The Internet has everything. You can read the Bible in Klingon. You can watch endless cat woman uses mobile technology to compares prices on her phone while shopping in a storememes. You can see shaky YouTube videos of every live music performance in the last ten years. And – you can shop. For nearly anything, anytime, from the comfort of your own desk or bed or subway seat, you can shop.

How can brick-and-mortar stores compete not only with each other, but with the seemingly infinite number of online options? By providing an experience that marries human interactions with mobile and online experiences.

In a recent survey by TechValidate, an overwhelming 80 percent of all retailers who responded noted that store associates and customer service were among the most common ways to engage with customers while they browsed a physical store. No surprise here, right?

Retail associates are still on the front lines

In a physical space, store associates are living, breathing representatives of the brand, and their ability to answer questions and engage the potential customer can mean the difference between a short visit and big sale. Associates can also practice a soft sell in a way that’s nearly impossible online.

When I buy a new handbag online, whether at an all-purpose retailer or a dedicated web shop, I will often get a pop-up box that tells me, “Other customers who’ve bought this have also bought…” and a selection of other items for sale appear in my window. Sometimes, the suggestions are tailored to an almost disturbing extent. (Seriously, some major online retailers should run their own dating services to hook me up with other people who also like Gillian Flynn, early R.E.M. and cookbooks about New York, because their guesses are uncanny.) Other times, it’s more generic, like a pop-up graphic of a shirt or accessory that says “Wouldn’t a belt go great with that?”

At a physical store, however, an associate can tell me not only which belt would look best with my bag, but also point out that they are having a sale, and offer her opinion on what would look best on me. She can point me toward sunglasses when I mention that I’m heading out for a weekend away, or chat me up to see if I want new sandals, too.

Reach out online to supplement the human touch

But even those customers who seek out a real-time shopping experience may not completely eschew the wonders of technology. Forty-two percent of retailers who responded to the TechValidate survey said that they had developed or were developing mobile apps to catch customers on the go, while an additional 37 percent thought that in-store digital kiosks and signage were the way to go. Nearly every on-the-ground retailer was looking for a way to marry the convenience and personalization of high-tech shopping with the old-fashioned good service of their in-person sales force. But what really jumped out was that many felt offering an mCommerce or mobile version of their website was nearly as important as offering customers instant, in-store digital coupons (31%) – a trend that is clearly on the rise in the industry as technology has enabled on-site and personalized delivery.

Online commerce is here to stay, and the most successful bricks-and-mortar retailers see its value as an ally instead of an enemy. By incorporating features such mobile apps, which allow customers to locate merchandise at a particular branch with a variety of options; by allowing customers to use digital kiosks to obtain pricing and other information at their fingertips; by tailoring sales and coupons which can be transmitted in moments to shoppers on the ground and in the store, retailers can find ways to supplement what continues to be their most valuable asset: the human touch.

Learn more how mobile technology is changing customer experiences, in-store engagement and retail strategies in the full TechValidate survey.