The phygital retail of tomorrow

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There is a major difference between digital-first and digital-only. In a utopian world, a digital-only world could become an everyday reality. But in the actual world, there are a number of complexities, interdependencies, and concerns that would hinder its practical existence. Even though we talk about the ever-increasing adoption of digital solutions and the accelerated pace of digital transformation, physical is never going out of the picture completely. 

In the retail sector, the consumers demand an omnichannel availability of the services. Irrespective of their geographical presence, customers want the retail services to be accessible across multiple channels including both digital and physical. During the pandemic, as many as 25000 stores were estimated to shutter down permanently. This statistic may put digital presence a little higher on the priority scale. However, there is little truth in that. E-commerce giants including Amazon are taking creative ways to establish their physical presence despite being such a successful digital existence. 

Having considered all these facts, we can say that the future of retail will neither be physical-only nor digital-only. It would rather be phygital. The portmanteau of physical and digital, phygital retail is the best of both worlds. It is the combination of speed, ease of accessibility, and efficiency of online shopping along with the experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. 

The phygital existence of retail will enable the sector to seamlessly transition from one mode to another. For example, several stores were forced to shut down due to the rapid outbreak of COVID-19. But those with existing digital capabilities were able to quickly shift to delivering their services online without causing much disruption to the business. Even inside a brick-and-mortar store, having a contactless POS terminal, AR-based trial availability, and easy check out facilities can make the entire shopping experience a complete pleasure. 

The pandemic has resulted in a drastic shift in the consumer behavior. Consequently, there has been a sharp turn in the retail trends for the upcoming year, as per a research from PSFK. It suggests that 2021 will be all about driving operational resiliency with connected people and systems. 

The retail trends of 2021 

Shelley Bransten, the corporate VP of Global Retail & Consumer Goods at Microsoft, says –  

“The way we work and live has changed in ways many of us couldn’t have imagined. From how we interact with our friends and family to working from home and so much more…Companies from L’Oréal to Levi’s to Ste. Michelle are learning to connect people, systems and operations in new ways.” 

Based on those “new ways” and the new normal, the major retail trends of 2021 are expected to be: 

  1. Transparency and Control: The customers seek transparency across their shopping experience. They want to know how long will they have to wait, whether their preferred brand is in stock, if the store is following the required safety and sanitization protocols, and more. In the times of uncertainty, the customers are looking to gain some level of control by demanding complete transparency. 
  2. Connectivity and Support: With the shift to the remote mode of shopping, retailers will need to gear up their digital connectivity and support systems. As per a report by Juniper research, the consumer retail spending via chatbots is expected to reach $142 billion by 2024. To bridge the gaps between physical and digital connectivity, various tools like interactive live streams and contactless communication through one-to-one video chats will come handy. 
  3. Contactless: 34% of the US customers feel uneasy about touching the credit card terminals, while 32% are concerned about the exchange of case at the POS. Due to this wariness, more and more retailers will look to adopt contactless payment technologies that will eliminate the need for touch from the equation. 
  4. Security and efficiency: When it comes to digital technologies, efficient functionality, performance, and security always remain a major concern. And with the growing cyberattacks, failure incidents caused due to software glitches, it will assume even higher importance as we move forward. 

The marriage of QA and phygital retail 

The retail industry is at the forefront of innovation. As it is primarily a direct-to-customer sector, it has to be on its toes to keep up with the constantly changing and evolving customer demands and consumption patterns. 

More and more retailers are embracing AI-driven solutions to offer hyperpersonalized customer experiences and AR-based platforms to enable remote shopping convenience. Contactless POS terminals will become a norm in the coming years. 

When a retailer offers a phygital experience, it needs to fortify its services across all the channels, across the entire omni-channel network. And retail QA is the best way to do so. 

Cigniti’s experience in Retail Testing has enabled multi-channel retailers transform their businesses through a quality-optimized, results-driven strategy, leveraging an unbiased quality engineering approach, customized retail testing frameworks & solutions, and a strong domain expertise. Our end-to-end testing processes for retail industry assist individual & large chain retailers in assuring quality across their enterprise apps & support their initiatives of enterprise re-platform/upgrade/migration/set-up of complex integration between latest CRM, OMS, WMS, Cloud, Mobile, & Web apps. 

Schedule a discussion with our retail software testing experts to deliver glitch-free experiences to your customers.