Google News

Why the ‘why’ matters in phygital experiences

Must Read
Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

Experts from brand consultancy Landor & Fitch share insights on digital, design and why doing it all with purpose is critical to making tech-enabled experiences work for a business as well as its customers

New Delhi: Digital has merged seamlessly into our lives and is now increasingly merging into our stores. In 2018, globally $1.3 trillion was spent on digital transformation initiatives as per Forbes data. Gartner research reveals that 80% of CEOs are increasing digital technology investments. A Gartner study found that 80% of chief executive officers said they would shore up investments in digital technology. For enterprises, customer experience is the second top priority when it comes to investments, the first being growth and the third being technology modernisation.

We speak to two experts from leading brand consultancy Landor & Fitch who work with retail companies across categories to help them differentiate themselves through tech-enabled experiences across various customer touchpoints, including at the physical stores. Jonathan Cummings is the president at Landor & Fitch APAC leading the consultancies growing work in the region. Apolline Picot is the executive creative director – Experience at Landor & Fitch. She leads the experience team and has extensive experience designing world-class retail and workplace projects in the region.

Why the ‘why’ matters in phygital experiences
L-R – Apolline Picot (executive creative director – Experience at Landor & Fitch) and Jonathan Cummings (president at Landor & Fitch APAC)

Cummings and Picot speak to IndiaRetailing about the right way to go about integrating digital into retail to achieve connected and meaningful experiences that lead to good returns on investment and happy customers. Edited excerpts:

More retail businesses are offering phygital experiences. What are your views on the same?

Jonathan Cummings: Phygital as a concept came about because there was a need to bring the physical and digital together because as a consumer, you don’t really differentiate.

Apolline Picot: 
Brands now need to make that jump, looking at physical and digital as one like in real life. We need to look at things from a customer perspective which is harmony between the two and look at the best touch point that will help achieve the mission.

How much work is happening at the stores across the world on this front?

Apolline Picot: Several brands have been adding technology tools such as a massive screen in their stores, simply because it’s been the trend or because they feel pressured to add digital in a store. But digital needs to be added with a purpose. Brands need to ask themselves what they are trying to achieve with digital in a store—is it to have a better connect with customers, is it to make purchases faster…is that why the need for a digital till? Once they figure that out, they should then look at solutions matching that ambition.

Also, not all brands are equal so there is no one solution that applies to all. A brand’s digital journey depends on its category and business plan, sometimes even for brands in the same category.

Jonathan Cummings: 
It depends on the organization itself, its stage of maturity. We do a lot of work with automotive brands, which is a mature industry that has retailing conventions built over the last 100 years. What we found in organisations like that is that as digital started to evolve, they built a separate team while the retail model carried on. Now organizations are trying to bring those together. But it’s not about trying to smash the two things together; it’s about taking a step back to look at what one is trying to do as a business and think about it from the outset in an integrated way.

Are some categories better suited for digital adoption than others?

Apolline PicotAutomotive is one. We’ve seen a lot of innovation coming from the category because EVs are changing the way we think about cars and buy them. Telco (telecommunications) is leading the way on this front… by definition, it is a category that is trying to challenge convention and is eager to implement new ideas and explore digital.

Jonathan Cummings: At a category level… whether it’s grocery which is highly transactional versus automotive, where years pass between two transactions, or fashion which has different layers of interaction, different layers of content… every sector has a different cadence. But the fundamental strategy of being truly integrated between the physical world and digital world applies equally to all.

Having said that, grocery and fashion are among the categories that are more suited to digital because online shopping in these categories accelerated during the Covid period. People have missed the physical experience and that’s accelerated their return to the physical world. Recently, we helped Walmart, the biggest grocery chain in the world, reinvent its in-store experience.

Please tell us more…

Jonathan Cummings: We redesigned the entire physical experience around the way people navigate when they shop online. Because COVID had accelerated the adoption of online grocery shopping, we analysed how people shop online and then rethought the physical experience based on some of those behaviours. And it’s been transformative for Walmart.

Also, in Singapore, we developed a store for Singtel that won a global award last year for outstanding store design. Historically, winners of those awards would be big fancy flagships with beautiful architecture and big staircases. But this store won because it changed the way people could access the brand—it is digital connectivity wrapped in a physical shell.

It’s not the most beautiful design in the world to look at, yet it is recognised by the industry globally as something that’s truly moving forward. Read more about it here.

When brands come to you, what is it they want to achieve?

Jonathan Cummings: Quite often people come to us asking to do something with virtual reality or with AI. When people come to us asking for a technology solution for the sake of that technology solution, we just take a step back and ask what is it that they are actually looking for. Then we try to find the right technology to deliver that solution, not the other way around.

Brand strength comes from a combination of relevance and differentiation. Any brand needs to be relevant to its audiences. But it can win against competition only by being different, that’s really at the heart of any brief irrespective of how it is articulated.

Apolline Picot: We get all types of briefs but brands ultimately want to connect in a better way with their customers. They want to use digital to build brand equity. They have the intent to create that relationship with their customer and support them to create the steps to get there by asking why, by doing it with purpose.

What are the new conversations you are having with retail companies?

Apolline Picot: A lot of conversations that we are having now are about how the QR code can be used for things beyond just scanning… like bringing content that really personalises. Personalisation—of content and experience—also features prominently in our digital conversations. Brands want to be able to target you and generate content specific to you, your passion, your interests, your way of living.

Jonathan Cummings: How do we connect is at the centre of that. I live in Hong Kong and here all trees have a QR code on them. It allows me to scan the code and tell me what type of tree it is, its seasonality, and so on. I can even report damage to a tree using the same QR code. Who would have thought that the trees in a city would ever be part of the connected ecosystem? But it’s the same principle as Apolline is saying. We can go so much deeper with a QR code. It can tell you about a company’s sustainability programs, or a product’s health benefits. So the question at the heart of a lot of our conversations now is how do we use technology to connect our whole brand world together and make it accessible in an intuitive way to each one of our customers?

Which are the top technologies that you are using to get there?

Jonathan Cummings: AI is increasingly coming into play, making sure that the right content is getting to the right people in the right way at the right time. It is helping us learn from people’s interactions so that we can continually enhance the experience.

In a more experiential way, augmented reality (AR) is helping bring things to life. So a code you scan might take you to some content, but AR might allow you to visualise the message the brand is trying to communicate.

So, will we see more AI-driven solutions/experiences in store?

Jonathan Cummings: In sectors like grocery or telco, that’s where AI really is coming into its own, helping personalise the experience. For instance, previously, telcos were about selling us minutes and tariffs and broadband. Now it’s about how they can help us bring our connected world to life. As customers, we don’t want to hit a dead end. We don’t want to go through an experience and then find we can’t go any further. All the different technologies are coming together to make sure that we can continue on that journey in a purposeful and meaningful way.

Apolline Picot: The idea is to use technology to create a deeper relationship with the brand itself and create a true benefit for customers to explore. For instance, turning something into an NFT. Augmented reality will be used in a much different way in the next few years. It has been interesting to see how Nike is exploring this with Swoosh.

Some brands are also doing a bit of experimentation around artificial intelligence. Carrefour, for instance, has started offering suggestions on its app to help people fight inflation. When customers put something in their carts, the app suggests an alternative that is cheaper and that matches the criteria of the products selected. This is another area where some brands are willing to experiment with new technologies.

Can you give some more examples of the kind of work you have done recently apart from Singtel?

Jonathan Cummings: In many parts of Asia like Singapore and Hong Kong, the shopping malls or the shopping districts are a fundamental stakeholder in the shopping experience. Historically, they were just a provider of space. Increasingly now, malls and even airports are playing a much more active role in the shopping experience partnering with their tenants, adding value to both the shopper and the tenant.

There is a mall in Hong Kong called K11 Musea, for which we have built the whole digital ecosystem. And it’s truly game-changing because it’s taken the mall from being a passive provider of space to an active facilitator of the entire shopping experience.

Could you elaborate?

One can see table availabilities, the menus, and who the chef is across all of the mall’s 30 restaurants, sitting in one’s home.

When I get there, they will recognise me, ‘Hello Mr Cummings, your table is waiting for you’. And I can do the same for the cinema. And I can book even book a car parking space from my home.

If I walk past the cinema in the mall and I see an advert for the latest film, I can scan the QR code, watch the trailer, book my tickets, and even order my popcorn and Coke. When I turn up at the cinema for the show, I can scan the code and get my tickets, my coke and popcorn and I can go and sit down.

The mall has a lot of art…typically, you’d walk past a sculpture and say that’s nice. Now, you can scan that and it will bring the story around it to life… maybe the artist telling you about the vision. AI is used to recognise me when I come back. ‘Hello Mr. Cummins, welcome’…that’s where personalisation comes through.

Future trends in phygital?

Apolline Picot: Hyper personalization will be everywhere in the next three years. AR too. There are many representations of personalisation. QR codes would give you that opportunity as well.

Jonathan Cummings: Connectivity within personalization, the entire ecosystem will be connected. Increasingly, this is going to be a major theme. A balance to that is privacy, which is an important consideration. Everything we’ve talked about… hyper-personalization and connectivity… needs to be on an opt-in basis.

As the world becomes more connected, as we increase the levels of personalization, we would also need to ensure that we are doing that on the shoppers’ terms.

Latest News

FinTech major Intellect targets $30-35 million business with its new solutions by 2027

The new solutions launched are in the area of corporate procurement and accounts payable and are aimed at mid...