Imagine you're comparing two similar products - let's say they're travel coffee mugs or different kinds of face wash - side by side in a store. Which do you buy? How do you decide?

More and more, customers are turning to their mobile devices - in store aisles, at home before a shopping trip, or for a quick minute during a lunch break to search for readily available information they can use to make a decision. These small interactions - or micro-moments - are becoming a heavily weighted factor in buyers' eventual purchase decisions. Reading product reviews, watching a tutorial, searching for coupons or discount codes - all are examples of micro-moments potential customers engage in prior to making a purchase.

Digital - especially mobile - is the new storefront, and not only because more consumers than ever are purchasing online. Many trips to a physical store now begin on a screen as well. Brands that recognize, prepare for, and meet customers in these moments will see success, while brands that ignore them may ultimately struggle.

Here's how to get started.

  1. Start with mobile …

The retail customer journey is growing increasingly mobile, even when the final transaction is made in a brick-and-mortar store. According to Google, 82% of smartphone users turn to their phones to help them make purchase decisions while they are in a store. This influence is powerful. The same study found that one in four consumers has changed their mind about purchasing a product while in a checkout line based on something they've read on their phone.

This may seem daunting to some retail brands, but approached in the right way, it represents a major opportunity: 93% of people who use their phone to conduct research go on to make a purchase.

  1. … but don't forget about desktop and tablet.

Even if a consumer begins the shopping journey on a mobile device, it rarely ends there. They are just as likely - if not more so - to continue and complete a purchase on a tablet, desktop, or in a store. According to a survey conducted by Mastercard, eight out of 10 consumers say they'll use a computer, mobile device, or in-store technology when shopping. However, ecommerce has yet to account for even 10% of total retail sales globally, and less than half of U.S. citizens will actually complete a transaction on their phones this year.

Smart brands account for this entire multimoment, multidevice journey by creating a truly omni-channel experience that recognizes users across channels and follows wherever their journey leads. According to a Harvard Business Review report, "Being there for consumers, in their moment of need, is less about bells and whistles (especially in a constrained format like mobile) and more about providing exactly what is needed in that context, immediately." Like any positive relationship, the foundation you build with customers should be flexible, consistent, and based on what customers really want and need.

Rebecca Minkoff, a fashionable clothing brand popular with Millennials, has mastered the multidevice, multimoment customer journey. The brand understood that its customers shop in multiple channels, so it connected these channels to create a cohesive shopping experience, down to the dressing room itself. Using a universal customer identification number, a shopper can save clothes she tries on in the store, view coordinating items, and shop from a device later at home.

The brand also tracks these interactions and uses them to engage with shoppers in highly personal and contextual ways. "At this point, the shopping journey or consumer pathway to purchase is not linear," says Emily Culp, Senior Vice President of Ecommerce and Omni-Channel Marketing at Rebecca Minkoff. "It's not controlled by us."

There is a key insight for creating true customer-centered experiences: You have to be okay with giving up control.

  1. Measure to find your omni-channel shoppers.

A 2015 study conducted by IDC found that multichannel shoppers - those who buy online and in-store - have a 30% higher lifetime value than customers who shop via a single channel. These customers are incredibly valuable to brands. Engaging them, though, means first understanding who they are and precisely how they want to interact with your brand.

Once you find out who they are - and where they are - you can create personalized micro-moments that matter.

  1. Make relevant information and reviews readily available. Also, make it local.

"A client that really knows exactly what she's buying - all the reviews and all her options - is actually a happier client," says Bridget Dolan, Vice President of Interactive Media at makeup and skin care brand Sephora, "and will come back and shop with you more often."

The most common information consumers seek in micro-moments are:

    • Cost
    • Coupons or discounts
    • Reviews
    • Product details
    • Product availability
    • How to make a purchase
    • Brand information

Sephora includes codes for all its in-store products that shoppers can scan to immediately pull up information and reviews. It also began pushing local inventory ads to help customers understand what would be available at nearby stores. In addition to driving more customers to stores, this helped Sephora establish and meet shopper expectations across the entire shopping experience.

  1. Remove internal barriers so you can remove external barriers.

One challenge many large and established brands run into is the separation of their digital and brick-and-mortar teams. When these teams are siloed and don't share information, it leads to inconsistent communication and information, and potentially a frustrating experience for customers.

For example, if a customer checks inventory online, sees that a brand has a product in stock, then drives to a store location to make a purchase, he will be frustrated and disappointed if the item is not there. The simple fix to this is to ensure that information is consistent across digital and in-store teams.

Target made this kind of structural overhaul following Black Friday in 2014, when the retailer discovered that 98% of its in-store guests were also shopping digitally, with 75% starting their experience on a mobile device. This discovery led to a reassessment and eventual reorganization of the company's internal structure. Target brought its previously siloed online, in-store, and mobile marketing teams together under a "digital-first organization."

Using shared performance metrics - instead of incentivizing teams to compete against one another - Target is able to build an omni-channel shopping experience that prioritizes customer ease. These cross-channel customers now spend three times more on average than single-channel shoppers.

As marketing becomes more about building 1-to-1 relationships with customers across different channels, micro-moments will only become increasingly important touchpoints along that journey.

To begin mapping your omni-channel customer journey today, check out these awesome resources.