Workshop Recap: The Future of Retail in a Phygital World

27 Mar 2023

news, retail

At the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s workshop, The Future of Retail in a Phygital World, presenter Laura Rowley, reminded participants that people are fundamentally social beings. They yearn for interaction and unique experiences that bricks and mortar retailers have the power and space to facilitate. Retailers can design experiences that provide memorable social interactions, meaningful emotional experiences, and activities and programming that educate, inform, entertain, and unite communities. People are looking for these kinds of experiences.

In the workshop, Rowley emphasized that the overwhelming majority of their customers’ journeys begin online (93%!). Therefore, retailers must take a “phygital” approach that combines the best parts of the physical customer experience with the conveniences of the digital realm. Shoppers want consistency of interaction across channels and seamless cross-channel movement. Being able to check online for in-stock items is a critical feature of a retailer’s online presence. Forty-six percent (46%) of shoppers check stock availability online before visiting a store to make a purchase.

Customers want speed in delivery, whether they purchase online and pick up in the store or have the product delivered to them at home. Sixty-five percent (65%) of shoppers expect the promised delivery/pickup time to be met. Retailers should prioritize a frictionless, multichannel fulfillment strategy that includes options to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), reserve online, pick up in-store (ROPIS), and buy online, return in-store (BORIS).

In addition to the availability of various fulfillment options, customers also want cost visibility and versatile payment options, such as Apple Pay, PayPal, and online gift cards, along with the more traditional payment methods. With all this, customers desire a seamless customer service experience and expect transparency about products and services, order status, and customer service requests. Eighty-six percent (86%) of shoppers indicated that they would pay 15% more for a seamless experience.

Increasingly, customers feel a sense of connection through shared values with businesses (e.g., sustainability is an important trend right now), A staggering 82% of shoppers want a brand’s values to align with their own; 75% of shoppers surveyed said they had parted ways with a brand over a conflict in values.

Virtual and live retail events, such as customer events, launch parties, meet-up groups, and classes and workshops, allow retailers to build and strengthen connections and build a sense of community with customers. Live shopping with social commerce that enables shoppers to purchase products directly from a live session simulcast on social media platforms is becoming another popular way to build customer connection. Trends such as recommerce, which features selling of previously owned, new, or used products, go hand-in-hand with customers’ increasing values of sustainability. Recommerce is growing twenty times faster than the broader retail market.

As retailers consider the best approaches to engage customers, it is important to create experiences that seamlessly serve customers across physical and digital channels. Customers are seeking out retailers that provide consistency, transparency, and fast, seamless delivery. They are also looking for opportunities to build community through live and virtual retail experiences. Recommerce strategies and connecting with shoppers through shared values are approaches that businesses can use to attract and maintain their customers.  

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