As the online world becomes as real as the high streets we walk down, retailers need to focus more on the customer journey than on individual channels.

With the digital revolution, the concept of ‘online’ began. In the early days, e-commerce had a very separate identity from traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping – with online shopping considered fundamentally different from shopping in-store. But in a world where nearly everyone is online, there is no offline. The result? Retailers need to think less about individual channels and how they fit together, and more about the overall customer journey – a journey influenced by the digital world.

‘Navigating the new digital divide’, a report by Deloitte Consulting, explained how the new ‘divide’ is not the gulf between online and offline, but the gap between consumers’ digital behaviours and expectations and what retailers can offer.

Rather than focusing on driving customers to buy on each channel, retailers need to find the value in each channel as part of the customer journey. And the concept of the customer journey itself needs a rethink. Too often retailers drive consumers towards making a purchase, which is then considered the end of the journey. When in fact, the post-purchase stage is an essential part of the journey, and should be where you can convince a shopper to return to your store or website.

There are plenty of myths around how the digital world affects how shoppers behave – most of them negative. Research published on ThinkWithGoogle puts some of these fears to rest.

Myth 1: Online search only drives consumers to e-commerce websites. In reality, online search is driving consumers to find both local information and global websites – and searches will lead to shoppers heading out to the high street. Google reports that three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results are more likely to visit stores.

Myth 2: Showrooming is a threat to retail. According to Google, 42% of in-store shoppers search for information online while in-store. Some 64% of these shoppers use search engines, but almost half head straight to the retailer’s website or app, and only 30% look up a different retailer’s website.

Plus, according to the Deloitte digital divide report, almost one third of customers said that using digital devices during the shopping journey caused them to spend more – with 20% of these shoppers converting in-store at a 20% higher rate than shoppers who didn’t turn to their mobile device in-store.

As the digital world becomes commonplace, retailers need to reconsider how they think about channels. The overall customer journey is more important and the digital experience is something which has a constant – and positive – impact on this journey.