How to Leverage Consumers’ Online Shopping Habits in a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Follow these 4 tips to help ensure customers will leave the comfort of their couch for an optimal in-store shopping experience.
Not an online shop? You can still find ways to cash in on Cyber Monday. (Photo: Odua Images/Shutterstock)

Cyber Monday may be the biggest day of the year for online shoppers, but traditional retailers need not fear.

Despite what you may have heard, brick-and-mortar stores are not dying in the wake of big online retailers like Amazon. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates over 90 percent of all retail purchases made in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2017 took place in physical stores.

Instead of seeing e-commerce as an enemy, brick-and-mortar retailers can learn to leverage the online shopping habits of consumers to their benefit. Here are four tips to help ensure customers will leave the comfort of their homes to visit your physical store.

Related: How to Compete (and Win) Against Online Retailers

Provide excellent customer service

According to a recent study by Forbes and Synchrony Financial, friendly and helpful associates are the top reason consumers visit brick-and-mortar stores. While 82 percent of customers pre-shop online, they still prefer to visit stores and be assisted by a knowledgeable associate. Consumers want to be sure they’ve made the right decision, especially when making more significant purchases.

To leverage this desire for an educated shopping experience in your store, make sure you have the basics down. Associates should greet customers at the entrance and inform them of all sales. Offer assistance and prioritize helping customers above other routine tasks, including inventory or restocking shelves.

Related: Webrooming vs. Showrooming: How Consumers are Pre-Shopping

Make the shopping experience as easy as possible


Make in-store shopping as easy as possible for customers that have previously shopped online by organizing displays to match their online counterparts. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Because more consumers are now researching products online before making a purchase, customers will often arrive at your store having already identified the specific product they want.

Help your store visitors easily find what they came for by making sure your in-store displays match their online counterparts. Display brands and product details in-store similarly to how your customer would see them on your website to help them quickly find what they are looking for — and know they’ve found the right one.

Sean MacPhedran, director of commerce marketing consultancy Smith Labs, advised retailers to use website data to help plan their in-store merchandising.

“What customers are looking at online is a good barometer for what might draw foot traffic into the store,” he said. “Explore top-selling (or top-viewed) items and ensure they’re in highly visible places for both planned and unplanned purchases.”

If you can identify items that are commonly searched for or purchased together online, display them together in-store, he suggested.

Related: How Small Shops Can Thrive in a Retail Downturn

Implement a real-time loyalty program

When consumers shop online, they receive targeted offers and advertising based on past purchases, browsing history and current shopping cart items. But when visiting a physical store, they don’t typically receive the same personalized shopping experience.

According to the Unified Commerce Landscape Report, a joint study by NCR and research firm IHL Group, “Being able to track, use and benefit from customer preferences across channels is a tactic that really drives a sales increase. Those who do so see a higher average sales increase by 107 percent, compared to those that do not.”

If you can, find ways to leverage your customer-loyalty data when shoppers come into your store, perhaps by making personalized recommendations based on past purchases and favorite styles. The NCR study found that retailers who were able to access customer loyalty profiles while customers were in-store saw sales growth figures 84 percent higher than those who did not have real-time access.

Related: 7 Ways to Get Maximum Return from Your Loyalty Program

Make your point of sale more mobile

Another way to streamline your in-store shopping experience is by using a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system. The same study found retailers who use a mobile POS saw an average sales increase of 92 percent.

If lines are long, associates can assist customers and process payments anywhere in the store. This also provides staff with easy access to customer shopping profiles, so they can make more targeted upsell offers.

Remember, the personal touch of customer service is still the driving force for in-store visits and purchases. The key to leveraging these online shopping trends is finding the balance of careful planning, effective technology and stellar customer service.


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