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Omnichannel, Meet Phygital Marketing

Yes, it is a real word, one whose definition can be found in the dictionary but not yet in all spell-check functions in many software programs. It is a word that most people are unaware of and have extraordinarily little opportunity to use. “Phygital” comes from merging parts of the words “physical” and “digital.” In marketing, the integration defines the process of joining the physical functions of marketing to digital functions.

Once thought to be competitive rivals, the pair are now establishing a formidable joint venture to enhance the art and science of connecting brands with consumers. A Phygital marketing strategy combines both elements to form an improved customer experience with brands. The term is not new. It first appeared in 2007 when the term phygital marketing was used by the current CEO of Momentum Worldwide, Chris Weil, to describe “the inseparable connections between the physical and the digital worlds.”

While e-commerce has made significant strides into the world of commerce, consumers still appreciate an authentic and hands-on shopping experience where personalized interactions dominate. But consumers also appreciate the convenience of researching and consuming information on digital platforms. The marriage of these two approaches can significantly enhance the customer experience and engagement with brands. More than 60 percent of consumers prefer retailers who employ phygital tactics.

Utilization of barcodes or QR codes offers the consumer the ability to access detailed product information and instantly connect with a brand and virtually “try on” clothing or view a product offering installed in a customer’s home environment. Combined with mobile devices that have geolocation apps, brands can use customers’ physical location to send targeted, personalized messages at the right time and place.

Recently, Chipotle formed a partnership with the fitness app Strava to utilize phygital marketing in a joint campaign. After identifying several running and cycling routes in multiple cities, which ended at a Chipotle location, the individual who performed each segment the best received free Chipotle Lifestyle Bowls for a year. The phygital marketing campaign ran during a time of year when prospective consumers were working to achieve a new year’s resolution to live healthier lifestyles. “According to a Chipotle internal survey, nearly 70 percent of the brand’s consumers who are runners say they are likely or very likely to eat Chipotle after training for a race.”

A phygital marketing strategy begins by recognizing a targeted audience and utilizing familiar technologies to create unforgettable, complete, and seamless experiences for potential customers. Studies have determined that 80 percent of customers now consider the experience with a company to be as important as its products, and 69 percent of consumers want to interact with a company in real time. The physical and digital approaches to marketing are now forever linked with one another. It’s time to get phygital!