Retail: Digital Integration and Channel Fluidity

Tips for Integrating the Physical and Online while optimizing the customer experience through E-Commerce and OMNI Channel


E-commerce and OMNI Channel adoption have accelerated beyond anything imaginable, and it is unlikely that it will slow down. Between work and leisure, consumers are spending more time than ever online, with everything they need just a click away, and most – if not all – retailers are required to increase their capabilities in online sales. At the same time, consumer expectations remain high, demanding a seamless customer experience, personalized connections, and quick delivery no matter what channel they choose to shop on. The long tail of the pandemic is unknown, in terms of additional rounds of lockdown and what a post-vaccine world looks like, not to mention any other disruption that comes along. It is essential for retailers to build a business infrastructure that can adapt to and withstand those changes. Below are some key areas retailers should be focusing on to thrive.


Retailers need to either pivot or lean into the integration of the physical and online selling platforms. Meaning, being able to move between platforms seamlessly, as the customer journey and the options for interacting with the retailer expands. In the near future, there will be a need to increase focus on developing a positive customer experience with brands through digital channels. Organizations should find new ways to communicate and deliver brand experiences at a distance, in a different spatial and social context.

Examples of Digital Integration

  • Ulta Beauty integrated a virtual try-on tool called the GLAMlab.
  • IKEA is no longer printing catalogues. They are instead and looking at different ways to engage and interact with the customer to be a virtual one-stop-shop for consumers’ design needs. 
  • Lowe’s introducing pickup lockers to improve the contactless delivery experience.


Focus on implementing the processes and technology necessary to improve digital and omnichannel business models to satisfy consumer needs. Whether it is collaboration tools to support the work from home, RFID for tracking and managing inventory, and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for communicating with suppliers, the last year has given those retailers who were behind a final push towards digital innovation. Some larger retailers now are placing their bets on technology in the new year. They are retooling and making investments now. It is an unwritten rule not to touch the system in November in case anything goes wrong, because of the holiday season, but now is the time to innovate. There are also third-party services that support smaller businesses that cannot afford to build their own infrastructure. More and more retailers are investing in both the front-of-house, (integrating physical and digital, customer-facing applications etc.), but also retooling the back-end infrastructure systems of how they do the work.


Another key to digital integration is the ability to flex channel mix and operations without any major disruption to daily
operations – creating fluidity as opposed to rigidity. This entails building the infrastructure that enables flexibility between channels as the customers want and the environment dictates. If, for example, e-commerce was 20% of business before the pandemic, it might now be 50% or 60+%. Operations need to be able to support that, whether at 20% or 60%, without major disruption. Similarly, for curbside pickup, from a staffing perspective, retailers need to hire or train the right mix of employees that will always be in the front of the store, those that will always be in the backroom, and those that can go in between. Additionally, understanding what that mix needs to be, and being able to flex up and down depending on the situation.

Case Study: Lee Valley

Their in-store staff are very knowledgeable about woodworking and gardening. When the pandemic hit, those same associates were being asked to pick and pack goods to deliver to the customers’ trunks, where they were not providing that level of expertise. This resulted in a lot of turnover and not adequately utilizing employees’ strengths.


The retail and grocery industry, one of The Poirier Group’s primary areas of expertise, continually presents new and unexpected challenges. Recently, major shifts driven by the global pandemic are changing the way consumers interact with retailers. We are able to calmly guide retailers through this new world of disruption. The Poirier Group has led multiple retailers and grocers across North America through significant industry shifts and continuous technological advancements. We leverage our significant industry knowledge to provide retailers with the best approaches that fit their current landscapes and strategic goals. In a new era, this includes pivoting your retail business to adapt to new regulations and digital disruptions in retail, re-orienting your business to set it up for sustainable growth.