From the experiential (read as ‘gimmicky’) to the practical (read as ‘will become standard practice’) there are many ways that retailers can integrate their offline stores on the high street with their online ecommerce businesses.

There’s lots of information on the blog already about digital technology in retail and a lot of it really should be thought of as the norm by now.

Unfortunately that’s not necessarily true. In a perfectly digitally integrated world the lack of services like Wi-Fi, contactless payment and click & collect would be the exception to the rule.

However there are still many trailblazers out there, not just offering the digital basics, but going above and beyond the duty of its bricks and mortar stores and offering a new world of interactivity and online integration.

Sure some of them will fail. Sure some of them you’ll barely hear about outside of a few speculative/curious articles like this (“huh, remember a few years ago when Google developed a self-driving car? What happened to that?”) 

Some won’t though. Some will go on to become exactly what’s expected from every consumer who visits your high street store.


The London based Mexican restaurant chain has teamed up with Flypay to drive mobile payments in its multiple locations.

There’s a little QR code on every table linked to a unique NFC tag underneath which you scan with your smartphone. 

Your itemised bill appears on screen. You can check it for accuracy and split the bill if required.

Using the service requires you to download the app and if the bill needs to be split, then everyone in your party would have to download the app too. 

However once payment information has been loaded up, this is a fast and efficient way to pay for your meal. I particularly like the simple interface, that allows you to either pay for specific items, pay for more shares than just yourself and works out various generosities of tip.

Birds Eye

So it comes to this…

Birds Eye, of salty sea captain mascot fame, has set sail into the choppy waters of social by launching the world’s first pay-by-picture restaurant.

Soho may be more used to pop-up restaurants on the over-priced burger end of the scale rather than frozen breaded fish products, but its citizens are certainly used to capturing their dining experiences on Instagram, the home of food brinkmanship.

According to Birds Eye’s own research 52% of people take photos of their own meals, 11% do so at least once a week, 9% once a day and according to Webstagram there are, as of May 2013, 90m photos on Instagram with #food.

Birds Eye has tapped into this trend by treating diners to its new Chicken Inspirations and Fish Chargrills products and letting guests settle the bill by taking a photo of their meal and uploading it to Instagram with the tag #BirdsEyeInspirations. 

If anyone went to this event, please let me know in the comments below as I’m currently struggling to find any independent reviews and would love to know what it was like.

Lloyds Pharmacy

The UK based healthcare chain has introduced ‘health kiosks’ in nine of its larger stores at the end of 2013. More technically known as the ‘Xen X5 kiosk’ these are interactive touchscreens and printers that allow customers to browse its entire product line, place orders and pay for goods via credit card.

Customers can also scan products in the store for more information, watch detailed step-by-step videos and print health advice leaflets.


The Australian brand has followed in the footsteps of Ikea and Net-A-Porter by integrating augmented reality into its offline concerns.

Items in the newly published print catalogue can be scanned using the Sportsgirl app, as well as products in its high street stores that can be scanned and saved for purchase later online.


Asda has taken a massive step into the world of digital convenience and trend spotting by testing out a 3D printing service in its York branch last year. Asda is now rolling out the service to 50 more locations.

 According to Retail Week Asda has big ideas for its new toy. Shoppers could build avatars based on scans to be featured in online games, branded goods could be personalised such as Mr Men figures or superhero figures.

Asda is also working on a service that will allow shoppers to scan their pets for 3D models, but went on to say that it would be a challenge to find an area in store where animals could be allowed and also to get them to stand still for the required two minutes.

AmazonFresh and Dash 

AmazonFresh is the company's same day and early morning service delivering a large range of products that includes groceries.

Amazon Dash is a little electronic wand that lets you scan items in your own home, or speak the name of a product into its microphone. The items are then seamlessly added to your AmazonFresh checkout.

Ben Davis discusses the various implications of the device in his article from April. Certainly the wand is a gimmick, what with our smartphones able to easily provide the same functionality, however the wider implications of convenience and speed could well have a massive effect on traditional supermarket shopping.

How long before you have a Tesco wand sat in your kitchen drawer.

Amazon Lockers

This is a service that allows customers to pick up their orders from a self-service location, accessible with a unique pick-up code.

Very convenient for those who cannot guarantee they’ll be at a delivery location at a specific time and also saves on a trip to a depot the next working day. 

This is also great for customers wishing to return goods who don’t have access to a post office or Collect+ location at a convenient time.

Locations are becoming more readily available, here’s a search for lockers in central Leeds.

However out in the Shropshire countryside locations are harder to come by. With consumers having a surfeit of delivery/pick-up options available in the city, it seems that companies should really concentrate on improving accessibility for rural customers. 

Under Armour 

As discussed by Minter Dial at our own Future of Digital Marketing event 2014, the US sports clothing company has opened a fascinating example of a retail store where 80% of its focus is on storytelling and only 20% commerce.

It’s a ballsy move, dedicating its entire frontage to the colour red, but it’s a bold statement. Once you step through the door, which comes at the price of your email address, you’re herded into a large room where you’re treated to a seven-minute long advert.

After this has finished there’s a further much smaller room where you have the opportunity to purchase some goods. 

Minter goes on to express his disappointment that many areas of social interaction were ignored. There’s no Wi-Fi, pictures were not allowed to be taken, and no reminders to share or specific links to social channels were available. 

Images and info courtesy of Myndset.


As Graham Charlton mentioned in his article on marketers using beacons, the famous US department store Macy's has been recently been experimenting with iBeacons.

Customers who enter the store with the Shopkick app installed on their iPhones will be alerted about deals and items they may be interested in. While there may be a risk of annoying shoppers, this kind of precision marketing could be very effective. 


Ikea has introduced an AR app to enhance its 2014 catalogue, all the customer needs to do is place the 2014 catalogue in any space within their home, activate the app, and they can see exactly how a virtual Billy bookcase or Ektorp sofa fits into the real-time environment. 

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 23 June, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Eric Swain

*note Under Armour is not a deodorant.

about 4 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

Yep, well aware, must have experienced a vaguely Freudian moment there. Thank you.

about 4 years ago

Eric Swain

Eric Swain, Director at Equinet Media Ltd

No problem.

You can kill my comment if you want. It will become increasingly surreal the further we get from the now-corrected incident.

about 4 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

Thanks Eric. Although I like to keep a permanent record of confusion and surreality in the most unlikely of places, so I'll leave it in. Cheers again ;)

about 4 years ago

Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, eCommerce Director at

Having worked the last 8 years in a pure eCommerce company I always felt a little jealousy for companies who have stores to play with, especially when they do it well.

about 4 years ago

Dipesh Shah

Dipesh Shah, Digital Consultant at Data Translators

Agree Matthew, think it would be very exciting if done in the right way.

But then you think of the business that have an online and offline presence they have not done this, is this down to not understanding what is possible, how to do this and not having the right people in place to implement, execute and deliver.

For the business that rely more on the offline presence they have to look at the integration sooner than later otherwise it could end up being quite costly to them.

about 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Christopher,

Thanks for sharing.

There are brands that do multi-channel ecommerce well in a more subtle way, without the big PR friendly features. For example, Schuh makes it easy to order online and pick-up in store within 1hr, or for stores to order stock when they don't have it to deliver to the store or to the customer's home address. House of Fraser also has an excellent 'click and collect' service and puts a lot of effort into improving the in-store experience around this.

For me the online/offline integration should start with customer service and convenience. If you get that right, then add bells & whistles to drive engagement.

Engagement without service is a hollow promise.

Some of the example above show companies thinking about customer convenience e.g. Amazon Lockers / Wahaca mobile payment.

Others look like gimmicks with a short life span e.g. Amazon wand. Surely an app is easier? How many wands can one person cope with if other retailers trial this? I'll be amazed if this product has legs (though i do like to be amazed!).


about 4 years ago

Jessica Box

Jessica Box, Brand & PR Manager at IE Agency

Hi Christopher,

Been trying to get in touch for some time regarding this article.

Could you please email me at as soon as you can?


about 4 years ago

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