The merging of digital and physical shopping channels is changing how businesses approach customer engagement. With just 15% of shoppers completing the entire customer journey, from pre-purchase to returns, without any physical touchpoint, even if buying online, it’s clear that a successful retail strategy must seamlessly integrate physical stores with e-commerce platforms. Embracing an omnichannel strategy is key for retailers to thrive in a competitive market, and we’re here to guide you! This blog will delve into how combining online operations with physical stores enhances both customer journeys and business resilience. We explore compelling data and strategies throughout our Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report.

The strategic role of physical stores

As consumer preferences change, it highlights the ongoing need for a solid omnichannel strategy. With 46% of buyers preferring in-store purchases and 54% favouring online shopping, it’s clear that both channels hold significant value. This diversity in shopping preferences supports the trend of hybrid retail, where e-commerce brands are increasingly establishing physical storefronts and pop-up shops. Notably, our report reveals that £52 billion of online sales now rely on brick-and-mortar stores, showing the substantial impact of physical presence on digital commerce.

Physical stores play a pivotal role in the omnichannel ecosystem by providing tactile experiences that online platforms cannot replicate. For certain product categories, such as clothing, electronics, and home furnishings, the ability to see, touch, and try products before purchasing remains a key factor in buyer decision-making. Additionally, physical stores offer immediate gratification, which is another important consumer desire that online shopping can only sometimes fulfil due to shipping times.

Additionally, the presence of physical stores can enhance customer service by offering more direct interaction and personalised assistance. They also serve as crucial points for returns and exchanges, simplifying the process for customers and reducing the logistical burden on businesses. By integrating these physical experiences with digital convenience, retailers can create a more comprehensive and satisfying shopping journey, encouraging repeat business and better brand loyalty.

Boost the shopper experience with omnichannel tactics 

Our report reveals that approximately 75% of shoppers regularly interact with both digital and physical touchpoints during their shopping experiences. This omnichannel approach allows shoppers to browse products online, check in-store availability, and choose between home delivery or in-store pickup. Such flexibility not only meets the varied preferences of consumers but also significantly enhances their shopping experience by providing convenience and ease of access.

The importance of flexible return policies is uncovered in the data, as 49% of consumers express a preference for returning items in physical stores. This option adds a layer of trust and reassurance for customers, knowing that they can easily return or exchange products if their expectations are not met. Also, physical returns can drive additional foot traffic to stores, potentially increasing sales through impulse purchases.

Furthermore, real-time communication is becoming increasingly important, with 80% of buyers desiring at least four updates per order. This demand highlights the need for retailers to invest in technologies that enable continuous communication throughout the delivery process. Omnichannel strategies excel in this area by leveraging both digital tools and physical store networks to keep customers informed, from order confirmation to shipping updates and final delivery. 

Tackling retail challenges with omnichannel solutions 

Physical stores are increasingly being utilised as fulfilment centres to help meet consumers’ delivery expectations. With our data showing that 55% of shoppers expect a two-day delivery, yet only a third of sellers currently able to offer this speed, using physical locations as part of the logistics network can significantly reduce delivery times and enhance customer satisfaction. Leveraging companies like Metapack and our global network of carriers and logistics expertise further enables retailers to efficiently manage and expedite deliveries, ensuring they meet the quick turnaround times today’s shoppers expect.

It is worth noting that the retail sector is experiencing heightened competition, with 27% of merchants expressing concerns over this issue. Therefore, an effective omnichannel strategy serves as a unique selling proposition, differentiating businesses by providing a seamless customer experience across online and offline channels. This integration not only attracts customers who prefer a blend of shopping experiences but also helps retain them in the face of growing market competition.

Additionally, rising operational costs concern 37% of merchants. By combining online and offline efforts, such as using stores for both sales and distribution, businesses can optimise expenses. This approach reduces the need for separate storage and distribution facilities, lowers shipping costs, and minimises unsold inventory through better stock management. Therefore, an omnichannel approach not only meets customer expectations but can also improve the brand’s financial health.

The future of retail is here

Integrating physical stores with digital operations through an omnichannel strategy really ramps up your game – boosting flexibility, customer satisfaction, and efficiency. With online customer acquisition costs going through the roof, physical stores have become a secret weapon for savvy brands looking to engage customers more cost-effectively. So, dive into the full Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report to discover how to blend these worlds smoothly and prepare your business for a fantastic year.