What Is Phygital Retail? A Rising Experiential Trend

A blend of omnichannel, in-store tech, and experiential design are creating one of the most exciting trends in retail right now: phygital.

What Is Phygital?

Phygital combines two words we talk about with omnichannel retail all the time: physical and digital. Omnichannel is about being everywhere your customers are and making the transition from online to in-store shopping seamless. Endless aisle, for example, bridges this gap by providing the same experience regardless of whether a customer is in-store or online. 

Phygital retail goes beyond this, using digital tools to deliver a unique experience. This often means employing tech to digitally enhance an in-store or online experience.

Examples And Applications

Let’s dive into some of the specific ways retailers are using phygital strategy right now.

Smart Mirrors

Smart mirrors are a great, straightforward application of phygital for apparel retailers. A smart mirror can enable virtual try-on or show customers what a particular outfit looks like in different colors or styles and may even make recommendations to enhance an outfit. Virtual try-on applications are a great way to let customers see their options when their size is out of stock. If your customer is trying to create an entire look, a smart mirror makes it much easier to mix and match elements without the hassle of taking clothes on and off.

Online Video Calling

Shopping online is extremely convenient, but what your customers can see of a product is fairly limited. Online video calling allows consumers to shop for a variety of merchandise from home without the constraints that usually exist in a digital shopping environment. For certain items, it’s important to get a sense of layout and physicality. 

An online video call can improve the traditional experience by letting buyers see the product as-is and by providing them with an in-store representative who can answer questions, focus the camera on specific areas, and so on. Your customer gets the convenience of online shopping without having to place as much blind trust on a product description and gets the opportunity to talk with a real person who knows the product and your brand.

QR Scanning

Some retailers are bringing AR/VR experiences to their stores with QR scanning. This initiates a digital experience for the customer on their phone. At its most basic application, QR scanning can provide more information about a product. Ingredients and allergens for food, for example, or materials and sizing specifications for clothing. Online, customers can use AR codes to scan and view digital items at scale in their homes. 

Self-Service Kiosks

A self-service kiosk at a fast-service restaurant can allow customers to view everything available on the menu, filter and sort through options, easily make substitutions, check ingredients and allergens, and place and pay for their order. Customers appreciate this depth of service without having to communicate with a cashier, and this mimics the convenience of e-commerce with the added benefit of (nearly) immediate in-store delivery.

Geo-Location Technology

Geo-location technology uses GPS data from smartphones to pinpoint customer location and serve up content or initiative services at opportune times. For example, you might use geo-location to notify nearby smartphone users that your store has something noteworthy to offer, such as a new service or a special deal. Retailers with pick-up services can use geo-location to find out when a customer is nearby so they can prep their order and get it ready. Some more advanced applications might target specific users based on other shops they have been to, including competitors.

Virtual Subject Matter Experts

Phygital retail also offers the possibility to connect in-store customers to the right experts, regardless of location. Virtual Subject Matter Experts often appear on large digital screens in-store. SMEs can guide customers through a purchase or experience. For some technical or complicated purchases, having a virtual SME at hand can be extremely helpful to customers who might not be able to get the answers they need from in-store staff.

Why Phygital Matters

A phygital retail strategy that provides a great customer experience can accomplish a lot for your brand. With phygital tools, you can:

  • Drive purchases
  • Encourage repeat visits
  • Earn social media shares
  • Win customer loyalty
  • Provide immediate gratification

Phygital delivers a memorable and impactful experience that customers enjoy and want to reward.  It drives enormous benefits in brand loyalty, which is especially critical for the growing cohort of Millennial and Gen Z shoppers who readily share their experiences and spread awareness online. Retailers who embrace phygital and begin employing the strategy in their own stores stand to gain a huge market share over those who choose to continue using traditional strategies.

The Next Step Of Experiential Retail

Experiential has been the talk of the retail town for a few years now, but as the strategy matures and we leave behind many pandemic restrictions, we’re beginning to see experiential strategies grow even faster. 

Phygital is the next step in delivering an elevated, curated experience to consumers. Provide your customers with more convenience and a targeted experience and they’ll not only give you their business, but also become ambassadors for your brand in the community and online.

Ready to start driving new business with a phygital strategy? Contact MINT to begin planning your next retail project.

February 7, 2023