Phygital experience: The new marketing frontier

March 14, 2022 by
Frank Calviño
Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

A phygital experience is a union between e-commerce and physical stores. The idea is to take advantage of the benefits of both environments to build a framework that empowers both: traditional brick and mortar stores and the rising e-commerce. 

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This trend has come as a natural evolution of a post-pandemic world and is an attempt to empower physical stores with the lessons learned from the e-commerce world during the pandemic.  

In a way, one could claim that it is just another omnichannel approach to sales, but that would be a mistake. The real phygital concept aims to integrate physical capabilities with digital ones, thus creating the first steps towards a Metaverse-Real World integration.  

Let’s take a quick look at some key examples of this concept! 

The phygital experience in our near future 

Probably the first phygital experiences will be used for marketing. For example, interactive billboards, or elements that invite interaction with unexpected results. 

Some of the next-generation elements of the phygital that we might see in the near future could be like:

Beacons: Devices that work through the Bluetooth signal. They locate the consumer in the case of carrying a beacon tracker on their phone so they can receive information of all kinds on their device from the store they are in. This provides customized advertising, promotions, and sales, in accordance with the tracking info of the customer. For example, a customer that first visits a sports store then goes to a clothing store, and finally goes to a healthy restaurant, could get a special offer for a nearby gym, or dietists consult or special sport supplement products, due to the AI accurately assessing that this person is starting or pursuing a healthy lifestyle. 

Touchscreens: In-store displays that aid in shopper interaction. They present information with different characteristics to those that can be seen on the physical product. 

RFID: This technology replaces barcodes in stores. It is a label that stores all kinds of product information, either on manufacturing or traceability from the place of origin to the point of sale. It is a technology that works through radio frequency and is very useful when it comes to sharing information. This RFID can interact with multiple devices, like smartphones, providing to the customer accurate information that was impossible to fit in a regular label. 

Smart fitting rooms: Thanks to RFID tags on garments, the fitting room mirror is able to recognize the object. Through a touch interface, the user can operate the mirror and interact with it to display more information about the product or even other pieces that match it. 

Light ID: This is a technology that uses light as a communication channel to transmit alerts directly to mobile devices and can be used for multiple purposes allowing proximity data communication with articles that the customer might be interested in buying. 

Examples of currently functional phygital experiences

Currently, there are a few examples of successful phygital experiences. Let’s check out three of them: 

Nike: The Nike by Melrose store in Los Angeles is designed around local data analysis of their LA NikePlus members. Those insights have then informed what products are offered in-store, and the development of store-specific product lines. With the Nike app, members can redeem rewards in the store, book a product testing session, reserve products for pick-up, and access curbside returns by texting the store IA directly.

Timberland: In an effort to complement the in-store experience with their e-commerce selection Timberland was a pioneer of phygital, even before the term catch up around the world. In 2017 the brand has introduced the TouchWalls concept in their Manhattan store. The digital displays presented customers with online-only inventory where shoppers could touch product photos to learn more and build personalized shopping lists. In turn, Timberland harvested data from the interaction between store-provided NFC tablets, the touch wall, and the store visit that they can analyze for better retail and remarketing experiences.

KFC China: Another successful early adopter of phygital was KFC.  In China KFC has tested face recognition touchscreens since 2018. The idea is that the touchscreens can recognize regular customers and provide them with a selection of the products they usually order, as well as with specific promotions and sales designed to fit their appetites, as well as allow them to pay just by recognizing the face and processing the payment to a previously linked account or card. 

All in all, it seems that the future of e-commerce will be a blend of physical and digital capabilities, bound together with one goal: to expand and enrich the customer experience. 

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