For Shopping Centers to emerge as a preferred retail destination in the post-COVID world, real estate owners and retailers must start thinking about the experience per every square foot. Influenced by digital commerce, customers now expect frictionless shopping, elevated comfort, and personalized experience. With these changing purchase drivers, experience driven by Phygital (Physical + Digital) retail will shape the future of shopping centers. For a successful transformation of shopping centers, phygital retail can be viewed in six dimensions:
Establishing phygital storefront is the primary and most critical dimension in the transformation. Cross-shopping is becoming an important differentiator as shopping centers start to serve as community centers, where customers could easily access experiences and events. Instead of a large format retailer as an anchor, the anchor in the phygital world can be a compelling social experience, interactive concert, experience-based entertainment, or an immersive museum. Such changes in anchor formats must be accompanied by a great digital experience where shopping centers must promote this content digitally, allow the booking of tickets online, and provide a seamless and continuous experience when the customer visits the shopping center.
In addition, the retailers within the shopping center can enable seamless digital click-and-collect platforms such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), buy online, pick up in locker (BOPIL), and curbside pickup. The shopping center’s website and mobile app can also allow customers to shop online in addition to information on activities and events, stores and brands, and services and membership rewards
While ensuring an engaging, seamless, and channel-agnostic experience, stores can also use the geo-fencing capability to send targeted messages and offers based on certain parameters within the shopping center.
With advancements in robotics, computer vision, and natural language processing, shopping centers should consider virtual assistants as part of their transformation. Virtual assistants can be deployed in different formats. It can provide assistance through voice, and it can also be used to monitor the facility to ensure customers have a seamless experience during their visit.
Retail stores can also adopt virtual assistants to monitor the aisle and ensure that the racks are loaded with stocks and preempt floor managers on the aisle that needs attention. Such physical robots can also help customers with any assistants while within the shop
According to Google, 66% of people are interested in using AR for assisted shopping. Retailers can use such technology for various improved experiences and provide a hygienic shopping experience. The store formats can install magic mirrors which can help customers virtually try before buying garments, accessories, or makeup items.
With advanced AI-powered technology and the usage of smart devices, even the stores can take quick body measurements and provides recommendations from different brands to enable a contactless apparel shopping experience. Such innovative physical experiences can lure customers to shop instore
Endless Aisle is another interesting feature that can very well bridge digital commerce and brick-and-mortar shops and provide a seamless experience. In-store kiosks enable retailers to display their complete range of products in-store and allow them to order products that are not sold in-store or are out of stock as well.
The aisle experience can also be enhanced by integrating further digital experience. Retail stores can enable users to know more about the products, customer reviews, and more by installing simple QR codes next to the products. Such interactive experience helps the customer research and buy with confidence at the storefront. The shopping centers can also use these technologies to provide more information about the stores in the shopping center, their ratings, and customer experience.
There cannot be a better influencer than social media. When the customer is in the store and if he/ she is being influenced by the right product then, there cannot be a better situation to make a sale. Retailers and shopping centers can promote trending items on social media and provide details on where to buy the same within the shopping center. Storefronts can display “Top Pinned Items” in stores with a Pinterest logo, to highlight the items or can enable live reactions to the garments or accessories which the customer wants to buy.
It goes without saying that unless these phygital experiences are delivered seamlessly, an overall positive customer experience can end on a low. While retailers and shopping centers strive to improve the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping by integrating digital experiences, they should not sideline the quality or testing of the same. They should engage niche service providers to ensure that such transformation is delivered exceptionally well by introducing quality gates at each level of implementation. In such phygital transformation, it is important to focus on nonfunctional aspects like performance, security, and usability of the digital components and also deploy crowd testing and a/b testing before a full-blown rollout.
Shoppers still see a purpose for shopping centers, potentially with more technology and it is time for real estate owners and retailers to reimagine how they engage customers.