Reshaping Retail CX: Blending In-Store With Digital for Superior Experiences

If customers could decide the future of retail, what would they choose? The convenience of online shopping? Or the tactile, immersive experience of physical stores?  

The answer is both. 

The industry has entered the age of “phygital” retail, where a seamless blend of physical and digital shopping experiences is poised to redefine customer experience (CX) and consumer expectations.  

Customers seek new, unique in-store experiences to complement the efficient, flexible service they find with e-commerce. If they can offer a blend of both, retailers have a huge opportunity to drum up business, enhance brand recognition, and increase loyalty by allowing people to interact with products whenever, wherever, and however they choose.   

With the ease of online retail, customers have little incentive to leave their homes unless the in-store experience offers something attractive. People are looking for a connection, a story, and a reason to keep coming back. And phygital experiences are the key to making that happen.  

But transforming in this way can be a challenge. It requires a deep understanding of your customers, a clear vision for your brand, and a willingness to innovate. Critically, if companies don’t start to offer phygital experiences, they run the risk of widening the customer journey execution gap.  

In this instalment of our Reshaping Retail CX series, we delve into the new realities that this phygital revolution presents and explore how retailers can start to play a part in it.  

Experiential Shopping and the Human Touch  

As convenient as it is, online shopping can’t replicate the experience of walking into a beautifully designed store, trying out products, and getting personalized advice from knowledgeable sales advisors. Hence, the retail focus is shifting towards creating attractive, destination-type shopping experiences—immersive, experiential journeys that engage customers with the brand and its products. 

Physical stores need to be more than just a place to view products; they need to provide something extra to make the effort of visiting worthwhile. This could be anything from expert advice to hands-on product demonstrations, but the key is to create an emotional connection between the customer and the product.  

The human element is a crucial part of this in-store experience. Customer service representatives are no longer there just to facilitate transactions; they’re there to guide customers on a journey. Still, as more and more people become comfortable with self-service and digital checkouts, the role of in-store staff is changing. Retailers must rethink how their in-store customer service teams can accompany customers on their phygital journeys, much like Apple’s “Geniuses”, who offer tech support, product testing, and sales support all in one. 

Online options are a key part of experiential shopping. For example, if a customer can’t find their size or preferred color in-store, they should be able to easily order it online without leaving. With this option, brands can avoid losing customers to the ‘ghost shopping’ trend, where people visit physical stores to see and touch products before buying at the cheapest price online. This behavior underscores the importance of physical stores in providing a sensory-rich experience that is so compelling that customers want to complete their purchase on the spot rather than price-checking online competitors. 

IKEA as a Phygital Pioneer  

The IKEA model is an excellent example of a compelling phygital retail experience. IKEA stores are designed to take people on a journey, showcasing products in a showroom environment that customers might not have discovered if they were shopping online. This journey culminates in a warehouse-like section where customers are often directed to make their purchases online for home delivery. 

But what truly sets IKEA apart is how it turns shopping into an experience that appeals to the whole family. Children look forward to visiting IKEA because they know they’ll get to enjoy an ice cream or a plate of meatballs at the end of the trip. This simple yet effective strategy drives foot traffic to the stores and creates positive associations with the IKEA brand.  

The brand is continuing to innovate, introducing virtual reality showrooms where customers can test out different furniture layouts in a computer-generated copy of their home, then select their favorite products for later purchase either in-store or online. And with IKEA Kreativ, customers can use a smartphone camera to scan a room, then digitally remove existing furniture to make space for IKEA products. 

In essence, IKEA has transformed shopping from a chore into an inspirational activity and even a fun family outing, and it’s a powerful example of how retailers can leverage the phygital model to create unique, engaging experiences that draw customers into their physical stores and build strong brand loyalty. 

Leveraging Tech and Expert Partnerships  

When implementing a phygital strategy, it’s crucial to remember that the retail customer journey is no longer a linear path from point A to point B. Instead, it’s a complex web of interactions across multiple online and offline touchpoints. 

Retailers can glean customer insights on these touchpoints from data analysis and AI. These tools can help brands understand the economic impact of certain customer behaviors, enabling them to tailor their in-store offerings and experiences accordingly. Moreover, outsourcing to an expert company in customer experience and digitalization can prove invaluable, especially when they offer services such as advanced data analysis, generative AI, and process optimization. 

At Concentrix, we often provide services to retailers with our CX Consultancy, Concentrix Partners. By combining expert advice and specialist solutions, we help retailers strategize and implement blended experiences, link customer journeys, and optimize the use of technology for phygital transformation. This consulting approach leads to solutions tailored to each retailer’s unique needs and circumstances to help them close the customer journey execution gap. 

Moreover, outsourced customer service advisors can also play a role in enhancing the physical retail experience. For instance, if a store associate doesn’t have the information a customer needs, they could direct the customer to a digital screen for a video call with a knowledgeable human. This kind of assisted journey, facilitated by video assistance, chatbots, and other technologies, can help bridge the gap between the physical and digital realms. 

To wrap things up, the future of retail lies in creating a customer journey that combines the tangible, sensory-rich experience of physical retail with the convenience and efficiency of digital commerce. It’s about meeting customers where they are and where they want to be, whether that’s in a physical store or online. It’s about creating a seamless, personalized shopping experience that resonates with customers and keeps them coming back for more.  

This is the essence of the phygital revolution, and it’s the future of retail. 

Learn more about how we help the world’s best brands to innovate their retail experiences.

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