Longstanding fears that e-commerce would eventually spell the end of high street shopping altogether are now being challenged. Indeed, physical retail venues have remained among the firmest staples of our towns and cities – so why is this?
The shopping centre’s continued primacy among many shoppers can be attributed in part to the willingness of such venues’ operators to adopt measures effectively bringing together the physical with the digital. Today’s age of global supply chain consultancy firms is also that of the ‘phygital’ shopping centre, which has improved the customer experience while also attracting new and repeat custom by truly embracing digital.
The merging of online and offline worlds may have once seemed like something straight out of a science-fiction film, but it is also the reality of today’s shopping centre experience.
‘Phygital’- What’s in a name?
While not necessarily consciously noted by many of the most casual shopping centre users, the implications of ‘phygital’ make themselves felt long before a customer walks around a store.
Wireless parking sensors, for example, can provide drivers with real-time information about available spaces, while interactive maps and digital displays may be used to guide the customer around a store once inside.
Even before the customer picks up an item from a shelf, they may receive location-based marketing messages that influence them to visit certain stores. The actual purchase of a product may also be enhanced and made more efficient by such measures as click-and-collect service desks and mobile and tablet-based point-of-sale systems.
Furthermore, most shopping centres now offer various additional services and systems bringing the utmost convenience to smartphone users, such as free high-quality Wi-Fi, free charging points and personalised offers and money-off discounts via dedicated apps.
What is the future of 'phygital' technology?
There can be little doubt of the fundamental change that the digitalisation of the retail landscape has brought to every aspect of the customer purchase journey, and the transition of the shopping centre from physical to ‘phygital’ is a by no means complete one.
Faster payment methods, wearable technology, a more immersive shopping experience using location-based targeting and an almost seamless merging of the offline and online worlds are all likely to play an instrumental role in the ‘phygital’ shopping centre of years to come. But of course, with regard to the definitive answer to the above question, only time will tell.