5 trends for the future of physical retail

How to use phygital transformation as a restart
Reading time: 5 minutes

You can blame Covid-19 for countless things, but the global pandemic only uncovered to the highest possible degree what was known for years: a significant change in the customers behavior to spend money. This resulted in empty city centers, declining highstreet footfall  and a massive boom in e-commerce. The challenges retailers were facing already in the recent past were simply accelerated due to the pandemic and the urge for digitalization. 
The keyword for not only surviving but thriving in the post-Covid-world will be – becoming phygital. Since there are hybrid solutions for many gadgets why not for your retail? Capture your customers with immersive experiences while preserving the convenience of the digital world.  
Which trends are to be expected and how to master the symbiosis of physical and digital retail? 

E-commerce penetration growth in US in percent

1. The rise of interaction 

Shopping must be a multi-dimensional experience for the customers to arouse their feelings – at best in a positive way. Feelings are possible to change over time, so the desires shift as well and need to be met each time in a particular manner. Paul Greenberg put it this way: “customer engagement by definition is the ongoing interaction between company and customer offered by the company, chosen by the customer”.  
In different words: You do not sell by simply offering your products/services at a certain place. Whatever you offer needs to be seen and proactively adapted to the customers’ demands. 
The customer will decide which shop to choose – out of multiple comparable ones – based on the availability in local maps and the ratings or reviews of probably like-minded people. Beside visibility through local search, you also need to show the online availability which a customer gets from almost every online retailer: real time responses are anticipated more and more. 

2. The customer as your channel 

If there is availability you are one step away from the convenience of online shopping: offering services while your customers are comfortable on their couch adds convenience and saves time out of their busy day.    
To gain a competitive advantage to online pure player you need more developed services: 
Is the requested product available or can you recommend a similar one? 
Can your shop assistant turn it upside down and put it to daylight in a videochat
Is it possible to reserve the one I bought two weeks ago in another size for my friend and me until Saturday? 
Can I pay immediately but send my brother for pick up later?  

Time is limited. People are oversaturated. Considering both you need to provide a convenient way of forward shifted high quality services. 

3. The importance of brand interaction 

The well-known word of mouth takes place online. 85% of customers check online ratings and reviews before deciding to pick that one restaurant or to choose the shop which is four streets further away. 
The more visibility you show online the more you are seen. The more you are seen the more customers you attract. Within this loop you create loyalty by your customers with outstanding services and a sustainable experience for them. Invite your satisfied customers to leave a feedback and be one step ahead of your competitor.  
Every action requires some reaction – each request, feedback and critique is supposed to be answered by you. Create long termed customer relations and fans with unique pre and after sales interaction. 

4. The age of assistance 

Technology can combine the skills of a good sales person with the convenience of online shops: based on the customer data your store associate can offer on a tablet suitable product (similar shoes in the customers size, the add-on for the smartphone, which was bought two weeks ago, the sold-out perfume which is available again). 
Besides this so called clienteling online bookings, presentations of new products/ collections or consultation/tutorials over a video chat can improve the productivity of your staff and give the customer a feeling of blissful exclusivity. 
The leverage of experiencing something positive alongside saving time will enable the store associate to touch the customer emotionally with the help of technology. 

5. The store as an experience 

The reinvention should not stop by the services and staff.  
Pop-up stores and micro-retail concepts already have been growing with multiple positive effects like presentation of your brand while having a lower risk like a normal retail space. Customized guidance through the downsized portfolio together with multiple fulfillment options (buy online, pick up in-store or buy in-store, ship home) pushes shopping to a higher level.  
Even the most popular and successful manufacturer for affordable furniture took a turn the recent years and went from only greenfield stores to small showrooms in the inner cities. There your next living room is decorated in themes and you simply scan the QR code of the products, pay on your phone and get them delivered.  
People feel – a certain smell brings back memories of your childhood, a song reminds you of a nice weekend trip. Appeal to all senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and possibly activate the sixth sense – the intuitive power- to trigger the desires in your customer. Besides all reviews the rational brain can study, an emotional decision for a purchase is usually a matter of seconds.  
No online shop can evoke emotions like you can by being present and nudge these human senses.

There is space for any kind of reshaping if you intend to improve your retail store. But as the gigantic growth of e-commerce shows it is inevitable to go digital for the trends in the upcoming years. 
Stand out through uniqueness, build relationships with your customer through interactions and enrich your customers lives with eventful, time-saving shopping and services out of the ordinary. 

Markus Demirci

Founder & CEO mPocket

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