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Focus On The Future of CX is ‘Phygital’ Experiences

Digital technologies provide amazing ways for us to communicate with each other and engage with brands. But we all know that physical experiences are more engaging and memorable than digital ones - after all, major life events rarely involve us staring at a smartphone.
‘Phygital’ experiences (those that combine the physical and digital worlds) create immediacy, immersion and interaction. 2017 will an increase of the number of these projects, and the outsourcing community has the ability - through their successful delivery - to enhance customer lives and add brand value.

Why it’s important to think phygital
The communications landscape is becoming increasingly complicated for brands. How do you reach your customers, when they are operating beyond the predictable places? 
The new ‘phygital’ shopper was born in the 1990s and doesn’t see a difference between the physical and the digital. They use their mobile phones to browse stock levels in the shop they’re already standing in. 
So e-commerce brands need to think in the same way. It’s no longer enough to be simply ‘digital’. In fact, for savvy brands, there is no ‘digital’. 
After all, the very best ‘digital’ experiences don’t occur on screen – they can now happen instore. Think of Charlotte Tilbury’s VR pods in Selfridges or YSL Beauty’s Google Glass makeup tutorials, which merge the best of the physical and the real. Augmented and virtual realities have transformed the instore experience arguably more than an extra sales assistant ever could. 
And likewise, we’re now realizing the age-old brand ambition of recreating the in-store experience online. Virtual experiences like Ted Baker’s shoppable videos give customers the level of immersive experience and customer service they could expect in the real world. 
Today, customers are not loyal to any channel and they expect a seamless experience – online or offline. 

Navigating the traps
So, should brands be encouraged to attempt phygital experiences, no matter what their platform bias? Absolutely - but only with proper planning in place. 
That’s because there are lots of pitfalls involved when you navigate the phygital. Scatter gun messaging is an obvious no-go. Instead, brands should work to understand the strengths of each platform. Mobile is the medium of convenience and browsing, for example, but more people make purchases on laptop - not forgetting that people can start journeys digitally, but finish them in-store too. 
With such an inherently complicated purchase journey, marketers should embrace fluidity in their customer experience. It must be easy to move between platforms without interruption or worse, disruption. Anything that jolts the customer out of their seamless perception of the phygital will be damaging. 
To do this, brands need to consider the details. Low stock levels in the real world need to be reflected quickly in the online world in order to manage disappointment and maximize customer experience, for example. What starts out as an advantage can quickly turn sour without proper connections in place. 
Getting it right
But working through these issues can yield untold rewards. As the lines continue to blur between platforms, fearless brands won’t hesitate to tap into the collective power of ‘online’ and ‘instore’ to create the ultimate, uninterrupted customer experience. The old adage of a sum being greater than its collective parts holds very true here. 
And fortune will favour the brave; it’s those brands who admit that traditional channel marketing may have had its day can win the e-commerce sector. Those who talk about ‘digital’ or ‘in-store’ will most likely lose. 
It’s time to say goodbye to one-dimensional experience forever. 

By Alastair Cole, Chief Innovation Officer at Partners Andrews Aldridge

Join the GSA and Alastair Cole at Excellence at Customer Experience on Thursday 16th February 2017

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