eCommerce Spotlight: Exploring Customer First Retail Expectations

Connecting Offline and Online retail experiences 

The cost-of-living crisis poses a significant challenge for the retail industry, with nearly a quarter of consumers indicating a potential cutback on non-essential retail purchases in a recent survey. While this presents a challenge for both online and physical retailers, it also presents opportunities for innovation and adaptation.

Retailers that can navigate these challenges, offering value and meeting evolving customer needs, will thrive in the long term. Leveraging data for online buyer behaviour can be used to predict trends, enhance physical retail experiences, and ultimately drive sales.

Insights from market research and an interview with a branch manager from one of the UK’s leading retailers shed light on the strategies and approaches that can reshape the value physical stores can deliver to customers. 

In our market research, we investigated changes in online shopping behaviour when consumers face a reduced budget: 

  • Search for Sale Items (47%): This behaviour provides an opportunity for physical stores to introduce exclusive in-store sales, creating a sense of urgency and excitement that is often associated with online bargain hunting. 
  • Use Low to High Filters (28%): Traditional retailers can strategically curate product displays, ensuring budget-friendly options are prominently showcased. This approach leverages online filtering habits to guide in-store purchases. 
  • Leave Items in Baskets Longer (24%): Stores can capitalise on the trend of leaving items in online baskets longer by offering personalised in-store incentives, or by utilising an email retention journey encouraging customers to complete their purchases.  

Industry Interview

We spoke to the branch manager of one of the UK’s leading retailers to understanding how they utilise customer data to build in store experiences that add value to customers. 

In a cost-of-living crisis, do you notice a shift in customer spending behaviour? Does this change the way you present the in-person experience?  

Online behaviour suggests people tend to look more at online sale items and we do notice that behaviour in the store. Black Friday has been a great example of how we’ve changed the in-store experience to accommodate this because we’ve been looking at information and cart abandonment for products to know what will most likely sell in store.  

Do you see different spending habits online to in store?  

As an organisation we had a 2022 target to exceed 70% of our total sales online and 30% in store. We saw much better performance from the stores and less online sales than we anticipated. We tend to see larger purchases made in store; most people like to ‘try before they buy’.  

Do you collect customer feedback in store and how is it used by the rest of the organisation to change based on buyer habits?  

Any purchases that are made are added to customer accounts if they have them for data and receipt purposes. We are provided with stock and targeted on in store department sales rather than individual items. I don’t know how it works with products and buyer behaviour, but this is probably an area we could feedback on and improve.  

How do you work with your marketing teams? Is there anything more you would want from them?

In store, the marketing team tend to help us with brand look and feel throughout the store. We are also involved with the marketing team to cover specific product launches which are then represented in store. 

By mirroring successful online strategies, such as understanding cart abandonment, retailers can tailor in-store promotions to align with customer preferences to get them to a point of sale. Physical stores hold a unique advantage in facilitating larger purchases through a tactile, try-before-you-buy approach. This underlines the importance of creating immersive in-store experiences that differentiate traditional retail from its online counterparts. 

Opportunities for an Omni-Channel Experience

Customers need to feel that retailers understand them, and that there is an expectation online that bleeds into offline. By understanding and adapting to online buyer behaviour influenced by the cost-of-living crisis, traditional retailers have the potential to redefine their role in the retail landscape.

The need to ensure that you can provide a seamless experience between online platforms and offline in store experiences has never been more important at a time where customers 

Data and customer feedback will be the key as we move forward in 2024 , and in embracing these things, the high street can transform into a dynamic space, combining the tangible advantages of in-person shopping with the convenience and affordability of online platforms.

As retailers navigate these shifts, the convergence of online and in-store experiences holds the key to delivering exceptional and seamless customer experiences.  

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