Hybrid Shopping Is the Future. See You There?

How Retailers Can Prepare for the Omnichannel Revolution 

Hybrid shopping is here to stay. Whether or not you’ve heard the term, you’ve probably partaken in a hybrid shopping experience in the past two years. What exactly is it? Hybrid shopping blurs the line between online and in-person shopping, using both in the same customer journey to add convenience and value for the shopper. 

In-person retail is resilient, in part, because of this power-coupling of in-person and online shopping. Hybrid shopping is quickly becoming the norm – even the expectation – for today’s consumers. Retailers, be ready. We have tips for how you can prepare to incorporate hybrid shopping into your own business model. 

Examples of hybrid shopping

Here are a few examples of hybrid shopping, with a shout-out to major retailers who are making a name for themselves by doing it right.

Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS). This strategy, also referred to as “omnichannel retail” or “click and collect” can be found on the websites of any major big-box retailer. Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and most major grocery store chains have been building their BOPIS capacity since the early days of online shopping. 

Conveniences to customers include a real time view of inventory by location, bypassing shipping costs, and avoiding delivery waits. For retailers, it’s an excellent way to drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar location.

Buy online, return in-store (BORIS). Roughly 83 percent of shoppers prefer to return items to physical stores, as opposed to shipping them back. That’s where the BORIS strategy shines. Customers can say goodbye to printing shipping labels and making a trip to the post office. Instead, they can make a trip to the brick and mortar store, which builds further brand loyalty and opportunities for upselling. 

See something in-store, buy it online. If you as a consumer have ever pulled out your phone in a store in order to snap a photo of your desired item to research it online later (or right there on the spot!), then you’re an example of this form of hybrid shopping. It’s becoming more and more common as a consumer behavior. In fact, there’s been a 15% increase in mobile search queries that take place in a store in recent years. 

How can retailers compete against competitors that are invited directly into their stores through their shoppers’ mobile phones? If you can’t compete on price, win them with a more convenient and valuable hybrid shopping experience – including awesome in-person customer service and a friendly return policy.

hybrid shopping online

Hybrid shopping is quickly becoming the norm

Major retailers have made the leap to hybrid shopping, showing their customers real-time inventory in all nearby locations. With this information, customers can choose between delivery or in-store pickup as the most convenient option. Hybrid has become so prevalent – especially during pandemic migration to online shopping – that it’s what consumers have come to expect from national brands. 

“I have been shopping for decor for the baby nursery,” says Katie Hicks, an account manager and soon-to-be new mom in the Denver area. “I found some items online at Target that we wanted. More often than not, our local Target did not have the item in stock but another Target in the area did. I recently ordered a lamp and mirror online and went to pick it up at the store.  Since these were items that I was concerned would break if we shipped, I just opted to pick them up in store – even if it was a 30-45 minute drive.” 

Shoppers can more easily personalize their experience around their own priorities when a hybrid option is available. “I like knowing I can purchase something online and then not have to wait for it to be shipped,” notes Katie, who prioritizes expediency over home delivery convenience. 

The hybrid model also covers all the bases as far as consumer habits that vary depending on mood or circumstances. In-store shopping accommodates browsing behavior while online shopping covers more targeted searching behavior. “Some days I’m in the mood to just go to the store and see what they have,” says Christine Mealy, a small business coordinator who is married and a mother to a seven-year-old. “But some days I just want the convenience of finding what I want while I drink my coffee at home.”

Even small, independent retailers are quickly catching on. “I went to a local business in Golden, CO called Bentgate to shop for specialty alpine touring skis,” says software developer Nathan Hale. “I was impressed to see all their inventory online as well. I had previously tried ordering from a major online retailer, but they canceled the order without even informing me. I went to Bentgate, and I was so glad the local guys could deliver, both in-person and online. They won the sale – and my ongoing loyalty.”

Consumer preferences and expectations are shifting rapidly toward hybrid shopping, which has emerged triumphant from the pandemic alongside online shopping as the new normal. In fact, one-third of US online shoppers plan to visit a store to see an item before buying it. Are small and mid-sized retailers ready to meet the demands of this new expectation? 

retail resilience

How brick-and-mortar retailers can prepare

What can more local and regional retailers do to keep up with the big-box national brands and get on board with hybrid shopping? The transition takes time and planning. Here are a few tips to start steering your retail brand in the right direction.

Build out your commercial real estate footprint. Even online-native retailers like Amazon and Warby Parker see the strategic benefits of brick and mortar retail space. The more extensive your franchise becomes, the more robust your hybrid shopping distribution network will be. Commercial real estate also helps advertise your presence to in-person traffic.

Embrace ecommerce. If your business hasn’t already developed a way to move at least some of your inventory online, start researching the options today. An amazing array of ecommerce software tools and platforms serve businesses of all sizes looking to develop an online sales channel. 

Integrate your physical and digital inventory management. The word “phygital” is awkward, but the fusion of physical and digital inventory doesn’t have to be. As retail technology rises to the challenge, tools for hybrid inventory management are more within reach than ever before. 

Partner with major ecommerce players. If your franchise or storefront is not quite ready to offer your own hybrid shopping solution, you can leverage the momentum of titans to attract more foot traffic to your storefront. Consider hosting a delivery locker as an Amazon Hub, or become a FedEx Authorized ShipCenter.

Cadence can help

Wherever retailers are in their journey toward hybrid shopping and omnichannel sales, Cadence is here to help. We’ve delivered excellence in commercial real estate development and investment since 2001, expanding to serve markets in Colorado, Washington and California. Let’s talk about building out your brick and mortar retail footprint today.