let shoppers buy as they please, where they please and when they please.

The reality is, shoppers are not going to pick a side. Going forward, retailers and brands need to focus on effectively meeting shoppers’ needs and expectations—both online and in-store.

Take a minute to read more about how the in-store shopping experience is changing: 5 Retail Technologies Changing In-Store Shopping