How can the multichannel retail experience exceed customers’ expectations and where can innovations in digital technology help?  

In recent years, retailers have focused time and energy creating and enhancing the omnichannel customer experience, with trailblazers including Argos, John Lewis and Topshop.

Despite this, the ways in which the products and services sold are distributed, stored and delivered are still, in most cases, similar to those from three years ago.

Exciting digital interfaces need to match high levels of service. How can the retail experience exceed customers’ expectations and where can digital innovations help?  

Research by Gartner recently observed that “growth is the priority and technology is a primary tool, but the need for deep, structural change is not yet fully recognised.”

The timebomb

While the ‘clicks’ channel can power sales growth and smooth the bigger bumps in seasonality, in the ‘bricks’ environment it’s unsustainable to fulfil from digital channels if products aren’t leading to add-on purchases and driving more profit.

Recently John Lewis introduced a £2 fee for click-and-collect orders below £30 to address this.

To avoid the cost and profit lines crossing – when the ‘timebomb’ explodes – retailers need to examine what’s driving their digital transformation plans and invest in improving core operations to make a positive impact on both the customer experience and profits.

That means everything from buying and promotional planning to demand planning and supply chain.

At the heart of most strategies will be the desire for growth while creating a connected customer experience – and rightly so.

Here are some ways it can be done.


Provide more information to customers with digital instructions, links to complementary products, end-of-life messaging and add-on services.

Burberry enhances the buying experience in-store with digital technology inside its products – when customers hold them next to ‘mirrors’, the digital screens display further information.


Allowing customers to track deliveries is becoming the norm and some retailers like Argos offer digital receipts to reduce costs and give flexibility to customers.

But are we using these services to simplify in-store operations and improve availability? uses iPads as wireless tills in-store, making transactions more personal. Staff have visibility of the customers’ account, facilitating a more meaningful conversation.

Supply chain

Use digital technology to simplify the storing, organising, tracking and retrieval of stock. Voice picking is gaining momentum and now digital technology can help us with the laborious task of counting stock.

Digital technology, such as drones, could be used to cut costs of the often very expensive supplier/franchise collaborations, such as trade shows.


Think bigger than the user experience.

Use the customer’s smartphone as ‘pocket infrastructure’ to maximise store selling space by digitising the full product colour range and showcasing one or two colours. Use it to enhance fulfilment options such as click-and-collect and order in-store, deliver to home.

Employees and service

The employee experience will impact the customer experience. Use digital to enhance the employee’s knowledge of the stock and products.

Staff should have access to at least the same information customers do – obvious but rarely true.

  • Daren Ward is a partner at Glue Reply