3 best practices for retailers expanding from online to in-store

As the world reopens, retailers are focused on safely welcoming back customers and resetting operations. Many brands, including digital pure plays, are eyeing new customer journeys and new business models. 

For example, Fabletics and Amazon are taking advantage of retail real estate vacancies and launching or expanding their physical presence. To the surprise of many pundits, physical store expansion plans continue to outpace closures. According to U.S. store tracking by Coresight Research, national retailers have announced 3,199 store openings and 2,548 closures year-to date. 

The evolution of e-commerce brands to omnichannel retailers has been measured. Many are new to store operations and the realities of in-person experiential retail. This will demand they form new capabilities and competencies that meet the customer wherever they are and on their terms.

Let’s explore several best practices for success as retailers adjust to the real world. 

Understanding consumer expectations  

Shopping pathways and buying psychology vary dramatically by customer journey. For many, shopping is a social connection and an interpersonal experience. At the same time, online shopping may offer more convenience; discovering products while browsing is a key factor that brings consumers in store. 

Before the pandemic in the 2019 Oracle Retail consumer study, 36% of consumers ranked discovery as a space to experiment and try new products and a top priority on their shopping journey. Also, as state restrictions lift, consumers return to stores, and brick-and-mortars need to have fully stocked inventory ready for the influx. If retailers can’t provide, shoppers will take their wallets elsewhere. According to a 2021 Oracle Retail study, 34% of respondents said out-of-stock merchandise topped their list for a bad shopping experience, 33% said they weren’t willing to wait for an item to be back in stock before trying another brand, and 27% will go to another retailer. 

Even as they return to stores, shoppers are still focused on health and safety. Today’s consumers demand a clean and healthy environment while on their shopping journeys. This isn’t an issue that e-commerce companies will have encountered online; however, this will need to be a top priority for brands looking to pivot. According to the same 2021 Oracle study, 80% of shoppers are ready to shop in a retail store as long as safety precautions are in place (e.g., wearing a mask, cleaning procedures, etc.), with 28% of shoppers reporting a lack of social distancing/unclean environment would result in a bad shopping experience. 

Incorporating retail technology  

As digital brands are extending their operations to the main street, they bring a wealth of technology and insights. e-commerce offers brands countless ways to personalize the shopping experience and provide convenience to consumers. Direct to consumer brands and pureplay retailers will need to figure out how to translate these strategies to real life in the offline world. Digital brands looking to pivot will need to reimagine how their online strategy will work in-store. Utilizing the right technology is vital, and choosing a robust POS and retail platform is integral to successful in-store operations. It is not as simple as adding a cash drawer to your website and hoping it all goes well. 

No matter the channel, customers want convenience in their shopping experience. As consumers will far outnumber store associates, retailers looking to pivot will need to explore innovative options, such as self-checkout, BOPIS, pay-by-link, pay-by-QR code, and other tech-forward ways getting customers out the door.

Instead of spikes in web traffic, new brick-and-mortar retailers will need to anticipate the ebbs and flows of in-store demand. These retailers should consider demand forecasting technology to predict everyday traffic and get ahead of the busy end-of-year holiday season. They will need a system that utilizes next-generation retail science and exception-driven processes to predict demand accurately. 

Upgrading with staff training  

As new brick-and-mortar stores open, retailers will naturally need to hire and train new staff to keep up. However, for the road ahead, staff training will need to go beyond the basics and be integral to physical stores’ success. As vaccinations usher in return to normalcy for retail, store associates who came aboard during the pandemic will need to adapt to growing foot traffic and the associated demands. 

Customers will want to know where every product is, what discounts are available, if more stock is in the back, and which check-out lane is the quickest. They’ll expect the associate to handle every inquiry and meet every demand quickly. For example, 44% of consumers ranked unhelpful staff as defining a bad shopping experience, which shows how imperative knowledgeable staff is, per the 2021 study. 

Store associates will need to be well-equipped to handle all expectations and questions that come their way. Retailers moving from online to the real world can help bridge the gap by integrating mobile devices or tablets for associates to use, putting information at their fingertips. These devices can help staff locate items and inventory, highlight customer profiles and suggestions to help associates provide better service, and can even serve as the point of sale for check out. Training staff for this experience will be imperative so associates can make the most of in-store technologies and leverage them to provide an excellent customer service experience. 

Breaking into brick-and-mortar can be an exciting next step for e-commerce brands, but it requires proper planning and preparation. Customers, and their needs, are different in each arena, and retailers will need to understand how to cater to the two. As digital retailers step into the real world, ultimately, they will need to anticipate the behaviors and demands of in-store consumers, incorporate technology to offer a more seamless experience, and train their staff adequately to make the entire customer journey worthwhile. With the world moving towards reopening, it’s time to step into (or back into) the real world and prepare for the future of retail. 

Millennials and Brand Loyalty

Why is brand loyalty important? For any business, large or small, customers matter. One of the main goals for many it to ensure customers continually come back for product or service. That’s why building brand loyalty is of the utmost importance. While there are hurdles to get any age group to become brand loyal, Millennials can be a complicated group to convince to commit. Here are some tips on how to increase brand loyalty among the age demographic.

Get to Know Millennials 

Compared to Baby Boomers, you may have the perception that Millennials go rogue on brands. While they are more likely to experiment with different businesses, Millennials actually want to be brand loyal. In fact, they’re 1.75x more likely than Boomers to say they’d like to be brand-loyal. So what’s stopping them? 


One factor is income. It may come as no surprise that as household income increases, so does the likelihood of loyalty. In a survey by Facebook IQ, people surveyed who report a household income of $150,000 or more are 32% more likely to be loyal than those who report a household income of under $35,000.  A higher income brings flexibility in choices. With more money, you have the ability to pick companies that match your values, meet your needs, and deliver on promises. If you don’t have a lot of wiggle room in the budget, you may need to shop around for desirable sales and cost effective options more often. 


Vertical markets, or “verticals,” are business niches where vendors serve a specific audience and their set of needs. When we look into specific verticals, we can see some variations among Millennials. Furthermore, in some verticals Millennials are just as likely to be brand loyalists as Baby Boomers. 

Looking into verticals where experience and price play a bigger role, we lose loyalty among the age group. For example, this can include airlines and hotels. Here are more barriers Millennials face when making the decision to stay loyal within different verticals. 

  • 2.00x more likely to cite a store’s level of hygiene as a barrier for  HOTELS 
  • 2.00x more likely to cite a lack of healthy options as a barrier for  RESTAURANTS 
  • 2.50x more likely to cite a store’s level of hygiene as a barrier for  GROCERY 
  • 1.44x more likely to cite a move in location as a barrier for AUTO INSURANCE 
  • 2.33x more likely to cite a difficulty to reach or contact as a barrier for AIRLINES 

New Parents 

Another factor that impacts how Millennials spend in a huge way is whether they are parents. When a child is in the mix, a customer is going to be hyper aware of what they are spending where. They will be looking for the best fit for their family. Once they find it, they’ll typically stick with it. In fact, 42% of  new parents describe themselves as loyal compared to 36% of non-parents. 

Interestingly enough, new parents tend to be more loyal in verticals that non parents are not as loyal in, like hotels. This is especially true of verticals with products and services that tend to be more experiential. Based on Facebook IQ’s study, our best guess is that the desire to experiment with different businesses gets replaced by the need for stability. Parents want to stick with what they know works and cut out the other fuss. 

How Can I Build Brand Loyalty? 

Those surveyed were asked, regardless of household income, to describe the brands they love most. When divided into features of brand loyalty – consistency, cost, quality and experience – the largest group of words was under experience. Though price matters, experience seems to outweigh them all. 


Be sure to put focus on delivering an exceptional experience, no matter the service or product. According to the study, creating a meaningful, memorable and noteworthy experience is critical to cementing a brand’s relationship with people. Also consider ideas that celebrate the good times had between you and customers. 


You can also connect through personalized communication. This is one way to build trust. Use personalized service through 1:1 communication. Companies are increasingly using messaging tools to better meet the needs of their audiences. 


Because of the digital sphere and online technology, people are oversaturated with advertisements 24/7. Now, they crave realness. When a brand is authentic and transparent, it stands out against the noise. In fact, 66%  of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand. And in a study run by Cohn & Wolfe, 63% of consumers said they would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over a competitor.