As digital commerce continues to grow, many retailers are beginning to set objectives aimed at balancing sales between bricks and clicks.

As digital commerce continues to grow, many retailers are beginning to set objectives aimed at balancing sales between bricks and clicks.

At M&S’s dotcom strategy update last week, multichannel boss Laura Wade-Gery set out an ambition for the retailer’s online business to be at least as profitable as its stores within three years.

She did not go into detail about how that might affect margin or the balance of sales between bricks and clicks, but made clear that the objective is net profit growth across a single business.

M&S now views its website as its flagship store. Last week, for the first time, the site was promoted in all its windows and online elements were replicated in-store.

It shows how retailers generally are seeking to make their shops work in new ways as digital commerce grows.

While Tesco boss Phil Clarke was early to declare the end of the grocery space race, he is in no doubt that shops will remain at the heart of retail for the foreseeable future.

Clarke told Radio 5 Live’s Wake up to Money programme on Tuesday that he expects online to account for only 15% of the company’s total sales in 15 years’ time. That raises interesting questions about how physical space can complement and boost the growth of online, and benefit from consumers’ love of new technology to deliver sales.

Online growth is a priority for Waitrose too. But it is doing some things differently, as it demonstrated at its Swindon store last week.

Rather than putting etail customer queries through to a call centre the grocer allows shoppers to contact the store directly, which creates a sense of local connection that has a powerful appeal in its own right in the digital era.

Technological prototypes, typically using mobile technology, are being developed for use in stores to inform and engage customers, often in personalised ways.

And Waitrose’s development of in-store eating options creates an extra reason for people to visit rather than only shop remotely– perhaps dining as they collect shopping they clicked for earlier.

The opportunities for interaction between stores and online are only starting to emerge and, for many retailers, will be key to future success and profits.