Creating harmony in retail: blending digital and in-person shopping through consumer closeness

The retail landscape is always changing – discover ways to keep up with dynamic preferences by investing in consumer closeness.

Delivery person handing over brown bags to another person at the door
Delivery person handing over brown bags to another person at the door

Crystle Uyeda

12 June 2024

4 min read

Remember the days of staying indoors, when everything from work to leisure to shopping mostly happened online? The pandemic caused a massive shift in consumers’ needs and expectations. Many brands back then heavily invested in digital shopping experiences. But what’s next? How will the retail landscape evolve? Should retail brands prioritize virtual try-on, or are in-store visits back in vogue? Or maybe curbside pickup is a must-have?

One thing is for sure, there will always be factors that are affecting the attitudes and behaviours of consumers. To be human-centric, brands need to adopt an agile mindset that is rooted in consumer closeness. Understanding what truly matters empowers brands to invest in strategies that reflect consumer needs and preferences. Let’s explore how retailers can bridge the gap between online and in-store experiences, fostering true consumer closeness.


Understanding the current landscape

Since the landscape is always changing, we surveyed 400+ U.S. consumers* to explore how consumers are feeling towards shopping and spending this year. Despite the advancements of e-commerce and technology in retail, we found that in-store experiences are far from dead.

In fact, across generations, while 38% of consumers prefer an online and home delivery experience, 46% prefer shopping in store. Other popular options include online shopping and in-person pick-up (8%) and trying it out in store and purchasing online (5%).

When asked what would incentivize them to shop in store, the clear leading factors were sales or discounts (67%), which is especially important to Gen X (74%) and Boomers (73%), followed by getting what you need faster (52%).

Of course, proximity and accessibility to retailers, time, stage of life, etc. could all be variables that play into these perspectives. But the key take-away for all retailers is the importance of understanding these diverse consumer preferences and adapting strategies accordingly to meet their online and in-store needs.

Building a seamless bridge between in-person and e-commerce

While understanding these insights provides a basic understanding of consumer sentiment, it’s just scratching the surface. If you’re looking to create an authentic connection across digital and physical realms, you must go beyond survey data and invest in building deeper connections with your customers and understand their lived experiences. Here are three tips to achieve this:

  1. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Experience both the in-store and digital shopping journeys of your own brand, your competitors and other innovative brands. Take this exploration a step further by not only going through the motions for yourself but observing people’s behaviours in real-world settings as well.
  2. Identify and understand consumer pain points. Engage with the consumer perspective by taking on challenges like budget-conscious shopping both in physical stores and online. Recognize pain points to establish personal connections with the needs of consumers.
  3. Talk with consumers to understand their wants and needs. Utilize one-on-one conversations or panels to build empathy and identify consumer needs, incorporating these insights into future strategies.

Closing the empathy gap within FMCG

Connecting consumers and brands to create deeper understanding is vital for any brand, whether online, in-store, or anywhere in between. Here’s a concrete example of how consumer closeness drove success for a global FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brand.

This FMCG brand has a long history of staying close to the market, always open and curious to stay ahead of trends. However, today’s rapidly changing cultural landscape means consumers are more diverse than ever in their needs and passions. To address this, we needed a solution that delivered deep human understanding while remaining accessible for a global client facing time and geographical constraints. We developed a global ‘consumer connect’ programme, combining state-of-the art technology with human engagement and internal activation for enterprise adoption. Since launching in 2021, the programme has engaged more than 2,000 stakeholders spread across 20+ of our client’s hubs worldwide. With our impact survey revealing high satisfaction and recommendation scores, it’s clear this programme isn’t just ticking boxes – it’s touching hearts, minds, and actions.

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Embrace what really matters to consumers through closeness

While retailers like Amazon continue to set the gold-standard for seamless online shopping experience, it is important to remember that online is just one piece of the puzzle. The retail landscape is dynamic because people themselves are dynamic. The values they expect brands to deliver on are constantly evolving, driven by both external and internal factors.

By taking the time to understand what truly matters to consumers while staying on top of trends like combining physical and digital elements, retailers can foster loyalty and thrive in an ever-changing market.

*The survey was conducted by Human8 in April 2024 and included 400+ U.S. consumers ranging in age from 18 – 75+.

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