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How to enhance the shopping experience with a phygital strategy

Written by Julien hennico ·

According to a survey performed by Style Blazer, 57% of millennials say they love to shop. This recent discovery may seem somewhat contradictory with the rise of ecommerce changing the shopping experience panorama and the road to connect with customers. Nevertheless, as more than half of the millennial population — the largest consumer segment to date — still enjoy perusing items in physical establishments, the shopping experience must be taken seriously. And even though online shopping allows people to order items and compare prices with just the click of a button, it still cannot beat the social sensation associated with a physical point-of-sale. Some internet pure players (like Amazon) have understood this concept and have started with their physical expansion strategy to be present in both retail landscapes.

Competitive advantages of the physical shopping experience

The experience a shopper has when visiting a physical establishment is a way for retailers to take some of their power back — that is if they know how to capitalise on it. Retailers who operate with physical points-of-sales need to know what their customers need to make their experience both seamless and enjoyable.

Forrester’s director of customer experience, Harley Manning, defines the customer experience as “the way customers remember all of their interactions with a company”. The shopper experience is therefore inextricably linked the customer journey which leads to the final purchase and results in a certain level of satisfaction from the customer. In this sense, the shopper experience can be broken down two-fold: the quality of the experience and the level of satisfaction the consumer has after the interaction with the brand.

Omnichannel customer experiences that evolve as time progresses

The digital era has forced retailers to move past having a just a physical presence and find other ways to connect with consumers on different channels — even if the final sale happens in-store. This means that a shopper’s experience with a brand is not something that takes place at one point in time. It’s rather a “phygital experience”, or a time of passage, where perceptions are formulated over a compilation of interactions on different touch points: a recommendation from a friend, navigation on a website, social media engagement, a conversation with a sales representative, the time it takes waiting in the queue, etc…

One retailer who is managing the phygital experience successfully while still only selling products in physical points-of-sales locations is Chanel. While engaging customers online via social media and the corporate website, the company always makes the final sale in-store. To Chanel, the final touch point (which is the in-store shopper experience) is the most valuable part of the customer journey. It’s what makes luxury, well, luxury and this brand objects to lowering its standards and the “personal touch” their customers experience while shopping at their stores.

Contrary to popular belief, a phygital strategy does not necessarily mean selling products both online and off but rather finding a way to facilitate the customer experience on both channels. As another study by eBay shows, many customers begin their experience with a brand online and end up making the final transaction in the physical location.

Meet the expectations of today’s customer with phygital tactics

The satisfaction that the client obtains when visiting a store is all relative due to the expectations they have in regards to the product and service. If the quality of a product is perceived to be fantastic online and later does not meet the expectations of the consumer when buying it in-store as a result of poor service, the overall shopper experience results in disappointment (even if the product is not). This is why it’s essential for retailers to understand what consumers expect from both their products and the customer service they provide to meet those expectations in a phygital way.

Shopping online has completely altered consumers’ standards where they expect the product and service to be simple and enjoyable — and if the product is sold in-store, it must also be memorable (in a positive way).

This simplification of the shopper experience while in the store consists of having products in stock (after being researched online), minimising the wait time in the queue and also providing a quick delivery service for the purchases not taken directly home. Some physical retailers such as Carrefour offer the option for shoppers to have their items delivered “anytime, anywhere” and others like Walmart and Amazon do not charge for at-home delivery. A phygital strategy is the most powerful way retailers can meet the expectations of the “digitally adroit” consumer and defend their physical points-of-sales.

Take a look at how Nike has incorporated a phygital shopper experience in their store in this video:

Emotional and human experiences create bonds

Retailers can use this new definition of the shopper experience as part of the customer journey to create loyalty. As many have discovered, it’s a lot more expensive to try to win over new customers than it is to retain them. New technologies entering the market that harness to power of big data are making customer retention a reality. One of these is Location Intelligence which crosses, complies and analyses big data from different sources and provides contextual information in regards to customer preferences and behaviour. Tools such as these are what can help retailers to become proactive at improving the shopping experience instead of reactive.

Customers in an omnichannel environment are much more complex making a brand’s relationship with them more complex as well. People look for meaning and a human connection when engaging with a brand on every single channel. This is why physical points-of-sale establishments must continuously work on developing a phygital strategy over time. The shopper experience is no longer just a one-shot ordeal. It is now a continuum where each interaction builds upon the last. The companies that grasp this concept and integrate both physical and digital aspects into their business model will not only successfully protect their physical points of sales, but also build loyalty with their customers through a personalised relationship.

 Are you interested in finding out how your company can use big data to fuel its phygital strategy? Request a custom demo and one of our consultants will contact you to show you how.

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