May 30, 2023

Using Digital Products to Supercharge the Retail Experience

iPhone and bag

With all of the e-commerce and marketing communication products out there, we know that it can be difficult to figure out the best retail strategy for both your business and your customers.

That’s why we took an ‘art of the possible’ approach to demonstrate the impactful work we can do to improve customers’ retail experiences. We took this work all the way to prototypes (featured below) and found that without technical limitations and business pressures, we were able to uncover a new retail digital experience that puts users first without compromising on UX best practices. At Method, we believe in pushing the boundaries of digital innovation and inspiring others to continue asking “what if.”

3 Stages of the Buyer Journey

To start pushing the boundaries, we need to root ourselves in research. Let’s take a look at the three stages of the buying journey: Shopping, Purchase, and Post-Purchase. For each stage, we have included a vignette that highlights a customer’s pain points, along with macrotrends in the market and digital solutions for addressing those problem areas.

At the end of each section, we created prototypes to help visualize what a supercharged user experience could look like for a grocery shopper based off our research. We call this fictional product Method Market. Be sure to click the link below each image to watch these prototypes in action.

1. Shopping: Omnichannel & The Phygital


(This vignette was written in collaboration with Google Bard)

John is a busy dad with two young kids. He doesn’t have a lot of time to go to car dealerships and negotiate prices. He decides to try an online dealership. He likes that he’s able to filter for exactly what he needs and that the price he sees is the price he gets. After he finds the car he wants, the next step is to Check Out in which they will allow him to pay and sign documents online. But, this all feels too sudden. He’s not comfortable making a big purchase without test driving the car first.

The next day, he goes the traditional route by visiting a dealership in person. But it feels like he’s starting from square one, wading through the ocean of cars in the parking lot. On top of that, the salesperson is very pushy and tries to sell him a car that is not right for him. John eventually feels so uncomfortable that he leaves the dealership without buying anything.

Frustrated that both experiences came up short, John decides to hold off purchasing the new car. He has enough on his plate at the moment.


John’s story is not unique, and it certainly isn’t limited to automotive experiences either. Customers appreciate the convenience of online shopping, but are craving something more – a unified and personal experience where they can switch from digital to physical seamlessly, also known as ‘phygital’. This checks out considering that 67% of shopping begins online.

Now, to be clear, omnichannel is not the same as multi-channel. Omnichannel means true integration across channels, not simply offering multiple avenues for a customer to shop. That means a customer’s data is traveling with them. If they created a wishlist online, how might we incorporate that in their in-store experience? If they buy in store, how might we meaningfully tie that into their digital shopping experience?

Experiential shopping can address both of those questions. Stores will host a unique event where customers can become truly immersed in the brand, such as personal shoppers, masterclasses, and community events. These high touch experiences then carry through to the digital world where customers can leverage the convenience they love from online shopping. Learn more about other ways retailers are reinventing the in store experience.

Digital Solutions: Shopping

AR for personalized experiences

If you want to personalize a customer’s in-store experience by layering in data from other digital experiences, try incorporating AR. We’ll talk more about using AR for virtual try-on later, but here are some other examples of how to incorporate AR specifically for phygital omnichannel.

  • Marks and Spencer created a wayfinding app that uses AR to help customers find items in the store from their grocery lists to make shopping in store quicker and more efficient.
  • 19 Wines winery uses AR to differentiate themselves and create a strong brand identity. By opening the app and placing their phone in front of the bottle, the historical figures on the label literally come to life by telling their own story.
  • Amazon Style leverages data to create real time, personalized recommendations for each customer.

Choose the right e-commerce platform

As aforementioned, the key to omnichannel is the ability for a customer to move easily across and between channels. Picking the right e-commerce platform that meets your customer’s (current and future) needs is important. Some e-commerce platforms offer out of the box integrations with point-of-sale vendors that allow for several purchasing options including buy online, pickup in store and vice versa. You’ll want to gather your requirements up front and evaluate what’s out there. Learn more about how Method can help you find the right e-commerce platform. 

Real-Time Interaction Management (RTIM) for omnichannel marketing

Not only should the omnichannel shopping experience be seamless, but so should the marketing one. As defined by Forrester, ​​RTIM is an enterprise marketing technology that delivers contextually relevant experiences, value, and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer life cycle via preferred customer touchpoints. Use an RTIM to reach customers on the right channel at the right time.

Method Market Prototypes: Shopping

Click the link below each image to watch these prototypes in action!

Create a Grocery List

Tell us what you’re planning and we’ll do the rest


Design a Bakery Product

Design and visualize custom specialty goods
in AR

2. Purchasing: Pricing transparency


(This vignette was written in collaboration with Google Bard)

Aisha was so excited to finally buy that new laptop. She saved for months and did a ton of research on the features she wanted. Today was the day and she was ready to make the purchase. She went online and found a great deal on a laptop that met her specifications, placed the order, and waited anxiously for it to arrive.

A few days later, the laptop arrived. Aisha was so happy to finally have it. She set it up right away and started using it. It was perfect. She loved everything about it.

That was until she saw an ad for the same laptop one week later, but it was on sale for $500 less than she had paid for it. She couldn’t believe she had paid so much more for the laptop. 

She called the customer service department and asked if they could refund her the difference in price. The representative said they couldn’t do that, but offered her a $50 gift card as a consolation prize. Aisha was so disappointed.She didn’t want a gift card, she wanted the laptop for the sale price. And just like that, her perfect laptop was no longer perfect.


Pricing transparency is rooted in several trends all coming to a head. People want to know what their money is being used for and they want to know that it’s being used responsibly and fairly.

For example, ‘tipflation’ is the sudden feeling that consumers are being asked to provide a tip everywhere, even in places where human interaction is minimal. This breaks the social contract of the past and consumers aren’t sure if and when tips are truly needed (i.e. wait staff gets paid less with the assumption that tips will more than make up for it) versus when they are appreciated, nor is it clear who the tips are actually going to. Currently, technology exacerbates this frustration, but what if it could help provide clarity instead?

Further, transparency related to money in general has become more of an expectation than a nice to have, which will have a halo effect on all industries. In fact, some states in the US must post salary ranges on job descriptions. This is in an effort to encourage fairness in hiring practices. If something as personal as salary is known to all, then why shouldn’t retailers be held to the same standards? 

Full and radical transparency from retailers would include unit economics, CEO’s pay, and even supply chain and sustainability practices. But a good starting point could be visibility into fee and payment structure for items. The key here will be using pricing and payments as a way to empower users without hurting them i.e. understanding the pros and cons of Buy Now, Pay Later.

Digital Solutions: Purchasing

Display price history

Showing customers the price history of an item can help them make the right purchasing decision. If convenience or speed are important, then they will opt to buy now even if the price may go down later. However, if the item’s price seasonally goes down and there’s no urgency, then the customer may wait to purchase. Adding in an alert for when the price drops will help keep those customers engaged and encourage them to become authenticated users.

Aggregators like Google Shopping do this today. Since they’re aggregators, they will also tell you where you can find the item cheaper. But, as a retailer, if you’ve already captured a potential buyer’s attention, get ahead of the aggregators and keep them on your website. 

Provide baselines

Sometimes customers just want to feel confident in their decisions. Baselines help with that. How does my (price, tip, purchase) compare to others? To take the aforementioned tipflation example, what if Food Delivery Services integrated with a salary aggregator like GlassDoor to provide transparency into how much delivery drivers get paid in your area? That could help inform a consumer how much to tip. You could take it one step further and provide data on what others in your area are tipping as well.

Method Market Prototypes: Purchasing

Click the link below each image to watch these prototypes in action!

I’ve Arrived At the Store

Optimize your grocery list for the most efficient in-store trip


Locate a Product In-Store

Find exactly what you’re looking for


3. Post-Purchase: Easy returns and exchanges


(This vignette was written in collaboration with Google Bard)

What should have been an exciting day for Sarah, turned out to be a frustrating one. She had ordered a new dress online, but when it arrived, it didn’t fit. She tried to return it, but the process was anything but easy.

First, she had to find the original shipping box and packing materials. Then, she had to print out a return label and pay for shipping. Once she had done all of that, she had to wait in line at the post office to drop off the package, only to find out the label was for UPS not USPS! So, she had to drive to a UPS store instead. Of course, there was traffic and she didn’t make it before they closed.

The next day, Sarah went to the store to return the dress in person. She was hoping that the process would be easier, but she was wrong. The store didn’t have a return policy, and the manager was rude and unhelpful.

Sarah was so angry that she left the store and vowed never to shop there again. She also told her friends about her experience, and vented about it on social media. 


Consumers expect returns to be easy and free. You can blame Bezos for starting the trend, but there’s a reason why Amazon has such loyal customers. In fact, in a survey by Narvar, two-thirds of respondents said they were deterred from buying if they had to pay for returns. That means if you don’t offer easy returns, the top of your funnel just got 67% smaller! 

But, what about the hassle of setting up the infrastructure to handle returns? True, that’s a big undertaking. However, think of it as an investment. In the same Narvar survey, 96% of respondents said they would shop with a retailer again if they offered free shipping. Hello strong Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR)! 

Fun fact: RPR is one of those magical metrics that has a compounding effect. For example, if 50% of customers make a second purchase, then 50% of them will make a third, etc. That means you’re increasing revenue by 100% (doubling it).

And, just because a consumer is motivated by free returns doesn’t mean they will actually act on it. Part of it is the psychological safety of knowing that they can return if they need to. You need to understand the Jobs to be Done here. Are free returns seen as trial periods for your customers? The Narvar survey found that 57% of respondents ended up exchanging on their most recent return experience.

As we saw in the vignette and in the market research above, easy returns pay off in the long run. Below are some ways you can utilize digital solutions to make the experience even better.

Digital Solutions: Post-Purchase

Minimize risk

Technology like virtual try on (VTO) helps consumers make better decisions, which in turn reduces returns.

  • Warby Parker incorporates VTO on their website and app to make the digital shopping experience more interactive and is consistently ranked high for shopping experience because of this capability.
  • Snapchat’s AR filter has been used by more than 250 million people more than 5 billion times in the past 2 years. The company is now adapting that same technology to allow retailers to use it on their own sites.

Leverage reverse fulfillment/logistic centers when it makes sense

If you don’t have the capital to support returns, then partner with someone who specializes in this. This could mean using their physical services as well as digital services. And, make sure you choose an e-commerce platform that has out of the box features for returns.

  • For example, offers a physical fulfillment center and APIs for integrating with contact lens e-commerce sites. They are part of the 1-800-contacts family and therefore able to leverage economies of scale and pass those on to SMBs.
  • Walmart Commerce Technologies is commercializing some of their secret sauce by providing digital solutions for fulfillment.

Automated and 24/7 returns

Conversational chatbots can handle most return scenarios and eliminates the need of having to call and be placed on hold or go to a physical store. Depending on the level of sophistication needed, chatbots can use logic-based rules, NLP, or AI (Chat-GPT).

  • With Amazon, all you have to do is click a button, and an automated flow will walk you through the free return process. They even offer several drop-off options, including UPS pickup, UPS dropoff, Whole Foods dropoff, and Amazon locker dropoff, to cater to different needs,
  • Food delivery products offer chatbots to handle returns when food is not delivered up to par. For example, Sunny B at Sun Basket will ask which items were damaged, calculate your refund, and automatically apply a credit or send you a refund.

Method Market Prototypes: Post-Purchasing

Click the link below the image to watch this prototype in action!

A Product is Back In Stock

Get notified and easily order missed items through a delivery partner


Method Market: Retail Digital Solutions Prototypes

Below is a summary of the prototype concepts we created to help visualize what a supercharged user experience could look like for a grocery shopper at Method Market.

Shopping Purchase Post-Purchase
Create a Grocery List
Tell us what you’re planning and we’ll do the restDesign a Bakery Product
Design and visualize custom specialty goods in AR
I’ve Arrived At the Store
Optimize your grocery list for the most efficient in-store tripLocate a Product In-Store
Find exactly what you’re looking for
A Product is Back In Stock
Get notified and easily order missed items through a delivery partner

By leveraging digital products that support shoppers when they are both in and out of the store, your business will create a better user experience across the full retail journey. Research and ‘art of the possible’ prototyping do this by bringing new ideas to life. To learn more about our approach to designing and creating these unconstrained prototypes, check out this article.

*Designs by Tyler Cecchi and Masna Bin Umeed