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Malls embrace Phy-gital retail to add value to the customer's journey

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The dynamics of the retail industry are rapidly changing globally. The world has seen a transition in the way consumers shop at the mall. To satisfy these burgeoning customer needs, not only retailers but malls as well are embracing technology to reach modern shoppers.
While technology has definitely made life easier for consumers, mall developers in India have spent the better part of the last few years on their toes, finding appropriate technology solutions and them implementing them.
In order to be more competent, malls are putting their best foot forward to embrace emerging technologies. With increasing cut-throat competition, it has become the need of the hour for mall developers to innovate and implement cutting-edge technologies in a bid to lure the customer who was shifting to e-commerce due to convenience and vast choice.
“As retail and shopping malls evolve, the feeling of physically holding an item, taking ownership of it and walking from a store with the satisfied glow of the perfect purchase will not change. Retailers and malls can no longer just aim to push products, but instead, need to ask themselves how physical space and activities can add to creating a holistic experience.To do so, shopping malls and brands need to think about the types of experience their customers expect and leverage an end-to-end technology platform to turn that into reality, focusing on the overall customer journey,” says Naviin Ibhrampurkar, Marketing Head and Corporate Communications, Inorbit Malls.
Over time, technology has transcended from an aspiration to an expectation and has wedged itself securely between consumer and experience to create an everyday interface. It is also blurring the lines between physical and digital worlds bringing both of them together, and it has given birth to a new term ‘Phy-gital’.
So, What is Phygital Retail?
Phy-gital simply means enhancing physical channels by integrating digital technology and information, obscuring the lines between online and offline. It gives the customer options of buying at his convenience even in a brick-and-mortar setting. Phy-gital retail is trending, changing market dynamics and giving competition to traditional retail without eroding the importance of physical stores. It is the judicious mix of both and catering efficiently to both online and offline customers.
“Phy-gital retail is the new transformation in the retail industry which integrates online and offline worlds and allows retailers create closer, more effective, and human customer experiences. This new wave embraces the experience allows customers the convenience of ordering, collecting, returning, even exchanging products both online or at any of the brand’s brick-and-mortar stores,” states Yogeshwar Sharma, Executive Director and CEO, Select Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.
It blends together physical, i.e, touch and feel of product and services through various channels and integrate digital technology and information. It is an ecosystem where consumers have access to in-store shopping experience, online e-commerce shopping option and mobile and social commerce networks. It bring out a fulfilling experience connecting what customers see online or on mobile network and by touching and trying out the product in a physical store. It is a process of making the whole digital and physical shopping experience holistic and seamless and creating an opportunity of touch and feel, what customers see is what they get along with an endless aisle experience.
“Phy-gital is the hybrid evolution of a mall. It is embracing the technological revolution that we have experienced all over the world. It is streamlining the process of shopping and making the lives of consumers easier, accessing all options available in a very efficient manner i.e. maximum options in minimum time. Phy-gital is the new ‘window’ shopping. The new generation is a master of multi-dimensional shopping. They are exploring global trends, global offering parallelly with their Indian counterparts’ offerings and are hyper-aware. This is the answer to the question being asked in the last decade on who will survive the online vs offline. This is the point of equilibrium,” states Arjun Gehlot, Director, Ambience Malls.
“Being phy-gital does not only help us to stay connected with our customers but also build a long-term value for our customers through regular immersive experiences. The wholesome customer experience that we can create by blending both the digital and physical experiences, remains the key factor,” says Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited.
Malls Going Phy-gital
Phy-gital refers to a retail environment in which physical and digital experiences merge together seamlessly and complement each other in order to offer the consumer a single, positive, integrated experience. Mall developers are making sure consumers stay connected as soon as they enter into the centre. Consumer mobile devices are automatically connected with the Wi-Fi of the mall, opening up a new channel of communication opens up between him, the mall operator and the retailer.
> Many retail chains in malls have already successfully implemented technologies such as beacons, IoT andlocation-based technologies to identify customers in shopping zones to send out personalised messages on the items theywould be interested in buying.
> Some retail chains have gone a step further by matching their mobile identity with their online identity as well as utilize their data to suggest them items based on their interest, thus enhancing their customers’ in-store experience.
“We are using ‘experiential’ retail in the mall premises and making the customers ‘want to’ visit the nearby mall at every opportunity they get. And by providing fine dining restaurants, cafes, theme-based entertainment centres, etc in the mall brings ‘mall loyalty’ that in turn translates into success. We develop malls with an idea to provide a get together place for the family and friends, which cannot be achieved through Internet. Malls will sustain as long as there is a need to socialise and shop. In this business, there is a constant need to keep up with the audience and cater to their needs. Going Phygital is one such endeavour where we want to retain every customer — the ones interested in physical shopping and the ones who enjoy being digital,” asserts Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Group.
“In this mash up of things and blurring of boundaries between offline and online, ironically unquestionable clarity is required in the thought process and vision of a mall as we need to be sure on our footing in the present and ensuring success while walking on the path of future. A mall has to stick to its forte of being a brick-and-mortar space offering the widest gamut of brands. However, as the saying goes ‘change is inevitable’, the mall has to adapt and evolve with the time and adopt changing technology. The mall app is the quiver that connects customers with malls in the Phy-gital arena. Its goal is to facilitate the shopping experience rather than replace the existing setup. It provides right info at the right time in the most convenient and friendly manner possible. Every aspect of the shopper i.e. from coming to the mall to leaving the mall and making the visit memorable is the task of the app. Seems like a big task for a small piece of cyber real estate, however, we have got a great response and the people who have embraced it with open arms and are enjoying the benefits accompanied with it,” states Gehlot.
The modern retail reality has always been ‘innovate or die’. While consumers in India seamlessly move between the physical and digital worlds, it has become critical for traditional retailers and malls to have a system in place which blends the physical and digital ecosystem, enables brands and consumers to connect flawlessly to capture the attention of consumers, communicate values, enable purchase and support the purchase decision. Towards this, malls are using various technologies to lure in consumers. Smart tabs providing infographics, data entry via motion sensors, AI and VR technology, digital communication tools, bots like Kik Bot Shop, and voice-activated AI agents similar to Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa – malls are trying just about everything to make themselves advanced and equipped.
“Infiniti Mall has installed interactive kiosks on all the floors at malls to assist customers. We are amongst the first few malls in India to launch an enhanced customer-friendly rewards program where earning and burning of points happens at the POS/store itself,” says Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall.
“Quest Mall launched its mobile app which has various features for enhanced user engagement. The app is paired with Bluetooth Beacons installed inside the mall through which users get push notifications of various ongoing offers provided by the different brands/ stores within the mall. It also, has user interactive games and features like the ‘Walk-n-Win’ which works like a pedometer and counts the number of steps taken by the patrons inside the mall. And, we reward them for completing certain milestones like say 10,000 steps within the mall to win free vouchers. It has call to action buttons integrated for every restaurant inside the food and dining section which enables users to call them directly with a single touch and book a table,” Sanjeev Mehra, VP, Quest Properties India Ltd says.
“The objective of implementing technology strategy at Creaticity has been to offer end-to-end shopability. The Creaticity app helps customers to select products from an extensive digitised library and place them in their cart, we have smart functions such as aim n shop on our app that helps customers to know what promotions are being offered in which store without going. We also provide a link to find out EMI eligibility on the app. The app facilitates saving bills and warranty cards in Safety Wallet’ and also hosts loyalty program. One can even book a table at any of the restaurants through the app,” says Mahesh. M, CEO, Creaticity.
“Large screen interactive kiosks have been installed at the campus to help navigate, locate and show and download dynamic directions on their mobile from the kiosk through QR code. The campus is beacon-enabled that helps communicate knowledge tips to consumers making them aware of what to shop for and why,” he adds.
In a nutshell, mall operators and tenants are leveraging personalised digital ecologies when shoppers are either in or away from their centres. This avenue gives shoppers relevant information right from where to park the car to various offers and enticements like discounts, making the shopping experience personal, convenient and enjoyable.
And while malls are doing everything to make sure the visitor stays online in-mall, the flow of information has slowly but steadily transformed into a two-way street with tech-savvy Millennials open to sharing personal data via digital interaction in return for customised offers, discounted goods.
Importance of Social Media in the Phy-gital Journey
The facts are simple – social media is not a passing trend. A statistic that’s as easy to understand is that with over 3 billion around the world using the Internet, social media is no longer a choice, but a necessity for brands. Every business needs a social media presence today, for it is the fastest way for connect with consumers, increase brand awareness, and boost sales. In recent times, social media has become an imperative tool in an organisation’s integrated marketing strategy.
For malls, social media becomes even more relevant as it becomes the digital facade of the mall. It is where people see the mall and get a vibe of the place. It’s critical in keeping the customer informed and engaged “We are trying to integrate social media with our customer engagement led activities. For instance, we have initiated ‘Click a Selfie’ with the décor at Infiniti Mall and the winner would get gratification at the mall. We have also used social media to promote offers, new stores and events at our mall and have received great response through it,” says Kumar.
“Our social media efforts are more towards bringing communities together and enticing them to visit the campus through various online product, services and events initiatives that we promote from time to time. The objective is to promote, engage and convert a social visit to actual campus visit through various online methods that we use like AR functionality, Refer and Earn functionality, Digital coupon creation and its conversion mechanism and ticketing platforms visited or actual purchase,” adds Mahesh M.
The beauty of this medium of communication for retail is that is that retailers can engage with people at just about any point of the customer lifecycle. Also, the automated word-of-mouth with social reviews helps brands to create trust and gain insights about the products/services which is a great way to increase online and offline sales.
“We are providing our customers the best of both the worlds without affecting their choice. Going phy-gital has helped us communicate the mall offerings to our customers over multiple digital platforms and reducing dependability on traditional offline and print options. We can now communicate, promote and engage with our customers’ real time and customize communication based on target audience. Going phy-gital gives us an edge over online shopping platforms with the best of both online and brick-and-mortar worlds available at our disposal,” says Bansal.
“All of our sale campaigns are planned around social media. Be it Midnight Sale or Black Friday Sale or any brand launch, the first and foremost thing is to reach out to the social audience in the best possible manner. Then, we have more award-winning IPs like Quest Floral Fantasy and Beast on Wheels, which are 100 percent social media driven campaigns,” Mehra says.
“Quest has launched its first ever influencers outreach program called Quest Trendsetters Program. These group of influencers will promote various brands at the mall and in return will be entitled to certain privileges from us. Under this campaign we have already on-boarded influencers belonging to different categories e.g. Lifestyle, Food, Beauty etc. The response from the content that they create has been very encouraging. We plan of continuing to add more influencers to the Quest Trendsetters group who will help us create engaging content and reach a much wider audience,” he adds.
Going Phy-gital: Weaving New Growth Stories
Consumers experience something new every time they step out to shop. Better technology means better customer experience. So, indirectly it has a positive impact on sales too. When convenience, communication and technology come together, growth comes by default.
“The retail industry is going through a massive transformation and we can see that around us in a big way. By going phy-gital, it has bought online shoppers to stores, potentially driving up in-store purchases,” says Sharma.
“After going phy-gital, two major positive shifts have happened – 1. Footfall conversion from online platform and 2.
Through right sized physical stores and an endless aisle of products, have brought in a new age segment through online platforms to touch and feel the products at the physicalstores being put up at Creaticity and helped in a higher trading density,” adds Mahesh. M.
Going phy-gital has given malls a new dimension of understanding and interacting with customers.
“We are more efficient in rewarding our customers with every visit, every purchase that they do at the malls and are curating specific experiences for them,” Gehlot states.
What to Expect from Malls Going Forward
Malls are continuously endeavouring to improve mall processes to keep the customers happy and satisfied.
“Infiniti Mall is looking at bringing in enhanced new generation interactive kiosks and digital mediums which will play a crucial role in the success of mall in 2020,” says Kumar.
“We are bringing in a phygital experience backed with technology in a lot of areas such as parking, navigation, shopping, payments, etc to ease and enhance customer’s shopping experience at all our mall,” adds Bansal.
According to Dhanawade, “Technology has enabled us to stay connected with our customers at all touch points. To create an enhanced customer experience, we will be introducing technologies like Digital software’s for Customer Relationship management, feedback management for customers as well as retailers, Retailer Satisfaction Index, Operations checklist digitisation, interactive LED pods for navigation, feedback management and advertising, etc. Very soon we will be also launching an app for managing our Rewards Program G++ and Customer Relationship Management.  In 2020, you will see the launch of Digital software’s for Customer Relationship management, feedback management for customers as well as retailers, Retailer Satisfaction Index, Operations checklist digitisation, interactive LED pods for navigation, feedback management and advertising. ”
In 2020, Quest Mall is planning on multiple new features for its Quest Mobile App.
“One of the most interesting features would be the integration of the virtual food court card on the App. Currently, the food court has an option where the customers can buy a prepaid rechargeable card at the counter. Customers can use this new card to place their food order at any outlet at the food court. We are confident consumers will opt for this virtual wallet in place of using physical cards / cash,” concludes Mehra.

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