What’s Phygital in the Customer Experience?
We’re living in the digital era, and it’s no longer deemed bizarre to buy all kinds of products on the internet. That fact is why we place such importance on the digital customer experience. According to data from the 2020 edition of IAB Spain’s annual e-Commerce Study 2020, 72% of internet users shop online. Nonetheless, the key lies in bringing online and physical sales together: 52% of respondents buy in both channels, and they predict that 78% of them will, while only 13% will only buy in brick-and-mortar and 9% will only buy online.
The COVID-19 pandemic inevitably accelerated changes in Spaniards’ consumption habits and caused digital purchases to grow. Despite that, many of us miss interacting with sales associates and the personalized service we can get going into a store, and we’re not yet ready to give it up. In the face of this duality, there’s a new concept that tries to bring the best of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail together: phygital.
What is the phygital experience?
Phygital marries both the online and offline environments by taking the best aspects from each space to create a much more complete and satisfying customer experience. The phygital phenomenon distinguishes itself from other marketing tactics with its multichannel focus where the consumer’s purchasing process is fluid and familiar.
The user browses and buys, but they also feel; this is why, despite the fact we can get just about anything we desire using our smartphones, two out of ten consumers still prefer to conclude their purchasing project in a brick-and-mortar store. The opposite also occurs: How many times do we go into a store to see, touch, or try on an item that we later order online? Interpersonal interactions continue to be a critical and highly-valued element for customers, implying that the physical and emotional components of making purchases should always be there.
Phygital takes the best components from the digital retail experience like immediacy, immersion, and speed and the chance to interact with people, the product, and more that you get from a brick-and-mortar retail experience. This approach is the best way to satisfy a demanding, hyper-connected consumer and meet their needs through multiple platforms. The demographics that best fit the bill for the ideal consumers of phygital experiences are Millennials and Generation Z, forcing us to craft 360° Marketing strategies that straddle both brick-and-mortar and online retail concepts that fit in a phygital world.
A prominent example of this online and offline marriage is the Amazon Go grocery store with more than 20 locations in the US. A customer scans a code with their smartphone, picks up the products they wish, and then leaves the store without passing through the traditional checkout line. Instead, the mix of tech solutions means they’ll get an electronic receipt detailing the amount Amazon will charge to their account.
How can we make the phygital user experience a reality?
Phygital focuses on making the “three I’s” a reality: immediacy, immersion, and interaction. Here’s what each entails:
Immediacy: Works to ensure things happen at an exact moment in time
Immersion: The user is part of the experience.
Interaction: The generation of communication is needed to activate the more physical and emotional part of the purchasing process.
To achieve a genuinely phygital experience, there must be a technology that facilitates the introduction of immediacy or immersion. On the other hand, the interaction that the digital realm lacks by nature gets introduced.
These three conditions applied to phygital make the consumer feel more connected to the brand, generate trust, reinforce empathy, and improve the user experience.
To give a clearer idea of how this works in practice, here are two real-life examples:
Examples of the phygital concept in practice
While web design’s importance in retail is evident, some brands go one step further by using technology in their retail stores to transform their customers’ experience. Take fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, who did just that in her SoHo flagship in New York City. Shoppers can choose the items they want to try on by using touch screens placed throughout the store. When they’re ready, they’ll get a message on their phone with the fitting room number, where they’ll find all the items they requested. But what happens if they need a bigger size? Every fitting room has a screen where they can request another size without looking for it on the floor on their own or having to ask a Sales Associate to bring it. This video goes through a demo of how their connected store works:
Kentucky Fried Chicken
In China, this fast-food chain installed smart screens that cater to diners using facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to offer personalized offers. These screens allow them to order and pay.
Both brands have figured out how to complete the in-store experience using technology to satisfy a more demanding and connected clientele.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
This kind of strategy has excellent potential for two of the most critical retail days on the calendar at the end of November: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A Think With Google study found that 40% of Spanish consumers are planning on buying on Black Friday this year, and the growth in search volumes for “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” indicate high hopes.
It’s also true that users are willing to buy anytime, anywhere. Nonetheless, retailers should see this as an opportunity to create a different and attractive customer experience rather than as a challenge to overcome. As a brand, you can give phygital a spin to create a campaign that makes the consumer choose you and remember the moment they make their purchase.
Use a phygital strategy to connect your consumer’s online and offline experience to make sure they can move between them with ease. Creating more human interactions will boost their sentiment towards the brand, and in turn, sales.
Remember that customers look for connected experiences where the physical and digital coexist in the same customer journey. We’re no longer just talking about the digital experience; instead, we’re talking about the customer experience. And that is the objective of a successful strategy.
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