Shot outside an AT&T at a mall.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — There seems to be two types of shoppers nowadays: the online consumer, and the physical walk-in consumer. 

With online shopping being a new norm due to safety precautions from COVID-19, fewer shoppers plan to go into physical stores. Statista reported that about 57% of US consumers intended to shop online during the 2022 holiday season. In contrast, 43% of shoppers planned to go to stores.

There still are a great deal of consumers going into the physical marketplace while the online marketplace is starting to see increased growth: we call this the hybrid marketplace. The question being, what are hybrid companies doing to manage the consumer experience both in the new digital age of online experience, and with the rise of hybrid options for consumers?

The Physical Consumer Experience

In search of hybrid companies we traveled to our local mall in search for stores that also sold products online. While shopping through a local mall you’ll see tons of brick-and-mortar retail companies. We're sure you’ll notice that you’ve seen some of these brands online. These brands are called hybrid retail stores, “a combination of online and offline shopping opportunities,” explained Erin Amaster, a manager at Bed Bath & Beyond at the Nittany Mall in State College, Pa. 

Amaster told CMSWire, “The number one reason why consumers come to our store is because they can physically see our products.” That's one luxury in-person has over online that will never change. 

However, Amaster claimed that some of her consumers are actually regulars who come in to see her and her staff. Building a relationship with her clientele is effective for store success, she added. 

Jessica Swain, public relations representative with AT&T, said that to pull off a hybrid marketplace, “Customers can choose between fast and convenient same day pick-up at an AT&T store near you, or our white glove delivery and expert setup service — AT&T Right To You.” This quote describes the service they would provide to uniquely meet the hybrid customer's needs. 

Related Article: The Future of Digital and Physical Sales in a Post-COVID World

The Digital-Physical Consumer Experience

The physical consumer experience is only half the battle for these hybrid companies. Jason DeLillian, a store operations manager with AT&T in the Nittany Mall, said his team definitely engages in store-based sales, but some of their orders are purchased online. In a now-routine process, the consumer will then come and pick up the purchased product. 

DeLillian provided insight on their in-store relationship with their online marketplace. “There's been numerous occasions where consumers will buy a phone with the color and gigabytes they desire and drive to our store to pick it up. This way we actually connect with our online market to fulfill customer orders with our inventory," he said.

Easier said than done. With all these changes in shopper buying habits, not all customer experience leaders are actually crushing it. According to the CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience Report, only 21% said CX success has gotten significantly better from pre-pandemic to current times; 40% said it has gotten slightly better and 31% said it has stayed the same.

What's troubling CX leaders? Limited cross-department alignment/collaboration (39%), limited budget/resources (34%) and siloed systems, technology integration challenges and/or fragmented customer data (33%), according to the CMSWire report.

Related Article: How Does the Physical Customer Experience Impact the Digital CX?

Concluding Thoughts to a Hybrid Marketplace

Gartner research analyst Matt Moorut explained that about 15% of consumers prefer to shop in a completely hybrid environment. This is exclusive to hybrid options like drive-up, or online to in-store pickup, or curbside. 

It's true that this number is still much lower than that of online, and physical marketplaces alone. Moorut's research suggests that although that number is low, it is on the rise. 

We live in a new age of digital marketing, where the most efficient process garners customer satisfaction. The days where in-store options were your only options simply are simply outdated.