Trends in customer experience are pointing towards phygital, which is the point where physical experiences are merging with digital ones. The pandemic has sped up the process of digitalisation on many fronts, not least in customer journeys of experiences and services.
Customer experience expectations are up
In addition to safety thinking, the pandemic made customers raise their customer service standards. Customers expect brands to show empathy and understand their unique needs – that is, treat customers as individuals.
Consumers also expect seamless customer journeys and comfortable shopping experiences across all channels – and across all hours. Companies may need to consider a 24-hour service culture to be there when the consumers want to buy and experience.
During the pandemic, it was not possible to enjoy many experiences the way people were used to. Companies started catering with new products and services. For example, the event industry started creating virtual events. Digital tools enabled phygital reality where consumers were able to stay virtually connected to the outside world while being physically separated from it.
Phygital as a term also aims to present a more holistic view of customer experiences that go beyond channels and strategies. Phygital gives customers an opportunity to feel delighted, mesmerized and emotionally engaged.
Experiences go phygital
Trend reports indicate that the future is going to be one, where physical and digital experiences collide. Consumers have now learned to use, and even rely on, digital tools to manage and take part in daily routines, both at home and away. Digital tools give consumers a chance to stay connected, shop and play while at home and use interactive digital and virtual experiences when they are ready to venture out.
A phygital experience combines digital communication with physical space. In travel and tourism, this means for example the use of virtual and augmented reality (AR). For instance, if AR is integrated into a printed travel brochure, customers are spared from the painstaking Google search for further information as they can look at videos and pictures that are embedded into the print with their mobile phones.
In the subway in a big city, tourists could scan their tickets and see the journey information on their mobile. And while at a museum, visitors might be treated to a unique phygital experience, allowing them to interact with the exhibition in a creative way. The legendary Swedish music group ABBA will be returning to the world stage in a concert with virtual characters, avatars, in a purpose-built arena in London, combining a digital presence with a physical one.
Humanising the customer experience
In the post-pandemic era, building customer trust and removing bottlenecks in a customer journey are imperative. Businesses need to integrate the virtual world into their physical spaces to bring customers back.
However, when a business decides to go phygital it needs to consider many aspects while planning a customer experience. The first thing is obviously putting the human being at the center of planning (it’s not all about separate channels anymore). Another thing to consider is the use of five senses. The digital world allows the customer to see and hear but three other senses are missing from online shopping. Therefore, physical stores are needed to create a multisensory experience and put other three senses – taste, smell and touch – into good use.
In a physical world, human relationships and feelings are essential in enhancing the customer experience while digital devices conveniently complement the experience while shopping in-store.