From self-checkout counters to virtually experiencing a car before purchase, phygital environments, which weave the digital and physical worlds together, are offering consumers a world of new possibilities. Recently, I came across a report that says over two-thirds of shoppers want technologies that enhance their in-store experiences, and 31% want Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) to show real-time prices, promotions, and detailed product information.
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) coupled with cloud computing gives rise to a unique support system for consumers, it also provides an immense amount of wealth for companies. Wealth in the form of information that includes the number of touchpoints a customer makes, customer behavior pattern, buying pattern, and much more.
I think it was in 1994 when the computer scientist Paul Milgram presented the idea of what seems to be the basis of phygital entity today. He depicted the actual coming together of two worlds – real and virtual in his Continuum theory that dotes upon the existence between two extreme points, giving rise to the idea of Mixed Reality.
As such, phygital is one such portmanteau that is becoming solely responsible affecting digital interactions at large. Take book buying for example, using an app. You search for the book, confirm your digital fingerprint, buy it and a new message confirms delivery. A similar scenario pitted inside a physical store, where you have to skim through the shelves of literature to find the book, wait in the line to make a payment, seems to be a cumbersome affair.
By all means, there is no rejecting the idea of romanticism of being in a bookshop for real and scouting through the shelves, the very act of feeling the texture of the covers and the pages. Although, these elements lack for now in the digital sphere but in years to come we will be acquiring the same through newer phygital models or augmented reality where one shall witness the digital disintermediation coupled with sensorial experience, akin to physical world.
An ecosystem of untold possibilities
The future is all about creating relevant, engaging, targeted communications to build customer loyalty and drive revenue growth. This is backed by a recent survey which forecasts that 75% of stores will not only know when specific customers are in the store, but will also be able to customize the store visit for them by 2021.
In other words, consumers have adopted towards demanding a unified shopping experience that pulls all strings towards the convergence – The physical tangibility and the Infinite Digital potential. Especially, if one dejects buffering in a digital purchase, the same reaction is vented out for waiting periods for stocks to arrive at a physical store. The very experience of a digital purchase can't afford to forego the immersive capacity and options for testing available in the physical world. Thus, the convergence impacts one and all through every facet of our lives, but does it stand to manifest itself in the most significant way for a consumer? Think about it.
- How can you manage to interact with a retail store customer online, if they refuse to give you their email id?
- How could you possibly get customers engaged in a trade booth show when your competitors are playing hard around?
- What different can you do to make yourself stand out from the crowd?
Phygital is that one niche where ideas are a never changing affair. With emerging technologies, organizations are inclined towards breathing life into ideas in multiple ways:
- Integration of Social Media – A Brazilian multichain retail store put forward a brilliant instance of a phygital experience, by creating digital images of particular items that were liked by people online. Such an approach is beneficial towards empowering consumers with information prior to their purchase.
- Virtual or Augmented Reality (VR & AR) – Conjuring the features and possibilities of a service or a product without having to fetch the product in reality, is a great way to go phygital. If you are in real estate business, you can make use of augmented reality to show the image of a home and what it could be like when decked with the customer's furniture.
- Artificial Intelligence – AI holds the power to touch and impact every aspect of user experience. With the integration of smart technologies, the leap forward is natural where the phygital experience never ceases to grow. Take chatbots, for example, an increasingly popular feature that offers human-like communication.
- Internet of Things (IoT) – Connected ecosystems including smart homes, smart cars and smart cities is definitely the next big thing. No matter how elusive it sounds, the development of powerful disruptors is slowly churning out numerous possibilities where consumer devices can connect and collaborate in an integrated space.
Moment of truth
The buying journey takes the consumer through many touch points. In silos, every touch point is an exclusive opportunity towards building a long-term relationship. Let's say for automobiles, the manufacturers shall have to account for seamless transformation across several channels for customers. For instance, crafting a simulation of the car virtually will allow customers to know the look and feel of the car even before making the purchase. Such an approach not only boosts sales but also ensures satisfaction, leading to repeat purchase.
The consumer experience doesn't begin or end in tandem. Instead, it keeps moving forward and backward. Applying the right phygital measure with a plausible strategy to match a niche product/service could lure maximum eyeballs and create impact.
Weaving Phygital for the world
With emerging technologies, it is now increasingly possible to create all-around phygital experiences for consumers. One example that I can think of is Facebook, it took a commendable approach, using AI to skim through conversations to help support people with mental health issues as a necessary step towards suicide prevention.
If you are looking to get the right kind of phygital experience designed for your enterprise, partnering with an innovative technology leader will provide a holistic approach to building next-gen phygital experiences.
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