The new retail journey: from omnichannel to phygitalHarshavardhan Chauhan
For a decade now, a popular terminology for any brand in the retail sector has been ‘omnichannel’. This impressively compelling word has every retailer cloaked within itself. So much so, that designing a cohesive user-experience for customers at every touch point has all this while been considered a superlative strategy in order to thrive.
Retailer’s feel that enabling customers to convert on any channel (online, mobile or in-store), is the ideal way of nurturing more sales and engagement.
Therefore, in order to achieve that brands have been working towards the implementation of the omnichannel strategy with the vision of building a relevant and stronger relationship between consumers, the brand, and the retailer.
In the zeal to implement the omnichannel strategy, what a lot of brands ended up creating was the multichannel strategy. And the two are clearly not the same.
This created a lot of problems as they did not realise that they are building an online model to recoup losses suffered from brick and mortar space, rather than making a strategy to complement the two channels. Thus, this led to a major execution gap when it came to streamlining online and offline experiences.
The retail sector is estimated to grow to Rs 2 trillion by 2020. Shopping malls and brands alike have to constantly evolve to meet up to the radical customer expectations.
There is a need to build an integrated approach with unique and conveniently tailored offerings. They have to meet today’s fast-moving lifestyles and focus on providing a seamless experience to the consumers. After all, when it comes to creating a world of retail experiences, both the physical and virtual worlds are important.
It will help brands build a strong image while being relevant. Therefore, it has to be positioned to a society that is creating a perfect balance between shopping online and offline. Not to forget, shoppers still prefer the experience of purchasing merchandise from a store and expect a seamless shopping experience while doing so.
They care most about the experience and the channel is secondary. But sadly, in an attempt to be omnipresent, many companies have forgotten that consumer experience is the foremost approach.
Recently, the trending buzzword enhancing retail customer experience reinstating the aforementioned fact is ‘phygital’. Omnichannel is now voluntarily being replaced by the ‘phygital’ concept. This new wave is converging in experience and offering by becoming more meaningful for customers and retailers. It is giving them the convenience of ordering, collecting, returning, even exchanging products both online or at any of the brand's brick-and-mortar stores.
This well-defined phygital platform, which is the new solution, is fulfilling the new consumer’s unrealised aspirations by giving them experiences they never anticipated. Imagine the power to buy online from the retailer while being physically present in the store. It is indeed an amphibious landscape offering the ultimate, uninterrupted customer experience across both worlds.
Therefore, in spite of this experience being in existence for some time, there has to be an ideal way of incorporating it into something that people would actually want to have. Thus, in order to successfully implement this phygital new retail-strategy, retailers need to curate a solution that looks at digitisation of the retail space and build capabilities so that they can analyse the insights from good quality customer data, leverage technology, harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data Analytics, assess the impact of all these strategies and allocate the right mix of roles and responsibilities to their internal and external resources. All this, will reap maximum benefits and aid the retailer in moving out of traditional one-dimensional experiences.
For example, the onset of virtual reality can build an immersive experience and an emotional connection by enhancing touch, sight, sound, and even taste. Data will shed light on insights relating to consumers shopping patterns, preferences and user behaviors across devices.
All this and much more to drive buying decision behavior together with helping retailers design a holistic and integrated approach. This can be collected at every communication point in order to create the perfect blend of an interactive ‘phygital’ experience.
Consumers today are looking for a holistic and seamless experience that is curated specifically for them and not mass produced. Hence, there is a need to build a 360-degree approach where the online medium plays an important role in initiating a captivating conversation that is further enhanced through differentiated and personalised offers and finally leads to a seamless offline experience.
They expect a more immersive retail experience when they make the effort to commute to a store rather than just buying things through the push of a button. Hence, the more synergy between the two, the more efficient business and a better customer experience one gets.
The new retail phygital journey presents a seamlessly connected physical & digital ecosystem. Being ‘phygital’ is the new way to discover experiences around you as you shop, dine, entertain and browse around.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SMBStory.)