Businesses need to break the barrier between the physical and digital, to deliver a superior customer experience.Ashu Kajekar
With advances in technology and growth of digital channels, retail customers are becoming more aware and smarter. They do not want to be just passive users of a product anymore. They want to have the comfort of purchasing products online while having the element of human interaction and engagement that is available through physical experiences. At the same time, they want to have the necessary technology enablement when they visit a physical store for a quicker, efficient and enhanced service.
In essence, retail customers are expecting seamless experiences across all channels and are willing to pay extra for a better and meaningful experience. This means that a traditional siloed physical or digital experience does not appeal to retail customers anymore. It is time for businesses to break the barrier between the physical and digital, and combine both to provide their customers a complete phygital experience.
Technologies that are required to establish a combined physical and digital experiences have been around for some time now. These, along with emerging technologies are enabling hyper-connected consumers by providing phygital experiences by enhancing customers’ physical experiences with digital data and experiences with a human touch.
For example, organization using marketing automation software have the capability to send highly personalized messages to their customers via text, emails and social media among other digital platforms. Few organizations are already using advances in technologies such as cloud and big data as well as cutting-edge technologies such as beacons, internet of things (IoT), location-based technologies, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), machine learning and AI, mobile payments, QR code scanners and real-time analytics to enhance the experience of a consumer.
A few days ago, Facebook announced the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically sift through conversations and content to help and provide necessary support for those with mental health issues and to proactively contribute in the prevention of suicides. Google has implemented machine learning AI to deliver better search results by understanding the context of the query than the keyword itself. Amazon’s Alexa is capable of using itself as a smart personal assistant as well as a home automation system. Several organizations have also started leveraging data to provide their customers better personalization.
These and many other technologies are already bridging the gap between physical and digital while providing transformed and unique experiences to customers.
People today are looking for an omnichannel experience that combines both physical and digital experiences when they make a purchase from a retail store. They like to feel and touch a product before making the purchase and at the same time preference the convenience of an e-commerce portal. They also expect the store and the staff to be knowledgeable about their choices and use technology to offer them personalization and reward them for their loyalty. Only those businesses that provide their customers with these kinds of phygital experiences are surviving and thriving. And this can be made possible only through the strategic utilization of technology.
So, how can businesses leverage technology to provide better and meaningful experiences to customers? Here are a few ways in which a few of them are already enhancing their customer shopping experience.
A few retail stores and chains have already successfully implemented technologies such as beacons, IoT and location-based technologies to identify a particular customer in a particular shopping zone to send them personalized messages about the type of items they can buy. A few companies have gone a step further by matching their mobile identity with their online identity as well as utilize their data to suggest them items based on their interest, thus enhancing their customers’ in-store experience. They have also implemented advanced technologies such as AR/VR to enhance the overall shopping experience for their customers.
Besides technology, customer data plays a huge role in providing them meaningful and valuable experiences. Retailers have massive customer data such as their preferences and choices, social values and product attributes which is available from both their physical and virtual touchpoints. However, using this data effectively to provide better personalization is the key to create customer delight. AI, predictive analytics, and IoT which act as channels of information collation will play a crucial role in this regard.
With consumers increasingly living a combined physical and digital life, few retail enterprises have already made it their objective and priority to provide their customers a seamless phygital shopping experience. While several companies are still lagging behind its implementation, many of them are realizing the criticality of providing meaningful omnichannel experience for their survival and growth, and 2018 is expected to be the year of more connected phygital experiences.