How to create a cohesive online-to-offline customer experience

In the USA 84 per cent of shoppers surveyed said they used their smartphones in store to assist in making a purchase suggesting that they do not make purchase decisions based on online information alone. A study undertaken by Google in the UK found that British citizens acted much the same way with 71 per cent researching purchases online either before a store visit or while in the store.

Source: is worrying is that Google also found that 43 per cent of shoppers attempted to find the information they required for a purchase in store but were left frustrated and resorted to online. It begs the question, are we pushing the customers away due to a lack of information?

Some larger retailers, like Macy’s and Bloomingdales in the USA, have cottoned on to the battle between online and offline. Amazon laid pressure on retailers to drop prices by 13-20 per cent lower than the high streets. In retaliation the larger USA retailers launched a counter attack providing more engagement, more information, communication and investing in their customers to secure sales and build loyalty. Previously online only stores like Oak Furniture Land have now opened physical stores and have seen growth in sales of 60 per cent.

We can see some evidence of syncing on and offline communication for the benefit of the consumers in UK supermarkets. The top supermarkets like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s offer a price comparison for your shop via your receipt so you can see immediately what you have saved on. Something that would previously have been available online only.

It’s a given that mixing on and offline consistent media messages, and consumers communication, leads to more sales and return custom. Here are some tips on how to create a cohesive online-to-offline customer experience.

  1. Deliver tailored content

As mentioned earlier we already know that a great many consumers use their smart phones while shopping to research purchases. The key is making the information accessible and relevant with little fuss. Consumers can get frustrated if the information they want is not available immediately. Apps like QR codes allow users to scan and download data they would previously have had to search for online.

An increasing number of multi-channel merchants are using consumer tracking to tailor content to the consumer. For example, call tracking software from Mediahawk allows a business to see which stage the user is in the buying cycle. When a consumer lands on the website they will be allocated a designated telephone number for their visitor session. This can be tracked so the merchant can see how the user searches the site, their time on the site and what pages they read content on. It also means the merchant can track when they return, they can then send emails and reminders of products that the consumer showed an interest in and even send offers.

Tracking a customer is second nature to a lot of online organisations and is vital to securing conversions. It is not so easy in physical stores, or is it?

Multi-channel retailer John Lewis is a step closer to being able to tailor a physical shopping experience. They are currently testing a range of tablets in their UK stores which allows shoppers to scan their loyalty cards and view purchase history, the tablets then make suggestions on similar products that fit their requirements and lead them to new parts of the store.

Incorporating the loyalty card data of purchases, as well as tracking online interactions via email, can lead to more tailored content for your consumer. Imagine your prospect enters your store, scans their loyalty card and you see a range of previous purchases. You also see they recently opened an email on the new product line you sent out via tracking. You can then direct them to the product line instore, re-inforce the special offers and tailor your messages. In fact a study found that 85 per cent of shoppers are more likely to buy from a retailer that offers tailored coupons or discounts than one that is generic.

  1. Sync online and offline communities

Social media is growing by the day and more and more businesses have accounts now on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Your company’ online community are your followers, they are loyal, want to hear about your products and take your advice on style, product and news. Nurture them by offering them invites to exclusive events or openings. For example: Molton Brown sent an ‘exclusive’ invite to its website members for a Valentine’s event making them feel special and part of the club.


You can go one step further and follow in the footsteps of J Crew, the American clothing retailers, and ask social media followers to come and see the latest collection in store. Take a selfie with your favourite item and post with the hashtag #JCrewStyleSessions and be in with a chance of featuring in the spring style guide!

  1. Make purchasing as easy as possible

As well as synchronising social, web and instore communities you can also use consumer data to drive customers to your shop in other ways. A great example is the use of an online stock inventory in Google. If a consumer has researched a pair of shoes online, based on their settings and options, you can identify where the closest place to buy those shoes would be other than online.

You can submit your online inventory to google to appear in Google ads when a consumer searches for a product based on their location.

Source: order to survive the harsh retail economy companies need to offer a compelling customer experience where on and offline is merged. Consumers want to see ease of purchase, tailored content and an understanding by the brand of their requirements not just price and availability.