How to Bridge the Online and In-Store Shopping Experiences

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By Miva | August 24, 2018



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In the past, merchants who manage both brick-and-mortar and online stores have often looked at their businesses as separate siloed operations, each serving customers who prefer one channel over the other. Today, shoppers increasingly expect a seamless experience, using whichever channel is the most convenient.

Increasingly, customers mingle their online and offline shopping. The recent report Shopper First Retailing by Publicis. Sapient found some 71% of shoppers now use their mobile devices while they are in stores – up from 62% in 2017.

It makes sense that companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain more of their customers. Make sure your shopping experiences support each other by integrating these features:

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Comparison Shopping

The Shopper First Retailing report found 87% of shoppers begin their hunt on digital channels, up from 71% a year ago. For many items, the shopping experience begins with customers gathering information about a product before looking at specific pricing. That’s easy online, but sometimes trickier on shop floors.

  • Solution: Dedicated In-store Digital Display. Brick-and-mortar stores should make sure they have a way to provide customers with product details, including the fine print often found online. This can include a dedicated interactive monitor or tablet focused on the store’s online site, so customers don’t have to squint on their own mobile devices. (This also keeps them from checking out a competitor’s site.) It also helps shoppers become familiar with wider options available through the online store.

Available Inventory

Nothing is more irritating to a shopper than making a choice and finding out the product isn’t available. Transparency is key. Let them see what’s available and where.

  • Solution: Inventory Transparency. Online stores should display inventory available at specific store locations – and store staff should be able to check to see what is available online. By integrating all of inventory channels, merchants make it easy for shoppers to buy. Customers can then choose to go to another retail outlet nearby or buy the product online while they are at the store and have it shipped in a day or two. It can also mean the reverse: starting the buying process online and then picking it up at a store. (This is already popular with big box stores such as Walmart and Target.)

Repeat Orders

Customer acquisition is expensive, so you want to do everything you can to encourage customers to buy from you again, both in store and online. Shopper First Retailing compared how shoppers first bought an item – and how they made repeat orders. When it comes to an initial purchase, customers are more likely to buy in retail stores than online marketplaces – by 50% to 34%. But for repeat purchases of the same item, the number switches from 31% for retail to 47% for online. How can you make it easy for customers to buy from you online – or pick up a repeat purchase in the store?

  • Solution: Integrated Order History and Online Subscriptions. Online ordering is super simple for repeat purchases, and it’s even easier if customers can look up what they ordered in the store when they need to replenish a supply – or buy a similar item as a gift. Make sure customers can check their history online or at the shopping counter. Even better, save customers’ time by offering online subscriptions. Make sure they can set it up at the store or online.

Returns and Exchanges

A flexible return policy positively shouts Good Customer Service Spoken Here. For omnichannel retailers, it means letting customers get the product back to you in the method most convenient for them – regardless of how they made the initial purchase.

  • Solution: Allow Returns to Store or Warehouse. If shoppers purchased at a brick-and-mortar store far from their home or office, it may be more convenient to ship their not-just-right purchases back to you. Or, shoppers who bought online find it easier – and cheaper – may make the return by going into the stores. (Some ecommerce merchants even send the return label with the original item to make it extra convenient.)


Customers don’t like discontinuity and confusion. Running different price promotions online and in the stores encourages them to comparison shop with competitors.

  • Solution: Buy-Anywhere Discounts. Keep the continuity between online and offline, bending the rules as you have to. For example, you can do a price match in stores to honor online pricing if the item is readily available. In the stores, you can run promotions for stock on hand, so you can get rid of excess merchandise easily. Make sure coupons are redeemable online or in-store, too.

Gift Registries/Wish Lists

Registries aren’t just for brides these days. Let customers set up wish lists for any occasion – new baby, graduation, special birthday, anniversary, new home, or holiday.

  • Solution: Digital Wish List Displays. This is a time when the recipient will often want to check out the merchandise both online and in the stores. To make it easy for the buyers, set up a digital display in the stores so they can see the list. Then they can order anyway they list – in-store or online – and then decide whether to have the item shipped or taken with them from the store.

Looking for guidance on creating your perfect online store? Contact a Miva Solutions Architect today.


About The Author

Elisa Williams

Elisa Williams is a journalist and communications strategist who combines storytelling with solid research and analysis. A contributing author to the Miva Blog, Elisa has written for a wide array of consumer, business and technology publications, including Newsweek, Real Simple, Computer Life and Inc. Her marketing and content development work includes supporting technology companies that specialize in ecommerce, financial services and big data.

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Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.

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