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Phygital retail: The contact center has never been more important

Phygital retail: The contact center has never been more important
Cédric Dinet
Cédric Dinet Account Manager | Retail

Business leaders know that phygital retail enables a re-imagination of the customer experience (CX) by providing the best of two worlds – physical and digital. But did you know that the contact center is the key to making this hybrid customer experience work?

September 20, 2020

Last year, e-retail sales accounted for 14.1% of all retail sales worldwide and this growth has only been accelerated as a result of COVID-19. The good news is that it is now possible to reap all the benefits of e-commerce (easier product search, speed, inventory visibility, etc.) while maintaining the appeal of in-store shopping (human contact, testable product, immediate purchase, etc.). How can this be achieved? The answer is phygital.

A contraction of the words “physical” and “digital”, the term phygital refers to a marketing strategy deployed at the physical point of sale to improve the customer experience and increase sales. Phygital is based on innovative tools from the digital world, but also on cutting-edge technologies made available to the general public.

Why should physical commerce emulate online commerce? Because customers’ expectations are often no longer met by customer experience and consumers are likely to switch loyalties if they are dissatisfied with their in-store experience

Phygital retail: Recognizing customers across all channels

In the world of retail chains with a network of stores, there are two schools of thought in the field of customer relationship management:

  • Delegating it to each store,
  • Adopting a centralized approach.

In both cases, the flows are so great that handling both physical and remote customer relations in a store at the same time is a real challenge without proper organization. The solution? Rely on the contact center to decongest customer relations at the counter.

This is especially true in the age of phygital retail. Why is that? Because a phygital strategy only makes sense if the brand knows how to identify customers on all communication channels and provide the same answer in-store or remotely. To do this, marketing and sales departments know that customer service must rely on a single solution for processing interactions that can integrate all voice and digital channels, the history of interactions and be coupled with its CRM. The contact center thus becomes the hub of a successful seamless customer experience, whether it was initiated remotely and ends in the store, or the other way around.

Phygital retail: Which communication channels?

In the age of phygital retail, customers want to interact with brands smoothly and seamlessly. The goal is therefore to initiate a real conversation as they interact in the store or online, and to be available on channels that accurately reflect consumers’ communication habits.

Though the last years have seen a diversification of channels, the phone, the long-standing remote interaction channel, remains the most popular among consumers, with mobile shopping predicted to reach 54% of all sales by 2021. Voice makes it possible to provide a personalized, real-time response to customers, just like in-store. This is not the case with email, chatbot and other messaging tools. This is further proof that the human factor remains key to customer relationship management.

According to Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Report, 33% of consumers say the most important aspect of good customer service is resolving their issue in one interaction, no matter how long it takes. Hence the need for brands to improve service to handle calls more quickly and efficiently.

To this end, brands can adopt two strategies:

  • Set up a unique number for any question which is easy to remember,
  • Assign a separate number to each store.

In both cases, relying on a contact center ensures high pick-up rates, reduced waiting times and a limited number of transfers. Brands that opt for the single number strategy typically route all calls to their contact center. Brands that keep one number per store usually entrust their contact center with the task of off-loading stores during peak hours during the day (overflow strategy), but also to answer all calls before opening and after closing, thus extending the opening hours of customer service.

Besides, in this age of phygital, the contact center can also ensure that emerging uses are taken into account, such as a “click-to-call” functionality, which can increase ROI by an average of 143%, according to Forrester Research. Free, easy to use and time-saving, this channel humanizes the website.

The contact center also allows stores to manage channels such as email, live chat or social media, or even to integrate new channels such as instant messaging or conversational SMS. To provide a seamless and smooth customer experience, the contact center must be equipped with a true omnichannel solution that can operate across all these channels.

Embedding phygital in a channel-less experience

The e-commerce boom hasn’t killed the store yet. However, the management teams of both large retailers and convenience stores need to keep in mind that e-commerce has become a familiar practice and that customers are buying differently. Hyper-connected, their consumption habits and behaviors are changing: savvier than before, they are also more informed through comparing offers and gathering different opinions… To continue to attract customers in points of sale, the store must reinvent itself!

In fashion, stores can hope to achieve success thanks to experiments based on phygital innovations (virtual fitting rooms, 3D applications, geolocation, tactile surfaces, etc.), by offering a personalized greeting, allowing the customer to avoid having to checkout, but also by creating events to present unique offers that raise awareness of the brand.

In other fields, such as DIY, stores need to develop the service offer, as consumers need more advice and therefore support. The salesperson becomes an advisor, who greets, directs and pushes the customer towards new shopping experiences. If the customer relationship begins increasingly at a distance, it must be ensured that it is smooth and seamless towards the phygital store, the place of the final act of purchase or withdrawal. This remains true afterward if the customer requests remote after-sales service.

One thing is certain: a successful journey between the web and shops is the new Eldorado. The #1 challenge remains: handling every interaction with knowledge of a customer’s history (purchases, requests, etc.), which means picking up every call, answering every email and every request in store, along with having the customer information at hand. In-store or remotely, at all times, the customer must be recognized, the reason for the contact identified and an appropriate response given as quickly as possible.

Take for example the “click and collect” trend, which aims to improve the shopping experience and is one of the essential tools of phygital retail. This selling method coordinates online and offline experiences, allowing a customer to select and order online the products they are interested in and then pick them up at the store nearest them.

However, if the retailer does not use a contact center solution capable of interfacing with a CRM that natively integrates all channels, its implementation may not improve the customer experience. For example, a brand must be able to send the customer an email or SMS with a pickup code as soon as the product is available in the store. And if the customer encounters an unexpected event, they must be able to easily notify the brand that they would like to reserve this product a few hours/days longer than initially planned.

Phygital retail: Imagining tomorrow’s customer journey

Nowadays, customer journeys are still often disjointed. And while many brands manage to keep track of customer journeys after purchases, the pre-sales journey is more difficult to master…

However, in the age of phygital, retailers know that it is no longer desirable to operate in silos. The company’s organization must evolve, and customer relations must become channel-less, i.e. go through the customer’s preferred channels, wherever and whenever they want, ensuring that the employee, in-store or remotely, is in contact with the customer and has all the necessary information.

What will tomorrow’s customer journey in phygital retail look like? Imagine the following situation: From your living room, you’re looking for a product on your laptop. The website/brand offers you a live chat to help you make your choice. Once you have made your choice, you are sent an SMS with the location of the nearest store. The product is automatically put aside there. In the store, you connect to your account to verify your identity. This directs you to a pickup point where you present the reference number of the product, which you retrieve. You scan it with your smartphone and pay via your account.

18 months later, your product breaks down. You ask your Google Home speaker to ask the after-sales service to call you back on video. Using your smartphone, you show the malfunction to an adviser, who takes screenshots that will be recorded in the CRM of the company. The adviser tells you the estimated cost of the repair, which you pay over the phone. The retailer sends a deliveryman to pick up your product. A week later, it is delivered to you again, as good as new.

The contact center is a key element in this fictional customer journey. It must be equipped with an omnichannel solution that can interface with the different business tools of a brand to be able to support the customer on multiple channels, whatever the request.

Breaking down physical and digital barriers

Will compartmentalizing and opposing the different types of commerce (e-commerce, m-commerce, s-commerce, physical store) still make sense for long? Tomorrow, it will be possible to talk about a single business that evolves and adapts to technological changes and new customer expectations.

Until then, invest in a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) cloud solution that integrates easily with your CRM to ensure the best customer experience in your phygital store.

Would you like to find out how Odigo’s cloud solutions can make your contact center a pillar of your phygital retail strategy?

Cédric Dinet
Account Manager | Retail

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