Let’s Get Phygital: Breaking Dogma for Retail Reinvention

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Let’s Get Phygital: Breaking Dogma for Retail Reinvention

By Laura Davis-Taylor - 03/13/2017

As brick and mortar retailers continue to compete with the ease, selection, price and convenience of online shopping, it’s become more important than ever to make the store a compelling experience. But it’s hard. Retail has been stuck in its ways for many, many years and partly to blame is a general industry-wide aversion to change.


We all ‘know’ what a retail store is and how to envision, build and operate one. And everyone knows that merchandising is about the four P’s—product, price, place and promotion. It’s still doggedly taught in almost every business school in the country. Even digital signage was rooted in it, as it originally took hold because it brought more flexibility and addressability to those four P’s with in-store messaging. All this is changing, and the most innovative and renegade are the e-tailers that are slowly moving into brick and mortar stores. New to physical walls, they are bringing a refreshing perspective to the industry on designing in-store experience.
 
Bonobos, Birchbox, LeTote, even Amazon — there’s a large list of retailers starting to be referred to as ‘v-commerce’ brands — a digitally-native virtual brand. Like today’s evolving shopper, they are nothing like their forefathers. They don’t talk about customer experience, they bleed it. They don’t care what typical business and service processes are — they create their own unique engagement models. They are transparent, connecting customers to each other versus paid promotions. They ask for opinions, listen and respond accordingly. They could care less about the status quo ‘way it’s always been done’ because they are watching brands that follow that model go belly up on a weekly basis.
 
They get that personalization is an opt-in mandatory, not a stand-aside luxury. And as they continue to build brick and mortar stores and bring these principles to life in a multi-sensory, visceral way, they are going to (yet again) re-set shopper expectations for the status quo. Importantly, they’ll do so with no legacy infrastructure issues, fears or dogma to hold them back. Take this as a fun challenge everyone. We have the tools to recognize this coming and get ahead of it. These tools are strategic, attitudinal and, importantly, technological.
 
Emotional storytelling, sensory immersion and human connections are the new tools retailers are using to lure shoppers off the couch and happily into their stores. They will come into our stores holding digital screens, but done right, the digital screens they encounter within the walls can very well become the lure that keeps them coming back.
 
How? By using them to create what we call Unique Experience Signatures — things that they encounter, which are unique to your store, and only your store. Things that help them, talk to them, recommend. Things that make them smile, give them a Zen moment, thank them with a gift or discount. Things are woven together with scents, lighting, music, materials and visual delight that literally stop them in their tracks and lure them into a moment that matters. Things that immerse them into a complete, sensory manifestation of a brand, taking it from a transactional relationship to the holy grail of retail — a person that wants to shop at your store versus having to.
 
Everyone wants to feel special, cared for and appreciated and pure-play e-tailers know it. Their empathetic, service-first mentality gives them a huge advantage as they enter the physical store world, for they know that omnichannel is as much emotional as it is operational. They also know that digital should make the experience more human, not less so. Legacy retail must break their own dogma to reinvent themselves accordingly, hopefully before it’s too late to make a difference.
 
Here are a few v-commerce’ brands to inspire you:
 
Warby Parker
Warby Parker’s incredible try/buy experience online sparked such love, that people started asking the founder to build a store. They inched into retail by outfitting a yellow school bus and driving around the country building their database. They now have showrooms and stores across the nation, even within Nordstrom to host a monthly pop-up shop, and consider each of them living labs. Core to their experience is CRM, where customer information and all of the things they’ve tried or bought drive omnichannel personal touches. Their next disruptive plan is to enable users to get an eye exam on their mobile phones.
 
Birchbox
When Birchbox emerged, they became a cultural phenomena in a matter of months. Their approach towards curation, customization and tasteful trendsetting was a natural springboard for their NYC-based store, which also allows customers to customize their boxes, explore new products and get lost in how-to’s and must-see’s. Using a similar strategic approach, Birchbox continues to host pop-up shops across the nation.
 
Bonobos
Upscale men’s retailer Bonobos opened its series of Guideshops in 2013 — but they're not normal stores. In this showroom-styled store, men are given the same customer service attention as in a retail store and then go online to buy made-to-order apparel.
 
Amazon
Amazon, the undisputed champ of online retailing, is leaping into the brick and mortar business, showing the rest of the industry how to sell more fluidly in physical spaces. Secret sources in Seattle are reporting news of a grocery store in the works. Amazon thinks it can build a better bookstore based on data. They believe it can be more efficient because it already knows what you want. And they’re probably right. Sources familiar with the effort say the team aims to reinvent the shopping experience by merging the best of retail with the best of Amazon.
 
Author Laura Davis-Taylor will present Seminar 7 entitled, “Let’s Get Phygital!” on Wednesday, March 29 at 2pm at DSE 2017 to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2017 or to learn more about digital signage go to www.dse2017.com.

As Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, MaxMedia, Laura Davis-Taylor has been focused on creating meaningful brand experiences that bridge home, life, and store for over 25 years. Her experience is multifaceted, ranging across brand planning, digital engagement, store design and ‘future store’ innovation. Having served in these roles as both as a consultant and in leadership for some of the largest agencies in the world, she has a unique perspective on what’s working in retail, what’s not and what to do about it.
 
Laura is an active industry speaker and contributor on the subject of digital experience design for outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Time Magazine, the MMA and MediaPost. She's an ongoing contributor for Digital Signage Magazine and Retail TouchPoints and her book, “Lighting up the Aisle: Practices and Principles for In-store Digital Media”, is the only existing resource for how retail brands can harness technology to reinvent their in-store experience.