When it comes to technology one steadfast trend is the arrival of new buzzwords and phrases. This year it seems the term "phygital" is the big word when it comes to retail customer experience.
The "phygital" is the blending of the traditional in-store physical shopping experience and the digital, online technology-driven experience.
The term even warranted its own session at the Interactive Customer Experience (ICX) Summit held in Dallas in early June. Moderated by Chris Devlin, director of sales at Omnivex, the panel featured Float Hybrid Entertainment Creative Director Steve Chen and Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president, Shikatani Lacroix. The panel talked about how the phygital experience, via software, digital displays and other immersive approaches, is fast taking root. They also discussed its role in interactive customer experience strategies.
"This is an exciting time for us," said Devlin. "Software is a great enabler," harvesting customer benefits and enabling "the possible."
It's a time, said Lacroix, in which emerging technologies such as virtual reality and 3D capabilities are igniting a transformation. He said that explains why it's time to evaluate how such innovations are impacting the retail environment.
"There have been big conversations about ensuring the seamless journey," he said, noting that a phygital experience is all about ensuring a smooth interface.
"The customer should, in the store environment, be able to buy online from the retailer while in the store," he said Devlin advised retailers to create "a digital path to purchase" and noted that online commerce is winning when it comes to the customer's sense of discovery.
The customer journey must be at the forefront of the phygital strategy and a good approach is to map out customers' digital moments and the role of digital at each customer junction, he said.
"You need to connect all the digital and create a wave connecting all the communication points," said Lacroix. "It's all about the experience and how the consumers feel and we are seeing the line between design of physical and digital blurring and dissolving."
Chen, who defines phygital as the convergence of the consumer and digital worlds, noted it encompasses senses, including touch, sight and even taste.
"Consumer expectations have changed radically. Screens are not just objects anymore as consumers want and expect access to all information everywhere and anywhere," he said. "That's why you need to create an immersive experience, an emotional connection, which drives buying decision behavior."
In the future, emerging technologies tapped for phygital experience will include holograms, artificial intelligence and mixed reality solutions.
In use and deployment retailers are already being advised to use such tools with care.
"Virtual reality and artificial reality are really quite different and it will be a real challenge," said Chen. "Digital is a disruption tool that changes consumer behavior and it also requires changes in everything else, from staff to the company. It's not a bolt-on or something to operate on its own."
/ Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.