Post Covid, brands create phygital experiences for customers, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

The pandemic has driven a digital-first behavior, with consumers buying almost everything online from home, at their convenience and with just one click. With the worst of Covid19 behind us, businesses are slowly opening up and people are returning to offices, theaters, malls and other physical engagements. Interestingly, consumers have adapted habits from both worlds – digital and physical – and are juggling between them to meet their needs. This forces brands and companies to deliver a seamless experience across physical and digital touchpoints, giving rise to what is more commonly referred to as phygital marketing.

Whether it’s a try and buy, an online order and in-store pickup, or paying the bill with a digital wallet in a physical store, a customer is surrounded by phygital experiences. The latter is seen as the future of marketing and brands are already investing in resources and technology to create hybrid customer journeys rather than separately managing offline and online in silos.

On the eve of Women’s Day, March 8, ET BrandEquity, in association with Eruditus Executive Education, and ISB Executive Education hosted a session on “Marketing in the Phygital World: Transforming the Consumer Journey from Offline to in line”. This roundtable saw a diverse forum of female entrepreneurs come together virtually to discuss what the future holds for this field, their metrics for success, and how new marketers can carve out space for themselves.

The session included industry leaders such as Vanda Ferrao, Head of Marketing, FreshToHome; Vigyeta Aggarwal, Marketing Manager, Voot, Anju Jayaram, Co-Founder, Women’s Web; Jayatri Dasgupta, Marketing Director, PayNearby; and Akshita Budhiraja, Director, Orika Spice. The session was moderated by Devesh Gupta, Lead-Brand Solutions, ET BrandEquity.

Jayaram kicked off the discussion by sharing the major shifts in consumer behavior caused by the pandemic. With exit restrictions and pandemic anxiety, spending had increased. “Before the pandemic, men were more comfortable with online shopping and digital payments, but with the pandemic, there has been a shift among women, as they become more familiar with online facilities. line,” Jayaram added. She also mentioned that women are going back to work seamlessly, however, the lack of offline networking affects women micro-entrepreneurs who grow their businesses through networking and cross-brand collaboration. “There are pros and cons to the hybrid setup, however, digital has made it possible for women across India to attend an event, which was not possible before,” Jayaram added.

If we go back two years, few of them were focused on creating a hybrid world. But, when Covid19 hit, brands were left in limbo as they had to kick off their digital journey and didn’t have time to acclimate to it. Orika Spices’ Budhiraja had always focused on physical retail, but it was during Covid19 that they took a proactive approach to bolstering their digital presence and sales channels. “Thanks to digital, we are able to create brand awareness at scaletap into the right set of audiences and create a brand name for ourselves,” Budhiraja said.

Today, phygital experiences are everywhere. They are no longer limited to Tier 1 cities or metropolitan cities, but brands are working tirelessly to bring phygital experiences to the most remote corners of the country. Dasgupta, who also engages with Bharat audiences, shared that for his company, the the phygital experience continues throughout the consumer journey, from acquisition, to product understanding and final consumption. “With Bharat as an audience, we must create shareable and snackable content for them in the vernacular for him to reach the last mile,” Dasgupta added. While this is a very promising scenario, it poses a challenge for brands as they need to ensure that their promises and brand value are transparently delivered and also resonate with audiences.

The discussion then turned to understanding the key requirements for creating a great phygital experience. Ferraro mentioned that for brands to thrive, physical stores cannot exist in isolation. Brands need to capitalize on both platforms and create an exceptional experience that moves the consumer from the physical store to the digital store. Interestingly, she mentioned that consumers who came to their online store after going to the physical store, retained better. Ferraro added that the experience of buying fish and meat is a very personal experience. Likewise, they prefer to consume content in their own language and brands that incorporate a contextual and cultural touch into their brand communication are more likely to reach their target audience. “By leveraging fish names and favorite recipes by region, we ensure the same level of personalization is present in our brand communication, to create an engaging experience outside of shopping,” Ferraro said.

Digital transformation is at the heart of creating strong phygital experiences. Most brands have started or undergone the process of digital transformation during the pandemic, which has resulted in a paradigm shift in how brands communicate with their audience. Aggarwal shared that from long storytelling, the trend has shifted to short content. Brands today must convey their message in 15 to 30 seconds or consumers lose interest. “The messaging format needs to be contextualized not only to the show and its target audience, but also to the platform,” Aggarwal said.

All panelists unanimously agreed that data and analytics play a key role in creating such phygital experiences. It helps to understand consumer preferences and pain points and create personalized experiences for them. Addressing this topic, the panelists shared their key indicators to monitor their campaigns.

Aggarwal shared that for Voot, engagement, search intent movement, and earned media are the most critical growth metrics. Ferraro added that for them, equity metrics and business metrics such as customer lifetime value, average order values, retention rate give them a clear understanding of their efforts.

Budhiraja mentioned that as a craft spice brand, they want to tap into socially conscious food lovers. Digital ads, food chains, influencer marketing, offline giveaways and tastings are some of the ways they reach their audience. Dasgupta highlighted the importance of having the right analytical tools for brands, as it allows brands to have a single view of the consumer to be able to address consumer micro-moments.

The session ended with the panelists sharing their perspective on how new and aspiring marketing professionals can upskill themselves in the field of phygital marketing and create better experiences for customers. Panelists also agreed that on-the-job training and experimentation with tools and techniques can help marketers hone their skills and keep up with new trends.

ISB Executive Education also offers a program that nurtures people who want to accelerate their digital growth while operating in this phygital realm. This is a 12-week digital marketing and analytics program currently entering its 7th batch, where participants will learn how to optimize their digital campaigns, improve customer engagement, and achieve business goals.

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