Phygital – The Revolution in Marketing

Change is the only gospel Marketing Communication seems to follow. The transition from focusing only on offline marketing to getting hands on digital marketing has been hard enough for most orthodox and unorganized businesses, yet another revolution in interaction with their consumers is underway.

Phygital Marketing binds together the physical world and the digital world to broaden the dimension of interaction and engagement with the customer. The most striking aspect is not the necessitated amalgamation of the two worlds, but the expected shift from the unidirectional flow towards the consumers to the bidirectional interaction is what marketing managers are looking forward to. The term “phygital” sums up where marketing is heading in the future. It is based on the premise that consumers are now connected with their brands in their sub-conscious state as well.

Phygital Marketing creates an ecosystem between the brand and the consumers, capitalizing on the human need of wanting tangible or physical relationships with the brands. Phygital enhancements will level the competition fields to a great extent. For example, on one hand, the bricks and mortar retailers are using digital channels such as QR codes on smartphones and augmented reality applications to create an indulging in-store experience, while on the other, e-commerce bluechips such as Amazon are moving to web-to-store initiatives “Amazon Go” that offer a tactile and immersive customer experience.

Here is how Xerox did it. Airports have a high footfall of working professionals who usually kill time waiting. They certainly needed a distraction which is amusing as well. Xerox started a “Ready for real business?” advertisement campaign on life-sized nine screen touch displays, which would open virtual doors on touching the display. For example, by tapping on the virtual door of Marriott Hotel's room, one could ‘spy’ on the people, or for Target retail stores, deliver mail on a bike, turning the entire advertisement platform into a game. 

1-800-Flowers in the United States of America assessed the importance of Facebook in wishing friends and family ‘Happy Birthday’. They integrated their flower ordering service with Facebook. Regardless of the place, friends could each contribute one flower to a bouquet which would then be physically delivered to the friend on his birthday. They effectively morphed their physical services with a social media platform not for direct one-way advertisements, but for a two-way communication of advertisement as well as completing the sale.

It becomes extremely essential for the service rendering organizations as inherently, they lack the tangibility enjoyed by others. Phygital marketing has had an equally compelling effect on Social Media platforms as well. China’s largest cross-platform application, WeChat, has expanded from its core feature of instant messaging, and now provides commercial services such as payment of bills and tickets bookings. Industry experts say that this is just the beginning as social media giants will have to grind their gears and compete for the omnipresent space of user interaction.

Retailers, social media platforms, and industry influencers will soon have to accept that what they do online will become totally redundant in the near future if it is not supported by what they are doing offline.  It is paramount to know the point of interaction between the brands and its customers. “Right Place, Right Time” is the crux of phygital marketing. Brands will have to ensure that they have a relevant presence at all points of interactions so that connecting the digital and physical dots becomes seamless.

For example, what if tomorrow the departmental store near you came to you and took your monthly groceries order while you are traveling in a metro rail or in a bus? You don’t need to spare extra time for going to the store at all. Using phygital communication, Tesco in Korea created virtual stores on the platforms in Metro stations, featuring all products from the supermarket. While waiting for the train, commuters were able to order with the help of their phones and get the products delivered at home. They successfully increased their presence without spending on the infrastructure and the management of big-box retail stores. 

Tesco's Homeplus Subway Virtual Store

Instead of moving from one screen to another, marketers must now move from one screen to the physical world and back to the screen in order to make the two-way communication functional. Brands are now increasing the saliency, sales and share through phygital communication channels. It is not only increasing the utility of advertisement but also enhancing the customer experience along with it. In comparison to offline marketing channels, phygital channels reduce the overall footprint, thereby reducing the overall per-impression costs of the marketing by miles. There will be no limit to the interactive merchandising opportunities. To continue, by tapping and scanning user interaction, brands can tailor the experience to increase personalisation of the communication and ameliorate the holistic phygital engagement.

Things look even brighter for the customers. Allowing brands to track certain pieces of data can improve services for their customers. Enough of spam emails and vexatious messages. Customers will be able to get more relevant information and marketing messaging that they actually want to receive. For example, a shop can send emails and messages about a specific offer to only whose customers who had either purchased or shown interest in it. 

With the increasing use of wearable technology such as smartwatches and fitness bands, the entire phygital experience is only going to become more interactive and persistent. It can be concluded that Phygital Marketing is here to stay in the near future.