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The 2018 Paris Retail Week was devoted to smart phygital, a new retail trend blending the best online technologies with the offline, in-store experience. Christophe Faurère, CEO of Symag, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Personal Finance specialized in solutions for retailers, presents his insights on the trend.
What is meant by smart phygital, the main theme of this year’s Paris Retail Week?
I don’t like the term phygital, because it claims to reconcile physical and digital at retail points of sale, whereas these two aspects do not need to be reconciled, since they are perfectly complementary. I prefer to talk about omnichannel or total commerce. Both terms more clearly express the new stakes of commerce: the cohabitation of two channels to serve customer needs.
As for the word “smart”, it underlines the fact that technologies must benefit the consumer and not just the retailer. The retailer delivers the right offer to the right person, at the right moment, on the right channel. Now they even have to deliver to the right place within the right deadlines!
What is Symag?
Symag is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Personal Finance specializing in solutions for physical and/or virtual points of sale. It offers solutions that combine check-out, promotions, payments and loyalty to stores and e-commerce sites.
Will physical stores soon become no more than depots for receiving online orders?
No—physical stores as we know them today will not disappear, because consumers are becoming more conscious of the impact of their shopping habits on the environment and their health. These concerns tend to favor local distribution and local shopping, centered on human values—and this is not just the case in food.
At the same time, it’s also possible to buy directly from a manufacturer in China and have the product delivered to your door. You can even order a tool and receive same-day delivery on a Sunday to continue working immediately.
Modern commerce is a combination of physical shopping at local retailers, which is an environmentally friendly practice, and online shopping, which is fast and practical (and not just for virtual products).
How is smart phygital influencing mass distribution?
Commerce has always been about logistics and purchasing. The supermarket represented the most sophisticated form of this model. But the rise of the internet has redrawn the maps, by placing the customer’s journey and satisfaction at the center of the strategy.
For the retailer, smart phygital is an opportunity to leverage detailed customer knowledge, made possible by Big Data and AI, to implement a more refined and targeted strategy for meeting their needs. In turn, it enables them to adjust their selection of products to boost sales.
But the retailer also has to consider their competition in surprising new ways. In fact, many retailers now offer competitor products similar to their own, through a marketplace available on their website. This practice is prevalent in many industries.
What impact does phygital have for customers?For consumers, phygital offers the promise of a streamlined and tailored customer journey, as long as they agree to provide the retailer with some of their personal data. This is the biggest issue today—how much privacy are consumers willing to give up in exchange for more personalized offers?
We should also keep in mind that millennials, who are already ultra-connected and active on social media, have already opted in to this system.
Can you mention a telling example that illustrates the digitization of customer relations in retail?
One great example of how new technologies can respond to customer needs is the ability to anonymously connect customers who have already purchased an item with potential buyers who have questions about the product. Connecting buyers through an archived and stored product code is a marvelous feat of technology.
For example, an online appliance store can send one of its customers a question it received from another customer about a specific item. The site should then be able to search its database to connect an item code and customer reference with a requested email address—without violating GDPR—then retrieve the appropriate answer and forward it to the interested buyer.
This is a perfect example of how customers can get so attached to a brand or product that they recommend it to others. This practice is especially useful for future buyers, who can get tips from a community that affirms their interest in buying the product and limits the risk of feeling buyer’s remorse. These communities also enable online shoppers to feel less alone in front of their computer screens.
One great example of how new technologies can respond to customer needs is the ability to anonymously connect customers who have already purchased an item with potential buyers who have questions about the product.
How does Symag support its customers with smart phygital?
Symag immediately grasped the benefits that smart phygital can offer its customers, including big box retailers and specialized distributors. We provide our customers with digital and physical solutions that combine check-out, promotions, payments and loyalty. These solutions make it possible to carry out transactions at every point in the journey chosen by the consumer: online, mobile, social media, in their car with a smart GPS pushing the offer, in store where they are recognized by a connected kiosk.
SYMAG IMMEDIATELY GRASPED THE BENEFITS THAT SMART PHYGITAL CAN OFFER ITS CUSTOMERS. WE PROVIDE OUR CUSTOMERS WITH DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL SOLUTIONS.
Aside from this offer, we help our customers put together their project within a short timeframe. Smart phygital forces us to think differently about time. Rolling out a smart phygital system must happen quickly, using a test-and-learn process, which is a method for testing a project’s success at an early stage before moving on to the next phase.
There is no room for error, because things move so fast: customers might try out an app on their phone, then delete it or share it in within minutes!
What is your latest phygital innovation?
We developed an offer designed specifically for small businesses and tradespeople. Available on tablet, it facilitates check-out and payment while giving retailers access to a CRM (customer loyalty) program, coupons and more. Symag installs and maintains the solution, while also providing training to users. The solution is intended specifically for a target of 200 to 300,000 retailers. Innovation is happening now!
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