How Retailers Can Use Physical Stores in a Digital Era

Our Managing Director, Dan Shaw, discusses retailers' different tactics to use their physical stores in innovative ways. 

E-commerce has been a hot topic for many years now. Still, since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an even more significant surge in the number of online orders, which may leave many retailers worrying about the future of their physical outlets. 

Despite many consumers switching over to online shopping because they believe it to be quicker and more convenient, it can never match up to the experience of shopping in-store. 

I believe that physical stores are still an essential part of the retail landscape that retailers should not overlook.  At this point, choosing to prioritise online shopping over physical stores could be a big mistake for many companies. They are both equally as important and should both be optimised for the best results. 

In a time when online is supposedly king, there are some great examples of companies who have used their physical locations to their advantage and have experienced real success. Here are just a few of my favourites. 

Reinvent the experience of shopping in-store 

One thing that online shopping will never be able to do is compete with the experience of walking into a shop, seeing items in the flesh, getting to touch them and being able to put them into a bag to take home with you. 

So why not upgrade this experience to be something even better? 

I've seen companies like Situ Live, which are championing a new form of experiential retail with live theatrics and storytelling that encourages shoppers to engage with brands and products while getting access to advice from the Situ Live team. 

Situ Live
Situ Live

In this retail concept, customers can also scan QR codes as they walk around to find more information or order pieces directly from the manufacturer. This complete reimagination of what shopping has historically been like has made the future of physical stores seem incredibly exciting. 

Bring the digital experience to your physical store

Like the saying "If you can't beat them, join them" would suggest, if there's a reason that people like online shopping, we should do what we can to bring those into a physical space. 

A great example I've seen of this comes from the retail giant Amazon in their newly launched Bluewater store.  

This store only sells products rated four stars and above, which takes the guesswork out of in-store shopping. It's like going through the 'trending' page of a website where you know you're only getting the best of the best. 

Alongside this, the store also has digital prices, average star rating and the number of customer reviews on every product—which is not the standard for other retail outlets. 

Finally, shoppers in the Amazon store can get all of the Prime deals and perks they're used to online, which removes one of the incentives people have to ditch in-store shopping. 

Use innovative platforms to boost loyalty and engagement

Customer loyalty is something that all retailers want to achieve, and I've seen some exciting ways companies are going about achieving this. 

For example, a UK start-up called Jisp that's 'leading contact-free retail and grocery' through the use of scan & save apps. 

Scan & Save trial
Scan & Save trial

They recently worked with Nisa, and since launching the Scan & Save trial, they had reached 10,000 scans, 5,000 taps and 2,000 redemptions in only five short weeks—pretty impressive. 

The brand has also started working with Kellogg's, Red Bull, and Nomad Foods to offer similar schemes that provide savings on certain products using an innovative new method of handing out augmented reality vouchers. 

Find ways to make your customers' lives easier

It feels like everyone is busier than ever, so ensuring that your retail store is a seamless and speedy experience for your customers can often be extremely important. 

Supermarkets can often be a lengthy process, leading many people to start shopping for their groceries online. This isn't always the best as you can't pick out your produce yourself and are often faced with substitutions that you didn't want. 

To improve their physical stores, Tesco launched its first checkout-free store, similar to the 'Just Walk Out' approach, championed by Amazon.  

Shoppers can walk into the store, check-in using a QR code, pick up their items, walk out and wait for the charge to come through on their phone. Ultimately this is making life easier and quicker while putting spending at the back of the customer's mind, undoubtedly leading to increased basket spending without the customer being fully aware. 


We can learn a lot from the pandemic and how retail has adapted, and we have seen some great ideas come to life, such as Amazon Go and Jeep. As retailers, we must constantly look for new ways to keep our brands relevant, which we're continually doing within Inc Retail.  

Our team of marketers, designers and strategists are working to help ensure all our six brands remain relevant to the consumer, from digital ordering to beautiful in-store displays. Still, one thing is sure, to indeed stay relevant, we need always to be ready to adapt and make our businesses better than yesterday. 

Hear more from Dan and connect with him over on Linkedin.