The omnichannel strategy of distribution stakeholders, which consists in managing all distribution and communication channels in an integrated way, shows signs of growing interest from both professionals and academia. The increasing number of touchpoints and interactions between consumers and products leads to a focus on their buying experience rather than on the act of purchase itself.
The following fictional excerpt reflects the reality of some buyer’s journeys that are the result of an omnichannel strategy:
« Yesterday, I compared tents online. I noticed a few, but it was hard to really know what they were like. So I went to Décathlon where I was able to try a couple of tents with virtual reality. I tried them out in the mountains, the tropical forest and in the woods! I will probably order one tomorrow on their website, and I’ll pick it up at their store next to the office. »
Not only has the journey become more complex in terms of the number of interactions, but it has also diversified with touchpoints and experiences that alternate from real life to online environments, both in store and on mobile devices such as our computers and smartphones.
Physical + digital = phygital
The question of the shopping experience is at the heart of the article by Christian Rivet, Julie Reghem and Marianela Fornerino, published in Décisions Marketing. More particularly, the authors are interested in the shopping experience in a phygital store. By phygital store, they mean a store that offers experiences inspired by the virtual or digital world. The term phygital is the result of a contraction of two terms: “physical” and “digital”. The experience that Decathlon stores offer with their tents is a good example. Recently, Casino supermarkets launched a new concept of a connected point of sale offering an augmented reality window display, payment via a mobile application (and therefore more cash registers), a terminal with voice assistance, etc. These are all techniques and tools that make the real and digital worlds overlap. The store is real and physical and requires the consumer to actually go there, but the experience combines traditional elements with digital tools to allow an evolution in the consumer experience.
Shopping experience and innovation: the point of sale still plays an important role
In this context, understanding how consumers navigate between different touchpoints and analyzing their entire shopping experience becomes essential in order to understand the reality of their behavior. The aim of this study is to explore the in-store experience when consumers are in a phygital store. With a qualitative methodology in a lab-store simulating a futuristic and innovative digital store, the authors show how these innovations present both utilitarian and hedonic functions for an overall experience perceived as enriched. However, the integration of these connected devices is not enough to enhance the experience: the settings and dramatization are key elements of the phygital appartus. Therefore, physical elements play an important role in brand commitment and the perception of brand value.
What does separate physical from digital in phygital points of sale?
In line with research focusing on the customer journey and the overall consumer experience, alternating physical and digital points of sale, phygital stores offer a “seamless” experience. The authors do not see consumers interrupting their experiences or jumping from one environment to the other, and even go so far as to highlight confusions between virtual and real…
Rather than thinking of stores as a point of sale, we may instead consider the point of sale as a living place where real and digital combine to create new consumer experiences.
Rivet C., Reghem J. et Fornerino M. (2018) Explorer l’expérience de shopping dans un magasin phygital, Décisions marketing, 91, Numéro spécial « Distribution et commerce : se réinventer face au client connecté », 45-61 (in French)
Blog post adapted by Federico Garcia Baena from Yolande Piris‘s (in French)