What the offline store can teach us about online experience 2

What the offline store can teach us about online experience

As the online and offline store experience become more intertwined, you’ll come across a lot of information about how you can make your shop more like an online store. But what about the other way around? Nothing will ever replace the kind of experience you get in store, where you get to interact with real people, and feast your eyes upon real products.

As well as online stores, the offline in-store experience is evolving too. The increase in online shopping means that when people do venture in store, their experience needs to be exceptional. Many brands are living up to this expectation, and there’s still plenty to learn from an in-store experience which has been perfected for centuries.

People are also expecting more from their shopping experience, regardless of whether they are browsing a website, picking up something from a collection point, or stepping inside a store. By 2016, almost 90% of companies expect to be competing mainly on the basis of the customer experience they provide.The user experience you offer should be first class across the board, and it’s crucial that a strong relationship is built with loyal customers, no matter where they end up purchasing a product.

Whilst online and offline shops were once pitted against each other, they can now work in synergy, and there’s a lot of insights that can be gained from both methods. Here’s how the offline store experience can teach us about UX online.

Customer service and experience

Websites can take a lot of inspiration from how staff interact with customers in shops. Things like personalisation, exceptional customer service, and a fast, convenient service are key. To stay ahead of the competition, brands need to find ways to make their customers feel more valued online and provide a positive shopping experience.

For example, having customer service representatives who can be on hand to answer any questions and offer a genuinely useful and friendly chat service can really help enhance a website visitor’s experience. When you go into a shop, someone greets you and asks if they can help with anything. Why shouldn’t this be adapted for online shopping experiences so that customers can expect the same level of service?

Testing online and offline store layouts

Companies have spent millions on finding out which in store layouts get the best results. If you picture a customer in a shop, your goal is to get them to the till as quickly as possible and to increase the number of shopping items in their basket.

For example, they might walk past strategically placed products by the till and end up buying more stuff. The same goal applies online. Serving customers up with ‘customers also bought’ and ‘you might also like’ products will increase your basket value. A/B testing is an excellent way of finding out which features and layouts work best for your customers online.

Useful product information

In shops like Burberry, Sales assistants have iPads which offer detailed product information, act as a cash register and can order products that are out of stock for customers. John Lewis has invested £4m on iPhones for 8000 shop floor employees across 20 of its stores.

This information can easily be served up online, yet so many websites fail to do it in a clear and easy to digest way. List helpful information about your products and describe them in a way that staff may describe or sell your products in-store.

Integrated social

In 2009, Burberry was one of the first brands to embrace Facebook alongside its physical stores and sell directly through Twitter. If offline stores are embracing social media, then it’s even more imperative that online stories have social integration and a social presence online.  Forbes research revealed that 78% of people say that their buying decisions are influenced by a company’s social media posts.


No matter where your customers are present, their experience needs to be personalised. Although in-store visits can be personalised, it’s even easier to tailor your online user experience thanks to all the user data we have at our fingertips. We can display products that customers might like based on their preferences.

It’s like when baristas in coffee shops know your exact order when you stroll in. They might also suggest a new product to try based on your previous coffee choices. Baristas get to know their customers on a personal level, and brands should do the same via their website and online user journey.

Pick up on your customers online behavioural habits and serve them content that’s going to really resonate with them. Reach out to them with tailored email marketing, build your content around their interests and speak their language via your social channels.

Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 25 years’ experience in UX and digital strategy, Andrew has helped many national and global brands such as John Lewis, Harley Davidson, Johnson & Johnson, and Interflora create exceptional digital product experiences.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received high-profile accolades that span innovation, strategy, and design, such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university, and speaking at seminars and conferences across the UK.

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