When people think of marketing, they usually think about one way of engaging customers. Online or offline. Digital or traditional media. However, it’s become clear that an omnichannel approach that integrates both online and offline shopping experiences is essential. Many businesses will benefit from updating their marketing strategy to take both modes into account in creating cohesive, curated experiences for individual customers. There’s a new word for this type of marketing strategy that merges the physical and the digital – it’s phygital!
Consider the stats. While 63% of people start the shopping process online, many of those customers will complete that journey in person. In fact, nearly half of American consumers – 49% – prefer making purchases in brick-and-mortar shops. The point is, despite the popularity and convenience of online shopping, the physical, in-store, offline shopping experience is incredibly powerful and very rewarding. Whether or not that physical experience started online, once inside a store, 82% of shoppers use mobile devices to read products reviews and compare prices before talking to sales associates.
Phygital marketing responds to this new reality. It takes the entire customer journey into account to create a seamless and personalized customer experience. In other words, it takes the best aspects of the in-person shopping experience and combines them with the convenience of digital commerce to create customer journeys that are functional, fulfilling and highly memorable.
Even if you’ve never heard of phygital marketing, you’ve probably already experienced its blend of online and offline moments during a recent shopping experience. Maybe you’ve ordered something online, but retrieved it using curbside pickup or at an in-store locker. Maybe you’ve made online reservations for a store or service visit. Maybe an eVite to a pop-up landed on your inbox – or a text with promo code for use on site. Phygital marketing responds to customer needs by making in-person shopping experiences more convenient, customized and meaningful. A store app or touchscreen might show customers how many items are in stock, at what locations, and let them reserve items for pick-up. Customers might be able to scan QR codes on products and add them to a digital wish list.
Stores are having success with phygital marketing during holidays and big shopping festivals, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, and the Qixi Festival, China’s Valentine’s Day. There’s already a mix of online and offline shopping during these events and the phygital approach lets customers discover products quickly, learn about them, and make purchases for delivery in the method that suits them best.
New technologies are being used in phygital marketing, too. Cosmetics and fashion stores can let customers virtually “try on” makeup and clothing using Augmented Reality in virtual mirrors. A person’s avatar can model new clothing inside immersive 3D worlds and the pictures can be shared with friends. Location-based text notifications can send out tailored coupons and offers when customers are in-store to encourage sales and share product information. Conversation apps that let customers have video chats with sales associates and view products from their phones have successfully converted many online customers into in-store sales.
The phygital trend is growing fast in China, and luxury brands are combining offline and online brand interactions in special ways to enhance and personalize the consumer experience – and make it more exclusive. Swiss luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin set up invite-only, private showcases for prospective customers entirely online that mirrored the tailored experience of visiting the luxury retailer in-store. The brand sold several limited edition products during the VIP livestream.
Alibaba’s eCommerce platform, Tmall, has put major emphasis on phygital marketing in its Tmall Luxury Pavilion, which now features over 200 luxury and designer brands. The Luxury Pavilion has a personalized gift recommendation tool, a white-glove delivery service and offers post-purchase services.
Gucci, for example, offers to add new holes to their watch straps as a service free of charge. That means even online watch orders may involve physical customer touchpoints long after the fact. These services are, by necessity, are done on site, and become important extensions of customers’ engagements with brands. Jewelry, accessories and designer fashion brands usually offer free tailoring and cleaning post-purchase, and that includes home pickup and delivery. Customers can therefore use Tmall to arrange pick-up and track service status online. The luxury experience is not just about the product, but about exceptional service and more brands are achieving this through phygital marketing.
Many businesses struggle more than they need to by focusing almost exclusively on either physical or digital marketing when they’d benefit from a much more integrated approach. Adopting a phygital marketing strategy stays true to your brand and enhances the customer relationship by anticipating customer needs and meeting them wherever they are.
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