5 keys to bridging the gap between in-store and e-commerce CX


June 16, 2020

Where to focus to drive a great customer experience

The retail world is increasingly focused on building out omnichannel strategies as the world’s economy continues to evolve. In fact, one study found that 67% of retailers are making omnichannel a priority and the push for digital is more important than ever for obvious reasons.

This is great news for consumers who now demand more seamlessness, convenience, and personalization from their shopping experiences. However, just because you’ve prioritized an omnichannel strategy doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute.

It’s hard enough to unify all of your digital channels to create seamless e-commerce experiences. But for an omnichannel strategy, you have to effectively bridge the gap between e-commerce and in-store experiences. Here are 5 keys to doing just that in a post-COVID world.

1. Focusing on the customer journey

We can’t look at e-commerce and brick-and-mortar performance in vacuums. Bridging the gap between these channels requires an understanding of how customers interact with them as they move through a purchase experience now.

Use data to understand changing buyer behavior, triggers, and preferences. Track performance of channels, stores, individual offers, and even images and content. The more you understand about the customer, the easier it will be to identify gaps between online and in-store experiences that are limiting conversion rates. 

COVID was a pretty powerful catalyst to push e-commerce and traditional retail to more closely align to meet buyer needs. Rely on the data you have to guide your next steps.

2. Supporting modern purchase experiences

The last decade has brought a realization amongst retailers that customers are increasingly using multiple channels and devices to make purchase decisions. They may do hours of research online before visiting a store to make a purchase (if in-store shopping is an option). They may use your brick-and-mortar store as a showroom before making an online purchase. Or, they may just visit a handful of online channels before finally deciding which product to buy.

There are no hard and fast rules anymore other than meet the needs of your buyer.

Now we know, the purchase and post-purchase process can involve both online and in-store channels. The rise of both BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and BORIS (buy online, return in-store) give e-commerce shoppers more options in their purchase processes. Soon there will be a term for buy online pick up curbside (BOPC), if there isn’t already, as it increases in importance. Whatever the format, these options help bridge the gap between online and in-store experiences and support modern purchasing.

3. Enabling in-store devices to access content

For years, the relationship between brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce has been tense with pricing wars. Retailers started offering price match guarantees to try and keep pace with lower-cost e-commerce options. But the reality was that many customers were visiting stores in person while using their phones to find lower prices and additional product details. If they couldn’t find the information or price they needed, they often went home to give their business to a different retailer.

In-store devices that deliver additional product content can help remedy this situation. Try giving customers access to in-store devices like quick response (QR) codes, demo stations, or kiosks that can provide relevant information (reviews, how-to guides, enhanced descriptions, etc.) to enhance the customer experience. This eliminates the need for additional research done outside of the store.

Amazon has been doing this with QR codes including pricing, promotion, and branding with great success. Anytime you can solve the need for additional information before a customer leaves the store, you streamline the purchase experience, retain business, and drive a positive customer experience.

QR code delivers product information

4. Ensuring consistency in product information

Product information is a key component of any omnichannel retail strategy. The goal is to unify all of your channels into a single, seamless experience that meets customer needs on any device or platform. But you can’t do that if your product information changes every time a customer switches to a new channel.

Manually keeping your entire database of product information updated and consistent across channels is nearly impossible as more channels emerge. Bridging the gap between e-commerce and in-store experiences requires a streamlined approach to product information management (PIM) and customer experience. That’s why using PIM for retail is gaining popularity.

5. Localizing digital experiences

Customers are looking for increasingly personal purchase experiences. No matter what they’re buying or how they’re buying it, they want to see that retailers are making an effort to present the most relevant, useful information possible as they make their decisions. In the context of bridging the gap between e-commerce and in-store channels, personalization involves your ability to localize digital and in-store experiences.

Even if you’re a global brand, there are ways to engage with e-commerce customers on a more local level. If you want online shoppers to visit your brick-and-mortar stores, you can use social media to interact with customers about local events and news. Use local influencers or in-store demonstrations or workshops. Think about pop-up stores, “virtual” try-ons, or digital fashion shows.

Whether you’re localizing by translating content into the right language or by delivering information in the timeliest manner, meeting customers on the local level will make your brand appear more authentic and boost performance on all channels.

Product information management and the journey to omnichannel retail

Making omnichannel retail a strategic priority is only the first step to success. Unfortunately, there’s no single tech solution or universal strategy that will help you execute the right model. You just have to take practical steps toward breaking down retail silos to truly unify all channels—from your many marketplaces to your brick-and-mortar locations and everything in between.

Product information will be the foundation of any omnichannel strategy. Creating, enriching, and managing it centrally while syndicating content across channels makes it easier to deliver an omnichannel approach. 

To learn more about the role PIM solutions play in omnichannel retail, download this free eBook, 4 Steps to High-Quality Content that Drives Omnichannel Success.


Erika Goldwater, CIPP

Director of Global Communications

Erika Goldwater is the director of global communications for inriver. An industry veteran, Erika lives and breathes B2B marketing, content, public relations, and data privacy. She’s a Boston marketer who hails from Baltimore.