Online shopping has changed brick-and-mortar retail forever. Each year, more shoppers move to the web for their purchases, presenting new challenges to small businesses who have traditionally thrived on foot traffic. For almost 20 years, observers have been predicting the “death” of retail.

And yet, many brick-and-mortar shops are doing better than ever. What happened?

Well, entrepreneurs evolved with the times. Savvy business owners embraced new customer behaviors as new opportunities. Websites help bring new customers into stores, where those who browsed online are now wanting to buy in person. Other customers wander into stores, walk out empty handed, then purchase from that same business at home in their pajamas.

Software tools and services have also evolved with customer behavior. It’s now easier than ever for young businesses to launch professional, trustworthy websites that draw new customers in and keep them. Today’s ecommerce tools have been tested on millions of online shoppers. The best online tools are built with this in mind, building websites that are statistically more likely to drive customers through to a shopping cart and have them complete a purchase. And, these ecommerce tools are equipped to make sure those shoppers come back again and again.

The combination of ecommerce with your brick-and-mortar is a recipe for success. When done right, each one drives success for the other. With software and tools made for a modern retailer, you can grow a full-service omnichannel business that takes advantage of the strengths of both platforms.

But, the first step before you implement any new retail strategy is always the same: put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Here’s everything you need to know about today’s modern shopper.

Shoppers Use Devices Everywhere

Shoppers have devices with them all the time and they increasingly expect to be able to access your business from a computer, tablet or phone –– anywhere, anytime. This change has led to a variety of new, increasingly common behaviors.


Shoppers visit brick-and-mortar locations to see products in person, especially when trying on shoes and apparel. Then they purchase those product online, usually for a lower cost because the online shop doesn’t have to charge extra for rent, utilities and retail employees. Sometimes, customers even make that purchase on their phone right in your store!

If the store they are “showrooming” in has a high-quality website, many customers will buy there just to simplify the checkout process. Or they will think about the item at home and make the purchase on the shop’s website later that evening.

Online Research

Many shoppers still prefer to make their purchases in a store with live people to help them and answer their questions. But, that doesn’t mean these shoppers live without the internet. In fact, 70% of in-store shoppers said they prefer to research products and stores online before ever visiting the physical location.

A well-branded website will help these online-first shoppers find your business for the first time, using web presence to bring new customers into the brick-and-mortar shop.

Following (and Sharing!) Their Favorite Shops Online

More than just Facebook likes and shares, modern customers are keeping track of their favorite local shops through blogs and email newsletters. Regular communication helps customers remember that small business owners are hard working people that they can relate to.

Give your customers content that they can easily share. Your best local customer can start referring you to neighbors or to friends in another state (if you are shipping nationally). Email newsletters are a frequently underestimated tool. A lot of businesses are afraid to seem spammy, but there is a balance to strike. After all, 42% of emails sent by retailers are opened by consumers, and those consumers that end up buying from your store after reading an email spend 138% more than those who purchase without reading an email.

Shoppers Have New Customer Expectations

In recent surveys, customers identified several of their preferences and expectations when shopping in-store and online. Some of the most prevalent included:

  • Prices and Detailed Product Descriptions Online: Online, customers can skim through a lot more of your products at once than they can in the store. Quick pricing access helps them find the right items for their budget. Detailed product descriptions help build trust by highlighting value.
  • Mobile-Friendly Websites: A lot of online shopping happens right in the store. A bad mobile experience could ruin a positive interaction and send folks out of the store empty handed. Mobile friendly sites turn the internet into an in-store conversion tool, enhancing the shopping experience.
  • Attentive, Personal Service in the Shop: Customer service isn’t dead. Quality in-person experience is something that most ecommerce businesses struggle to replicate.
  • Easy Online Checkout Experience: Don’t make it hard for people to give you money! 67% of online shopping carts get abandoned without the purchase ever being completed. A simple and trustworthy checkout experience helps your web visitors become loyal customers.
  • Consistent Experience Online and In-Store: People assume every business is online. In fact, web presence has become so important that shoppers will judge your business based on your online presence alone. A weak online presence is a missed opportunity to attract new visitors. Worse yet, it is probably turning people away without you ever knowing it.

This brings us to one of the most important points…

You’re Already Online!

Your business’s online presence is either working for you or against you.

Few online experiences are neutral. Visitors are either pulled in or turned away. If someone is nearby searching Google maps for a local place to shop, they may be drawn to a spot that links to a high quality website, skipping by or never even seeing the other shops in the area. Similarly, if you have an older website just for the sake of having one, it is probably sending a message that your business is sloppy, not useful and behind the times.

Old excuses don’t work anymore:

  • “We’re not an online business.”
  • “My shop speaks for itself.”
  • “My customers love me. Ask any of them about their experience.”

New online shoppers will never hear those explanations. They will skip your shop and check out the store that showed up on their Google search.

How Customers Reward Good Websites

New omnichannel shoppers create some new challenges, but they offer much greater opportunities.

  • New Revenue Channel: Selling the same products online and in-store give you access to a whole new revenue source without hiring new employees or paying more in rent and utilities. Even if web sales are less than 20% of your sales, the profit may come close to if you had opened a second location.
  • New Customers: If your website is easy to find on digital map and Google search, it becomes much easier for new customers to find out you exist. You don’t have to spend extra on marketing or rely on loyal customers to spread the word.
  • More Repeat Customers: Having a website allows your customers to access your store at home. Plus, you can collect email addresses and other valuable information to send them newsletters and announce your upcoming events or discounts. An online presence helps you stay present-of-mind with your customers. Turn one-and-done shoppers into advocates for your business.
  • Bigger Purchases: Consistent communication builds trust. Shoppers spend more at businesses they like and trust. And, an ecommerce site helps you promote discounts and highlight related items so that every visitor gets the most value from their visit.
  • Referrals: Maybe your best customer wants to tell everyone in their family about your products. You have been building loyalty with your personal in-store touch. Make it easy for customers to show you how much they appreciate your store.

The above copy is a chapter from a free Bigcommerce eBook. For more information and advice on how to bring your brick-and-mortar online, download the book: 5 Steps to Scaling Your Brick-and-Mortar.