Hybrid Retail: Creating Seamless Cross-Channel Experiences

Hybrid Retail: Creating Seamless Cross-Channel Experiences

Hybrid Retail: Creating Seamless Cross-Channel Experiences

The digital experience and store experience aren’t often siloed—most customer interactions with your brand are a hybrid retail experience. And if they don’t line up or provide the same level of service, your customers will notice.

In this blog, we’ve provided ways brands can close the gap on digital and in-store service to provide a consistent customer experience across touchpoints—creating more satisfaction and inspiring loyalty.

2023 retail trends

Ensure cross-channel consistency

In a recent article titled “What’s next for retail in 2022?,” Retail Systems discusses the future of retail being all about a hybrid model—applying the level of service customers receive during an in-person shopping experience to digital commerce:

“In combining lessons from the pandemic with tried and tested retail strategies, leading brands have been able to merge the worlds of online and physical retail to offer customers the best of both. Ultimately, this means that retailers are enhancing customer experiences by merging the emotional connection of in-store with the convenience of online.”

This means brands must turn a critical eye to every step of the cross-channel journey. Here are a few best practices to promote consistency across touchpoints:


  • Check website + mobile app for ease of navigation, product descriptions, store locations + hours, and searchability
  • Have a mobile-optimized site or branded app—ensuring coupons and special promotions are easy to find
  • Document clearly defined return policies and intuitive ways to leave feedback/report a problem


  • Run an audit to ensure items marked as In Stock on website are available in stores
  • Test the buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS) process to identify gaps in efficiency
  • Train staff on kiosk ordering, self-serve checkout, and QR code usage so they can provide assistance to customers when needed

Success story: Tractor Supply Company offers new touchpoints and yields significant sales growth

Due to the pandemic and subsequent safety regulations for essential retailers, Tractor Supply Company understood they needed to shift how customers interacted with the brand. To keep their edge in the competitive retail space, they implemented curbside service, providing customers with a new contactless option.

Location-level analysis showed curbside pickup quickly became the primary way customers interacted with the brand. Digging deeper into the data, the team discovered most issues with the curbside experience centered around communication—both internally among team members and externally with customers—regarding wait times upon arrival for pickup.

With SMG’s research showing 3 out of 4 consumers planning to do their holiday shopping online, Tractor Supply Company was eager to make improvements on speed of service at this crucial touchpoint. To prepare, the specialty retailer:

  • Invested in headsets for employees, providing more direct lines of communication
  • Tested curbside drive-thru lanes and front-of-store customer service desk in select locations
  • Updated the brand’s mobile app to allow curbside customers to check in upon arrival
  • Created dedicated pick-up locations and locker staging areas
  • Reallocated labor leading up to holiday season

The efforts paid off with 3 quarters of triple-digit e-commerce growth, 130% increase in comp sales YOY, and improvements in OSAT and problem occurrence.


Empower employees to take action

Customers are loyal to brands they trust—and the service they receive plays a big part in gaining that trust. But good service isn’t just about associates knowing your products well. Of course that’s important, but your customers can just as easily look up the product on your website (and chances are, they already have). When customers come to your store, they’re expecting more than just a regurgitation of item descriptions.

Your employees need to embrace the opportunity that comes with in-person interactions and understand the varying needs of customers. Each experience is different, and employees who have the know-how to uncover (and execute) that little something “extra” will win big.

Here are some examples of simple actions that can have a big impact:

Greet the customer right away – This may seem like a no-brainer, but this very easy task often falls through the cracks and the results can be detrimental. There are few things more frustrating to an in-store customer than not being able to find what they need—including an associate to assist them. Not every customer wants help. But if someone isn’t at least offering it, that customer could very easily leave as an angry non-purchaser—who will very much remember the negative experience and likely tell several people about it.

Execute creative problem resolution – No matter how well-trained your front-line staff is, customer issues will still arise. But it’s how those employees respond to the issues that matters most. If your employees feel empowered and prepared to resolve problems on their own—instead of seeking out a manager for every problem—they can win big with customers. SMG research shows customers who had their problem solved by an associate were more likely to be Highly Satisfied with both the resolution itself and the overall experience.

Provide acts of kindness – This is another example of something little going a long way. If you want your brand to stand out from others, become the brand known for simple acts of kindness. Is curbside pickup taking longer than expected? Throw in a free candy bar to thank the customer for waiting. Did an in-store customer buy a heavy item? Offer to help carry it to their car. These small things add up to the kind of differentiated service that keeps customers coming back.

Success story: Boots drives satisfaction + customer spend by focusing on fundamentals

As the UK’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, Boots’ company mission is “caring for people, customers, and communities everywhere.” This goal inspired the creation of the brand’s HUG3 employee training model, which stands for: Hello, Understanding of Needs, and Go the Extra Mile.

To measure the impact of these fundamentals and ensure they were focusing on the right elements, Boots leveraged their customer experience data and conducted a financial analysis to see if there was any correlation between execution of the HUG3 training pillars and customer spend.

The results were significant. When all three pillars of the HUG3 model were executed, customer satisfaction improved 2-ppts and spend increased 31%.


Encourage repeat business

Ninety-three percent of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service. And while “service” has a lot to do with what customers experienced in their interactions with your employee or brand, it also applies to how you treat customers after they shop with you.

Here are a few ways to improve your customer retention strategy and inspire loyalty:

Rewards programs – One of the best ways to keep customers coming back is to reward them for shopping with you. Loyalty programs have proven themselves as one of the most effective tactics for increasing revenue and inspiring customer loyalty.

Subscriptions –  While a subscription model doesn’t work for every brand, it is a great way to provide extra value to repeat customers and build an atmosphere of trust and loyalty around your brand. This has even become a trend in the restaurant industry. To celebrate its 60th anniversary earlier this year, Taco Bell debuted its Taco Lover’s Pass—for $10/month, customers can get one taco per day for 30 consecutive days.

Bounce-back incentives – The benefit of rewarding customers for providing feedback in a customer experience survey is two-fold: 1) It gives the brands critical insight on what they’re doing right and where they’re falling short, and 2) It entices future business by offering a discount or free item on the customer’s next purchase. On top of that, bounce-back incentives have been linked to increased customer spend and shorter repurchase cycles.

Measure and improve experiences at each stage in the cross-channel customer journey

Customers today are interacting with you on their own terms, charting a hybrid shopping journey that hits more touchpoints than ever, including in-store, online, BOPIS, curbside pick-up, and more. SMG’s end-to-end measurement solutions and decades of industry experience help you manage the entire customer journey. To learn more on how your brand can strengthen your customer experience and continue to offer superior service across multiple channels, watch this video.