Chapter 4: The store will become central to a unified shopping experience

Brands and retailers are giving new life to the store as an extension of the digital shopping experience.

December 2021 | 5.5 minutes

The store still plays a critical role in the shopping journey, with 82% of the $23 trillion worth of sales occurring in physical locations in 2020.

However, shoppers are blurring the lines between digital and physical channels while in the store. Data shows that the store, the associates, and the point-of-sale (POS) technology can no longer stand alone from the rest of the brand experience. Instead, they will become an integral part of a unified engagement platform.



of shoppers have purchased a product online to pick up in-store



of shoppers have researched a product online using a mobile device while in-store



of shoppers have scanned a QR code to learn more about a product while in-store

Unified engagement brings digital and physical worlds together

Unifying the store with digital components is not a new concept: Nearly 50% of retail executives say they offered ship-from-store; buy online, pick up in store; and online returns to stores prior to the health crisis. However, the pandemic accelerated transformation, with retailers introducing curbside pickup, contactless payments, and appointment scheduling. They also prioritised partnerships with third-party delivery apps, like Instacart and Deliveroo, when traditional fulfillment channels were constrained.
When it comes to what retailers plan to keep post-pandemic, fulfillment options have the most staying power. Data also suggests that pandemic-era investments in emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have a high retention rate — signaling further opportunity for innovation.

“With the pandemic threatening our busiest time of the year, the holiday season, we introduced virtual try-on, virtual stylists, and appointment booking — all of which enabled a smooth and safe shopping experience for our customers and contributed significantly to our revenue.”

Retail executives plan to retain the following in-store capabilities post-pandemic:

The store associate becomes a jack of all trades

The store associate’s role is evolving beyond greeting, scanning, and bagging. Stopgap measures to keep associates working amid temporary store closures, from acting as customer service agents to virtual stylists to pickers and packers and even brand influencers, are here to stay.

“Store associates are our biggest brand ambassadors. We must do everything we can to make them more productive, empowered, and happy.”

This makes the role of the store associate more diverse and strategic — and therefore more appealing to employees. It also gives them critical skills that make them more marketable in retail and other industries.
However, store associates still toggle between an average of 14 different systems to do their jobs and less than half (48%) use a mobile device during their shift. Going forward, retail executives want to empower associates with the technology they need. They project that 74% of associates will have a mobile device in 2024, an increase of 54% over 2021.

The point-of-sale sits at the heart of the store

The last time most retail executives replaced their POS technology? At least six years ago.

The POS will become an integral component of a unified engagement platform, with the majority (54%) of retail executives planning to replace it with a cloud solution by 2024. Retail executives will move away from legacy software from servers in backrooms and hardcoded integrations to cloud architectures that offer continuous innovation and empower associates with mobility throughout the store.

Most retail executives plan to replace the POS in the next year or within two to three years.

What retail executives want in the next-generation POS

The majority of retail executives want the next generation POS to be connected to the digital commerce experience as well as to data and functionality in service and marketing. It’s critical for cloud POS to provide access to a single view of the customer, product, inventory, price, promotion, and order data, particularly through a mobile app for associates to use throughout the store.

Retail executives say the top five must-haves for the next-generation POS are:

Connected to website, service, and marketing data and functionality
Mobile for store associates to engage and transact with shoppers throughout the store
Access to a single view of customer, product, inventory, price, promotion, and order data through a mobile app
Easy and intuitive interface for store associates
Offline mode in case connectivity is lost
This fundamentally changes the store paradigm from “check out” — focused on speed and efficiency at the cash wrap — to “check in” — centered around personal engagement and service on the sales floor.

Next steps in the age of unified shopping experiences

The pandemic accelerated changes in the ways shoppers interact in the digital and physical worlds. Retailers and brands reacted quickly as shoppers embraced new channels and options. Now, retailers and brands are moving from scrappy to scale as they adapt to continued shifts and heightened shopper expectations.

To scale efficiently and effectively, brands and retailers need the foundation that gives them access, agility, and intelligence to meet shoppers where they are, redefine the store as a critical touchpoint, and drive loyalty through personalised engagement. Many are upgrading their technology, increasing access to data, and investing in new channels for browsing, buying, and service to keep pace with — and stay ahead of — change.


More Resources

Research and report
Research and report

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