Merge Online and In-Store Experiences With Digital Transformation in Retail

11 Minute Read | Digital Transformation

The retail industry as we’ve always known it is dead and gone, and now savvy business owners are implementing strategies to merge their in-store and online experiences. Whether you’re a tech provider or a clothing retailer, we can all agree that the most important thing to your business is sales. To make this happen, it’s the retailer’s job to meet the customer where they want to be met, whether that’s online or in-store. As the shopping experience evolves, it’s important we embrace digital transformation in retail to enhance the user experience, wherever they prefer to shop. By focusing on merging traditional and digital avenues to create a seamless shopping experience, you can generate leads, build brand awareness and increase sales, creating a loyal customer-base that is sure to stick with you for years to come. 

Richard Murray, CEO of JB Hi-Fi recently joined the panel at The Australian’s recent eCommerce Summit where he spoke on the complexity of balancing the online and brick and mortar experience. Richard shared that 80% of their traffic begins online but the majority of their sales are completed in a store. “There are things we do well online and there are things we do well in-store, and I think the combination is pretty powerful.” 

We love, live and breathe digital but, like Richard, we know there’s real power when your digital prowess is combined with the retail skills that have gotten you where you are today. We don’t want you to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” so read on to discover how you can combine your retail prowess with the right digital tools to make your customer’s shopping experience seamless.


What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation means making digital integral to the structure of your retail business.

Whether you’re an online store or a brick and mortar retailer, by weaving digital practices into the pillars of your business, you’re future-proofing your operations and aligning your business with customer behaviour. You’re giving your customers what they want, which creates loyal, repeat customers who are going to sing your praises. Digital transformation in retail can be a big undertaking so we’re here to equip you with the basics.

Start with what you know

This is where we breathe a sigh of relief, we’re not starting from scratch here. There are many things you do well as a retailer and that’s why you’ve come this far, and this will help you be the master of your very own digital transformation in retail. Take a moment to take stock of your success and the numerous customer insights you’ve collected over the years to develop a starting point. 

1. You already know how to make a product people want

At the core of your business are high-quality products. We touched on this briefly when discussing the impacts of COVID-19 and Black Friday but we’ll mention it again because it’s just that important. Finding your unique selling proposition (or USP), not only is the core of a stellar business model, but it’s also the perfect launching pad for your Performance Marketing campaigns.

Example of a good unique selling proposition (USP)

Although Muse headphones are already a truly unique product, they have still taken time to clearly communicate their USP. By listing out core differentiators of their product, they are able to both demonstrate their worth and set up a consistent audience demographic based on related interests and values. 

Taking a leaf out of Muse headphone’s book, list your USPs proudly on your website; there are many ways to show how you’re different but sometimes it works to just be obvious. 

2. You already know who your customers are

Whether you’re on the floor yourself or are receiving feedback from your team, you know who is most likely to frequent your store. These insights might not be the final stop on your customer profiling journey but it’s a hugely valuable insight as you begin mapping your customer persona. Take some time to consider what your typical customer looks like and map out key pieces of information, such as: 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education 
  • Relationship status
  • Approximate income

But don’t get too fixated on what you see in your retail store, use this as a launching point to test new audiences, especially younger audiences, as they’re more digitally savvy. Find out more: How to create a buyer persona

Example of a facebook ad audience segment

Here’s an example of the exact spot you can start applying the basics of your customer persona. Facebook Business Manager allows you to split your ad campaign across multiple personas, so it’s the perfect spot to start your A/B testing. 

Find the balance between automation and human interaction

Digital has taken us a long way when it comes to personalisation, but nothing can beat the impact of real human interaction. Luckily, there is an abundance of options and customer touch points for you to fill this gap when undergoing your digital transformation in retail.. There are two crucial elements on either side of the digital and physical retail camps. 

1. Customer Service

One of the most crucial elements of your customer journey is customer service, and when it comes to specific, timely and meaningful responses, this one is best undertaken by a real-life human. This is where live chat comes in. Live chat is the perfect mix of online convenience matched with the service and personalisation of an in-store experience. 

Live chat is a software tool that allows the customer to type in their queries and a real-life customer support agent can reply. Even as far back as 2010, 44% of online consumers said that “having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer”, and as we know, we’ve only gotten more impatient since then. By implementing live chat, you’re capitalising on your already existing product knowledge and customer service skills, all with the convenience of the customer never leaving the couch. 

2. Automation in communications

We may be biased but this is where online communications beat in-store experiences, and will be an essential part of your retail digital transformation toolkit. Unlike in-store purchases, automated communications allow us to remind customers about relevant offers and abandoned carts, nurturing potential customers along the path to purchase. 

Going back to what Richard Murray said in relation to JB Hi-Fi’s online process, most purchases start online – so whether they make the final purchase digitally or in-person, these prompts work to deliver the final result by reminding the customer that you’re still here, and that you have what they want. 

example of email automation

Here is a great example of Top Shop using automation to personalise the shopping experience for their customers using a birthday offer. Birthday emails are a great example of using digital tools to create that special human touch. Plus, it’s an excellent way to generate sales; Campaign Monitor recently revealed that birthday emails have a 481% higher transaction rate than promotional emails – it doesn’t get much better than that!

What is unboxing and why is it special? 

Unboxing is the user experience of receiving their online order, often referring to the creative use of packaging to make the experience special. By creating a unique unboxing experience you’re doing four things. 

  1. Giving your customers the VIP experience, and who doesn’t want that? 
  2. Creating an ideal vehicle for User Generated Content. Instagram stories and Facebook posts are the perfect platforms to show off your oh-so-special purchase, so getting an aesthetically pleasing package is prime content. 
  3. Reinforcing your brand. An online purchase is missing that immersive in-store experience where your interior design reflects your brand. By creating a well-branded unboxing experience, you’re replicating that in-person experience that makes each purchase just a little bit more special. 
  4. Attracting social media influencers. Always on the hunt for good content, a social media influencer flocks to a good unboxing experience like a seagull to hot chips. When an unboxing experience is too good not to post, you’ve found yourself in the perfect position to generate free exposure from some of the most influential users online. 


Example of a good unboxing experience

How do you use digital to increase your foot traffic?


1. Local SEO campaign 

Whatever your customers are looking to buy, their first port of call will most likely be a quick Google search, and local SEO is the best way to reach the people who are most likely to visit you. By using local search terms, such as name, address and phone number, as well as directory listings and targeted content, you may be able to boost your ranking where it counts the most. 

Remember, consistency is key here! Not only does it help online traffic locate/discover your business, but consistency across directories helps your rankings. The more consistent you are across the web, the more legit you are in Google’s eyes. Create a singular source of truth so you always have a safe place to pull information from. 

Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons you should focus on local SEO

Example of local SEO

2. Claim your business listing 

Claiming your Google Business listing increases your chances of showing up on Google’s local Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Map and it will boost your organic listing too. It’s a simple way to make it easier for your customers to find you, have greater control over what Google lists about your business, and implement simple calls to action like calling or travelling to store. 

Once you claim your business listing, you can then respond to reviews and interact with your customers. This is a great way to merge your online business with your well-honed customer service skills, helping you rank better with Google and boost your public perception. Even a bad review can be turned around when there’s a quick solution and an attentive owner, so don’t be afraid to have a back and forth.

You can also claim/create Bing Places listings. Pay particular attention to this if you sell in the UK & US where Bing is a much more prominent search engine.

Example of a Google My Business Listing

Personalised experiences

As we move into an increasingly more digital world, not only have we accepted companies’ involvement in our online presence, it’s becoming increasingly encouraged. What do we mean by this? As customers become more familiar with shopping online, an expectation is developing that their preferred supplier will deliver a curated shopping experience for them, just like you would have in-store. 

According to Accenture, 75% of customers admit being more likely to buy from a company that:

  • Recognises them by their name,
  • Knows their purchase history, and
  • Recommends products based on their past purchases.

1. Remarketing

This is where we look to remarketing. Remarketing is when you can promote products and offers to consumers who have expressed interest in your business, whether that be via past purchases, website visits or abandoned carts. Have you ever looked for a new pair of shoes online, just to be followed around the internet by ads promoting their best boots on offer? This is remarketing.  

example of remarketing

2. Recommended pages

Digital personalisation can sound a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Each customer will take their own unique journey on your website depending on their needs, so an easy way to assist with their path to purchase is by recommending pages and products based on this browsing pattern. It’s the online equivalent of “these pants are similar, would you like to take them into the change room too?”. 

example of recommended pages

Ebay might be one of the best in the business when it comes to recommended pages. By tracking your cookies you’re never far away from luring your customer to that irresistible purchase. 

In-store retail and digital marketing are the perfect pair

Ultimately we may not know where our customers are going to finalise their purchase, but we do know that if we make their digital experience simple and personalised the purchase is more likely to happen. The skills you have as a retailer are invaluable, and your insider knowledge of your business and product can be utilised to shape the perfect experience for your customers. By putting into practice the above and tracking your results, the marriage of your in-store experience and digital marketing can be a match made in heaven. 


If you want more help with your retail digital transformation, get in touch with Kwasi today!


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