Phygital Retail The New Normal -Salil Kapoor

Like many other things, COVID-19 might potentially change retail forever. Phygital ( Physical  + Digital) or Click and Mortar ( Digital + Brick and Mortar ) are no longer going to remain mere buzzwords for digital transformation but will end up as the ‘New Normal’. 

Like any other crisis, this too shall pass and will be soon behind us. The aftermath, however, will continue for a little longer. Social distancing,  the best precautionary solution will be around for quite some time. This behavioural change will have a profound impact on certain industries including retail. 

As per many recent statistics as well as predictions, Ecommerce will certainly grow in the post COVID world. But what about the Brick and Mortar stores that constitute the bulk of Indian retail ?  Higher footfall the dream of every store will now become a thing to avoid. With social distancing guidelines ( or self-imposed restriction of consumers ) the army of floor salesmen will soon disappear and so will all the activities for attracting crowds. It will be the phase of serving from a distance. So how will the Brick and Mortar survive in the new world? What will be the new playbook? Here are a few things that might help.

Data is the new fuel for the retail engine. Its time to dust the physical bill books that have all the old bills and customer details. But it’s not only about digitising the old customer base but also about acquiring the target customer data of catchment area. Those who already have systems to capture customer data have some lead over others who never felt the need to do so till now. As it is all about farming the catchment, so building a prospective customer database will be a new challenge for both. Reaching out to this customer base in a non-intrusive manner will help retailers build engagement, eventually leading to customer acquisition from the catchment area of every store. And the catchments will be defined by data and the ability to deliver.

The last mile will be the new lifeline. The army of floor salesmen might get replaced with the army of delivering salesmen. The ability to deliver well and in time will define the customer experience. The traditional methods of delivering might be changed to a more professional and presentable manner including the product installation and demo in one go. The quality of this experience might determine customer retention.

Virtual is the new instore. With physical store visits making way for virtual visits UI/UX ( user interface/user experience) of virtual stores will be the new in-store for the customers. The product discovery and navigation will define the progress within the purchase funnel. This will be the new BTL and will need a similar focus and investment. 

Such a virtual store might still need a real-life demo. An onsite demo ie going to the customer for a pre-sales pitch might be a new element in every high-value product sales process. When the customer will no longer come to the store, then the store will need to go to the customer . This too in phygital manner ie some products in the real form and most showcased virtually.  Experiential marketing limited to niche categories might expand to a much larger range. This salesman on the wheels will demo, sell and deliver at the same time.

All this might still be a table stake and not a winner. The game-changer can be the creation of hyperlocal online market places. Online cloud store marketplaces are driven and managed by local shopping associations. It is time for physical retail to become truly Phygital, it is the time for bricks to embrace the clicks, it the time for the new Normal.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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