You can shop online, or you can shop in a store. Or buy online and pick up in the store, or browse in a store and buy online. There are any number of ways to combine the physical with the digital these days, but one thing shoppers say ought to be the case everywhere – there had better be coupons.

Visa Acceptance Solutions’ 2024 Global Digital Shopping Index, as compiled by PYMNTS Intelligence, found that lines are blurring between in-store and online shopping. But shoppers would like them to blur even further, if that means getting the same features and discounts however they choose to shop.

Since grocery shopping is a routine activity, most often conducted at your same neighborhood store week after week, many grocery shoppers are accustomed to their store’s digital offerings. There’s the app that helps you locate an item in store, the website where you can place an order to pick up, or the digital coupons you can clip online. But what about retail stores that you don’t typically frequent – do they offer digital coupons? Can you place an order online and pick it up in person? Do they have an app, or a loyalty program?

The report found that retail shoppers want what grocery shoppers have – reliable, understandable access to digital features. Like, for example, coupons. 75% of retail shoppers say they expect there to be digital coupons available for both in-store and online shopping. Yet nearly a third of retail shoppers say they have a hard time finding out if there are coupons, or finding those coupons if there are any.

“Retail merchants can set themselves apart most by offering relevant promo codes, followed by digitally available coupons and rewards programs,” the report advises. But that’s only half the battle – they also have to make sure shoppers know how to find them. So those retailers could focus on “using in-store signage and digital alerts to highlight the availability and location of coupons.”

Some shoppers’ inability to take full advantage of stores’ digital capabilities goes beyond just coupons, though. There are “a significant number of shoppers not utilizing the digital aids available to them in-store,” the report found. They may not be aware of them, they may not know how to find them, or may not want to take the time to learn how to use them. “Consumers and merchants have longstanding habits and norms,” the report notes, and “old habits can be hard to kick.”


Many shoppers got a crash course on doing more of their shopping online during the early days of the Covid pandemic. But four years later, the percentage of shoppers who like to order online and pick up in store hasn’t budged, from 11%. The percentage of online-only shoppers, meanwhile, is down from its pandemic peak, as more shoppers do more in-person shopping just like they used to.

But the percentage of “digitally-assisted in-store shoppers” is rising. And that’s where the report says retailers should be focused. No one wants to stand in a store struggling to browse the retailer’s clunky website on their phone, looking for a digital coupon that can be redeemed at the checkout. “No one loves spending their free time stalking the aisles, trying to find a specific item,” the report observes, “especially one that was never there,” if an item locator and real-time inventory checker could be easily accessed on the store’s app instead. And if your needed item is out of stock, no one wants to stand in line at customer service to see if another nearby store has it, if the retailer could make it easier for you to find out using your own phone.

Overall, the report found there’s been a 65% increase in customer satisfaction among those who shop in-store with digital assistance. So retailers’ digital features, and their customers’ digital awareness, are getting better, but there’s still room to improve.

“Shoppers want to eliminate the separation between in-store and online shopping,” the report concludes. “Shoppers just want to shop and do not want significant differences between shopping online and in a physical store.” When you shop online, you know how to search for an item and you can see instantly if it’s out of stock. Shopping in store, the report suggests, should be the same way. You know what payment methods are accepted online, so the process should be just as seamless in store. If you buy an item online, it shouldn’t be a hassle if you choose to return it in store. And when you shop at a grocery store, clipping digital coupons right there in the aisle is easy. Accessing other retailers’ coupons when shopping in their stores should be just as simple.

As “consumers start to favor merchants who support seamless transitions between digital and in-store experiences,” the report notes, “some merchants have not yet risen to the occasion.” And “if shoppers cannot access the digital features they want… they may go elsewhere for their shopping needs.”

So however you choose to shop – convenient, consistent and uncomplicated is best. And convenient, consistent and uncomplicated coupons are even better.

Image source: Blake Wisz on Unsplash

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