How to connect online and offline retail: 11 Tips To Improve Performance

Max B, CEO
Max B, CEO
Apr 30, 2024
10 minutes
I would be lying if I said that I have no dream of realizing any of these ideas. But I have a web development studio, not a chain store. Therefore, I share them with you, describing each with benefits. I made some of them for fashion E-commerce (we are no match in it, as they say), something was born out of the pains of our food tech customers, other ideas were inspired by the foreign countries experience. After reading, you will learn how to scale the application, or what features should be included in it at the development stage if you are a retail representative.
Most often, a store chain application serves for one of 3 functions:
Connects offline to online
Increases customer loyalty
Turns offline business into E-commerce.
If you try to mix all 3 functions, you end up with a lot of mess. Therefore, I consider them separately.

Connecting offline and online

Why is this even needed? First we had the coronavirus pandemic — people were locked in their homes for an indefinite period and forced to learn how to buy online. Then
February 24, 2022 — business had to respond to jumping rates and rising fuel prices. Shipping costs become excessively high for some people. Some buyers returned to regular stores.
Own application (if it already exists or is just being created) will help retailers not rely on chance, but manage the flow of customers. And more mature business players will be provided with precious customer data. Today it is one of the most expensive resources. The icing on the cake is that the ability to tempt a person to buy something when he is directly in the room is much higher. No wonder marketers, psychologists and merchandisers have mastered the skill of manipulating customers for years.
What features can we implement?

Using the application to identify the buyer

For example, at the checkout, as in the Belarusian hypermarket chain “Green”, or at the entrance to the store, as in the European Metro hypermarket chain.
What does it give? You know not just a general portrait, but you can collect information specifically for each user: what time does he come, how often does he buy certain products, does he buy promoted goods. In short, everything to make personalized offers.

Scan a product barcode for more information

The buyer can see:
• Expiration date — you’ll sell only fresh products and increase customer loyalty.
• What dishes you can cook with this product — is a great way to motivate you to buy other ingredients.
• The composition of the product, you’re not forcing people to look at a small print on the package.
• What other tastes are there & whether there is still a product in stock, will help to avoid cases where the merchandiser did not work well, and the client could leave without a purchase.
• Since the topic of ecology is now in trend, you can show information on where to properly take out the packaging of the product, what carbon footprint a person will leave if he buys it, and much more.

Gamification with AR

The once sensational Pokemon Go showed how much people are dependent on game mechanics. Add it to your application, let customers look for discounts, free items & e.t.c. that are “hidden” in the hall. And you will have crowds scurrying around the store. Even if they don’t find AR Bonuses, they’re unlikely to leave without a purchase.

Self-moderation in the store

Usually staff should supervise the display of products, but what if this task is outsourced to the client? For example, empty shelves, spoiled peaches in a basket, incorrectly displayed bottles — you throw off a photo, you get a bonus, as an attentive buyer. And you, as the owner, save on merchandisers.

Opportunity to create your portrait

Here we are no longer talking about the data that we collect, but about the information that the client will input in the app. Does he have allergies and to what? Whether he adheres to a healthy lifestyle or some kind of diet, considers himself eco-friendly or not. And then we can show him suitable products, inform him about new products that are relevant. If he scanned the product through applications, send alerts if there is an allergen.

Creating a virtual shopping cart inside the store

Do you have small trading floors, but want to expand the assortment? Or do you prefer to sell in the store only what usually has to be chosen in person: meat, fruits, pastries, ready meals? Make showcases with virtual goods (household chemicals, toiletries, etc.). Using the phone, the user scans what they need and “puts” it into their cart, after which he pays for real and virtual purchases at the checkout and receives a package from the warehouse upon exit. It is highly used for example in stores at gas stations, or in stores combined with cafeterias.

Scan products for quick checkout

Some stores tested “pistol” scanners, which they gave out at the entrance, so that visitors could make purchases on their own, and simply pay at the checkout. They were replaced by “smart” carts that record everything you put in it. But if you can’t afford it, then add a similar function to the application, it will allow customers to scan their purchases on their own and pay for them at the exit.
This is not just a tribute to fashion features, but a real way to optimize the number of store employees and automate many routine tasks. Even if initially such development and the necessary equipment seem expensive to you, in terms of money in the long run it will turn out to be a profitable investment.
When replacing one traditional cash register, the salesperson becomes an assistant who serves the entire self-checkout area. Replacing two conventional checkout lines frees up a full-time position, eliminating the need to hire additional employees or increase the number of shifts on peak days. In the long run, you save on the payroll of line staff.
You also solve one of the main pains of the buyer — a long wait in line. This problem is faced by 60% of respondents. Now people value their time more than ever and want to make purchases offline easily and quickly, just like online.

Scan the QR code on the label to track the product’s path

Ever since WWF (World Wildlife Fund) announced the launch of a blockchain platform that will help food businesses eliminate illegal, environmentally harmful or unethical products from their supply chains, any grocery chain owner can demonstrate the safety of their products.
The platform can be used to automate the tracking of raw materials or products every time they change hands. In this way, you will reduce the costs of other methods of estimating deliveries and reduce the possibility of human error or fraud.
Automatic tracking is organized using scanned codes on containers of raw materials, RFID or RFID tags attached to products such as fish or beef. The blockchain platform can also store data on temperature, humidity and other factors that can affect the shelf life of the product.

Local delivery within a radius of 1 km from the store

If you can’t afford your own vehicle fleet for food delivery, and you don’t want to rely on third-party services and aggregators at all, you can always limit yourself to a small delivery area and do it with the help of foot couriers or on bicycles and scooters. This way you will increase the loyalty of those customers who live within a radius of a couple of kilometers from your store, and you will be able to provide products to those who are used to online orders. The rest can be offered to possibly form a basket and come for your order to the nearest store — a typical pickup.
Unlike other digital channels, self-collection offers all the benefits of online shopping while encouraging customers to go to physical stores.

Loyalty program

This is perhaps the most obvious feature to implement in your application. Here is an article about the possibilities and features of various loyalty programs.

Multifunctional card

If you have not just one point of sale, but a whole network, you will definitely need a map in the application. At least show open/closed shops. However, this is not the only (and not even a feature). One of our clients has a business — beer shops, there are 140 of them in one city. In addition to any bonuses associated with the loyalty program, we implemented his old desire — to show in real time the current amount of goods in a shop on the map. When you have a favorite type of beer and you go to the store just for it, it becomes a very convenient tool to find it in the nearest place.
Of course, this list can be extended ad infinitum. Although, as practice shows, even these moments do not always occur to business owners’ minds. Since we strive to provide quality service, cultivate a good culture in the service sector and in the field of food tech in particular, I share my ideas and experience with you. I hope this article stirs up your imagination. And if you have any questions about the implementation of certain chips, feel free to write!