In the era of hyper-connected consumers, retail mechanism requires immense persistence in order to provide a seamless and an unmatchable shopping experience across all those platforms where a customer is or can expected to be. With evolution in the retail from the traditional brick and mortar retailing to eCommerce and then omni-channel, consumers today have become more demanding be it in terms or shopping ease, product quality or touch-points.
No doubt Indian retailers (both online and offline) have been on their toes in order to integrate modern and cutting edge technologies to garner operations. From a product driven market to a consumer driven market, Indian retailers have transmitted everything possible to acquire more and more consumers. Omni-channel has been one of the biggest weapon for both online and offline retailers to strengthen their presence in the market. Today a customer expects retailers to be present wherever they are. A customer from a city like Bengaluru will expect their favourate brands to be available online while a customer from a small town such as Agra will expect brands to have stores available in their cities.
With such varied consumer behaviour it has become essential for retailers to be omni present. But having an omni-channel mechanism in place is not an easy ballgame all together. No doubt omni-channel retail is advanced and consistent in providing seamless customer experience (CX), but at the same time has its own set of challenges.
Recently Aspire Systems, a Chennai-based software development services company, conducted a webinar ‘Phygital Retail - Merging Online & In-store Customer Experience’ to explore the opportunities, challenges and solution to how build an effective omni-channel strategy and what does the future of retail holds for both market and the consumers.
Challenges seen as opportunities
i. Need to enhance in-store experience.
ii. Online and store journeys are independent; would require a bridge for the two activities
iii. Digital and store marketing are not linked.
iv. Store manager incentives for encouraging customers for online/ digital channels are not aligned.
v. KPIs/ metrics for mutual/ store impact are not well understood.
i. Mobiles in hands for customers and store associates
ii. IoT – Indoor Location knowledge, digital signage, virtual try-ons and mirrors
iii. Big data – easy insights at low cost
And the solution is...
Blending physical retail with digital technologies (Physical + Digital = Phygital) is the solution to these above mentioned facts. Phygital is the convergence of the physical and digital platforms, and is referred to as ‘Omni-channel 2.0’. It is seen as the future of retail, seamlessly integrating physical and digital retail, and further enhancing customer experience by several notches. Commenting on the same Sunil Bajaj, Director- Retail, Aspire System said “Today’s omni-channel experiences are task driven; for example, click and pick, but next generation of solutions will be much more seamless between channels; it will be personalised and reduce the distance between digital and physical worlds.”
Four trends that are shaping tomorrow’s retail
i. In-store Customer Engagement via Mobile Apps – Mobile is considered the glue that bridges physical and digital; physical store shopping is merely a continuation of online shopping, and one can move wish list and shopping cart items to the store.
ii. Personalised targeting – Every customer is unique, and personalization of product recommendations, promotions, location-based offers only assure customers that the retailer really knows them, and would therefore know what is best for them.
iii. Self Service – Customers already use smartphones to locate products in stores, compare prices of items, and pay using digital wallets. The main objective of a mobile app, for instance, would be to provide all the services that a store/ store employee does, and more.
iv. Empowering Employees – Retailers are now increasingly in agreement that store associates are well-equipped with knowledge of customer and product insights, easy checkouts, past transactions, customer feedback and quick response to feedback received.
These phygital retail concepts can help retailers double the attention they get from customers, increase basket size and improve in-store efficiencies. Mobile, IoT and big data are some of the enablers for tomorrow’s experience but most of current providers are looking at part of the problems like analytics, location based services etc.