Editor's note: Jim Tincher is founder and mapper-in-chief at Heart of the Customer, a Minneapolis research firm. 

It’s no secret that the e-commerce share of total retail sales grows larger every year. It currently hovers around the 10 percent mark on its inexorable, upward trajectory.1 Brands that established their distribution channels long before the digital age ignore Amazon and other e-tailers at their peril. As H.G. Wells put it: Adapt or perish.

But doom-and-gloom predictions for brick-and-mortar stores also miss the mark. For one thing, that 10 percent figure conceals a wide disparity across sectors and products. In the U.S., you can still count on one hand the percentage of groceries sold online, while the figure for books and music is around 50 percent.2 The skewed picture this paints of the retail landscape makes it all too easy for companies to be led astray and waste already limited marketing resources tilting at windmills to recapture lost market share through often misunderstood – and sometimes overestimated – digital channels. The in-person shopping experience is not on its deathbed just yet.

In fact, the key role emotions play in purchasing decisions can work in favor of in-person experiences, as Avery Products Corp. recently discovered when a division of the company decided to map the back-to-school supplies shopping journey.

Over the past 75-plus years, Avery, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of home, work and school supplies, has built a reputation for quality and durability. The company’s school supplies product line includes binders, dividers, tabs, sheet protectors, folders, markers, highlighters and glue sticks. Sales in Avery’s school supplies products surge every year in the third quarter, as families make their back-to-school purchases.

Avery school supplies are sold through online channels – including, of course, Amazon – as well as big-b...