Why Retailers Must Understand The In-Store Customer Journey

Jan 28, 2019

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Big data and analytics have become foundations of the retail industry in ways industry leaders never saw coming.

After online shopping became popular, retailers started tracking the customer journey on their websites and across social media. These analytics led to a detailed understanding of which marketing tactics were bringing shoppers to the point of purchase, and which were standing in the way. Today, 59% of retailers use social media data and 57% use online browsing data to improve their business tactics.

On the other hand, even though online stores gained this transparency, it used to be nearly impossible to understand what the in-store customer journey looked like. Sure, store managers could watch customer movement and take notes, but that process was far too unreliable and inconvenient. In-store retailers were forced to rely on their gut instincts to make the most vital business decisions.

These days, advanced sensor systems bring e-commerce-style analytics to brick-and-mortar businesses. These high-tech inventions provide retailers with a reliable and accurate depiction of the in-store customer journey.

But what benefits are there to understanding shoppers’ in-store behaviors?

A Bigger Picture
In the past, all retailers really knew about the in-store customer journey was that it started at the front of the store and ended in a sale at the counter. Retailers could track the most popular days and seasons for sales, but conversion data was all they had to refer back to and make business decisions from.

Unfortunately, reliance on only one, large data point leads to shallow insights that have little room for action. Retailers could, of course, assume that a new winter window display was the reason for a 20% increase in sales, but they had no way to be sure. They could assume that the sweltering summer weather was the reason for a 39% decrease in sales, but it could also be the new layout causing the trouble.

With access to a wide variety of information about the in-store journey, retailers can see how customers reach the checkout counter conversion—and receive insights into the exact parts of the customer journey that need improvement.

In fact, 69% of retailers say they earned a positive ROI after monitoring shopper insights as opposed to plain point of sale (POS) data. When retailers have access to the specifics of the in-store customer journey, they can break their KPIs into smaller, more actionable pieces that are easier to measure and improve.

A Wealth Of Actionable Data
Detailed information about the in-store customer journey simplifies improvement of specific parts of the customer experience, ultimately leading to more conversions. With modern tracking technology, retailers can access all kinds of in-store customer journey data. Some of the most important data points you can use are:

  1. Foot Traffic Data
    It may seem that data about how many people are coming into your store is basic, but with this kind of information, you can make critical changes that will affect the customer journey.


    For example, if your foot traffic count is lower than expected, you know you need to draw more people through your store’s doors and convince them to begin the customer journey. Maybe that’s why your conversion rate has been so low. Hosting events is an excellent way to boost foot traffic—and secure regular customers.

    You can also use basic foot traffic data to optimize staffing schedules. Review foot traffic data for insights into trends, identifying peak and slow days, then popular and unpopular times of day to determine how to spread out your staff.

  2. Customer Flow Data
    Once customers are in your stores, low-profile sensors track their movement, marking exactly where they go in your store and how long they stay there. This tracking has multiple valuable outcomes.


    By seeing where they tend to flock or where they make U-turns, you can optimize your layout to either match their natural movements or push them into areas they normally wouldn’t step foot in.

    For example, if you know that shoppers head straight to your discount shoes, they should be encouraged to walk through displays with popular, full-priced shoes first. If your visitors seem to turn around once they enter your loop layout, maybe change it to a more free-formed arrangement.

    Recognizing friction points and opportunities is a vital part of understanding the in-store customer journey.

  3. Returning and new customer data
    Understanding you store’s balance of new and returning customers is vital as well. These statistics show you how many people will follow through with your current journey and how many are convinced that they should begin one.


    If you notice that your store receives a lot of returning customers, you know you have a great option to upsell your newest products. If you notice that few people want to start a journey, you know you need to simplify it, removing friction points and ensuring shoppers have a streamlined experience.

There are many other data points that can help you understand the consumer journey, of course. Today’s technology lets us measure stay time, basket size, and basket value, among other points. And the more data about shopper behaviors we have, the more we are empowered to make valuable changes to our store and improve the customer journey.

A Connected Omni-Channel Experience
When you have a full picture of the in-store customer journey, you can examine online customer journey data and align the two experiences.

Of course, things are a little different than they used to be; you won’t find straightforward paths between any channels.

The modern customer is mobile-first, but besides that, there’s little method to the shopping madness. Shoppers sometimes complete online research before shopping, but they also occasionally bring their phones into stores, checking for best deals while they shop. In fact, 73% of consumers use multiple channels when they shop.

However, by combining knowledge gained from in-store and online customer journey data, you can make vast improvements to your store and create a seamless experience for your shoppers.  

If you haven’t already, you can connect the online and in-store journey by starting a Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) or “Click and Collect” service. This process combines the ease of online ordering with the human touch of the in-store experience, and eliminates shipping fees. Once your services begin running, you can measure in-store visitor analytics and see whether your KPIs have improved.

You can apply online customer journey insights to your store, too. For example, if you know that a certain product sells well and quickly on your website, add it to your power wall. You can even create a special section of popular online items à la Amazon 4-star.

Creating a streamlined omni-channel experience is an important task of the modern retailer—and with the right technology, it is a project right within your grasp.


Understanding the in-store customer journey is a must for any brick-and-mortar retailer. Need help getting insights into shopper behavior? Let us help.

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