Perhaps, while you are reading this blog, someone would have just stepped into a retail store or popular mall, tried on a few clothes and made their purchase without ever pulling out their cards. And of course, as a market researcher, it made me think about what do customers want from the new phygital world? What were they looking for?

Now is the time for retailers to reimagine their relationship with customers. Customers are increasingly seeking a digital experience both online and offline. They expect a safety-first approach, with technologies that allow in-store digital experiences, curbside pickup, shopping via social media, and other immersive experiences including AR & VR that offer hyper-personalized shopping experiences. However, where should retailers focus their efforts, heading into 2022 and beyond?

Simply put, consumers perceive digital and in-store experiences as two sides of the same coin. Retail channels are merging, and retailers must embrace this era of unified commerce to create a strong presence in the physical and digital environments. This blog explores some of these trends and allows you to make an informed choice for your B2C business.

Despite the shifts, shopping still happens! 

Discovering the best way to make process changes

In a WD Partners survey of 2,500 consumers, 84% stated they had used BOPIS in the last three months, and 86% thought it was a top digital-physical tool. Building a seamless omnichannel brand presence has proved its importance over time.

Hyper-personalized touches and localized experiences

With most in-store interactions becoming digital, retailers now have a plethora of data about shopping patterns on customer behaviors that can be utilized to improve their in-store services. The future is knowing who the customer is on a personal level rather than on a segment level so that retailers can push customized offers as consumers go by the aisle of their favorite product or things that they’ve purchased numerous times in the past.

In China at Nike Guangzhou, customers have their feet scanned by a store athlete using Nike Fit technology to discover the greatest fit for any sneaker in any style. Nike’s objective is to help customers select shoes that fit them properly by precisely measuring their feet. The method works by using the camera on one’s smartphone. The scanning through the Nike Fit app gathers 13 data points that determine the morphology of both feet. Followed by such an accurate scan, preferred sizes are saved in Nike Member profiles and can be easily accessed when shopping online or in-store.

Once Nike obtains the foot scan via the app, Nike can provide recommendations among their offers regarding which shoes could best match that customer’s unique foot scan data. The Nike Fit app is available on both iOS and Android and can be used for online purchases and for browsing in-store.

Source: Nike

With the strong assistance of AI mechanisms, as seen in the preceding example, hyper-personalization has broadened its scope of action to become a goal assigned to each marketing lever, beginning with the first points of interaction with the brand, both on- and off-site.

NomadX, a multi-label retail store in Singapore, is another example of a personalized omnichannel experience. Their interactive gamified onboarding process incorporates face recognition technology and data collection which then provides consumers with recommended shopping paths based on their preferences also referred to as in-store navigation. Thus, retailers can send personalized real-time updates to a consumer about in-store specials, discount coupons and new product advertisements or share bundled offers to increase the basket value. This will ideally be the future path for more retailers, to have personalization strategies across multiple sales channels to make a more targeted end-to-end consumer experience.

AR in-store experiences and ecommerce solutions- Phygital elements transforming the retail industry

Digitalization enhances in-store shopping experiences and has grown to win in omnichannel utilization. AI and AR have been used by brands to analyse omnichannel consumer behavior and acquire useful data for planning and elevating in-store VIP experiences.

Delighting the customer means having a “wow factor.” Kering, for example, enhanced omnichannel consumer engagement using an AI-powered sales forecasting tool by instilling originality and exclusivity in their shopping experiences. Recently, Chinese start-up Coolhobo launched an AR app Hobose that gives users personalized food and dietary advice as they add items to their trolley in-store.

IKEA’s “buy with your time” campaign allows customers to buy with their time. How does it work? They used a feature from Google Maps that tracks and records all the routes customers take every day. Customers just needed to recall how long it took them and the last time they went to Ikea. And the brand introduced “time currency” to incentivize visitors to spend more time in the store. An hour is calculated based on the average wage in Dubai, where one hour is AED 105.

For example, a chair could cost 9 hours and 25 minutes. If a customer travelled 6 hours to reach IKEA, the whole amount of time travelled is deducted from the initial price, leaving the customer to pay for 3 hours and 25 minutes.

Source: thestable

However, abandoned shopping carts and returned products show how rapidly customers can change their minds in the middle of a shopping journey. Brands must remember that retail is most engaging and profitable when the experience flows across touchpoints. One example is a seamless experience that bridges the gap between a consumer gazing at their smartphone and looking up at the physical storefront.

Indian brands that embraced phygital strategy

While some brands in India have already begun to use phygital retail strategies, others are still in the early phases. Phygital retail is not limited to the apparel industry. Grocery shops and supermarkets are reported to have benefited significantly. In India, brands such as Spar and Namdhari have implemented phygital tactics to assure timely deliveries offering personalized store offerings in real-time for different periods of the day, delivering consumer-facing technology solutions to cater for buyers’ on-the-go needs, and offering a smooth option for same-day delivery of orders.

A quick check- Does your physical store boast of these technologies?

Delight your customers with in-store smart mirrors/digital walls, virtual trial AR experiences that enhance and intensify the in-store shopping experiences. Having facial recognition, voice technologies, data sensors, create an emotional bond with the customers who visit your store. Customers should be able to choose their preferred payment method like touchless kiosks, fintech innovation that helps modernize and create the digital realm for them. With AR, retailers can provide a seamless shopping experience for customers such as:

  • Better visualization
  • Find the products quickly
  • Virtual try-on
  • Product comparison and choices
  • Exchange programs and in-store promotions
  • Validating customer reviews
  • Que bursting
  • Click and collect

Source: nexter

Successful clienteling apps for store associates is the trump card that accelerates sales and experience. Not only enabled with mobile POS but also location-based technologies for purchasing and collecting your orders, in-store service management, in-store productivity will improve the physical channel experience.

With this approach, retailers can create emotional ties and light the path for a successful customer experience. B2C Businesses must immediately focus on developing and implementing strategies that will future-proof their business, including reviewing the role of their stores and pivoting their online presence to be unified.

The experience of physically touching an item, and walking out of a store with the gratified glow of a great purchase will not alter as retail and malls evolve. Retailers who successfully incorporate technology into their current operations will be able to capitalise on the possibilities of new services. Retail CEO’s and CMO’s should be saying to themselves and one another when they convene around the boardroom table to evaluate their 2022 plans: “Retail reinvented is our only route ahead for survival” and rethinking entails bridging the physical and digital. Retail needs to go beyond omnichannel.

Abishek Balakumar