Phygital Marketing: 10 Great Examples of Future-Forward Content Experiences
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Phygital Marketing: 10 Great Examples of Future-Forward Content Experiences

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What is phygital marketing? Phygital marketing is a blended customer experience where digital applications relate to the physical world and actual space of the customer journey. Most often, phygital experiences are immersive, interactive real-time experiences that offer immediate transactions and/or engagement.

Without realizing it, you’re likely subject to phygital marketing throughout your day-to-day life. How come? On any given day, readers and customers face dozens upon dozens of pieces of content. From articles and advertisements on Facebook to magazines they flip through in the doctor’s office waiting room, more than ever, consumers are used to imagery and words, 24/7.

In reaction to this, brands and destinations have found a way to provide experiences in the form of phygital marketing. These include in-store experiences that provoke online ordering and vice versa. According to research from Selligent, while 78 percent of people trust and value their own research over a brand and its marketing, 49 percent still expect companies to assist and give recommendations in-store.

As we look ahead to the decade to come, content marketers will be tasked with brainstorming and executing smart, compelling ideas in this sector of the industry. Here, our 101 guide to phygital marketing that can help you get ahead of the curve.

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What is phygital content marketing?

What is phygital content marketing?

Stan Kubinski, principal at Bergmeyer, defines phygital marketing as the creation of a blended customer experience where both the physical and the digital coexist in the same journey. Often, this is through immersive in-person activities that also offer the immediate opportunity to make a purchase.

Many consumers will feel more connected to a brand when their five senses are activated, rather than just clicking through a site or reading a newsletter.

To be successful, it’s an all-hands-on-deck type of planning process, as Kubinski explains:

Phygital experiences require methodical collaboration between all vendors, engineers, content strategists, designers and retail experts, and should aim to elevate the human experience through digital innovation.

The reason phygital content marketing has become increasingly more popular in the last few years is credit to an ever-changing retail landscape. As Ana Pelucarte, the CEO and co-founder of Pop Up Mob explains, shoppers are becoming extremely savvy, which pushes brands to up their game to stay relevant.

“It is crucial that digital and physical merge so customers can experience the products firsthand, then be reminded while they’re within the digital realms of their choices to buy what they already tried and physically experienced,” she adds.

Why is quality content crucial for successful phygital experiences?

As we already know as content gurus, words play a major factor in how we relate to anything: people, places or things. And while having beautiful bells and whistles through graphics and technology are part of phygital experiences, content is equally as essential to create a provocative, engaging campaign.

As founder of the Levitate Foundry, Stephanie Liu explains, content is not only a representation of a brand’s message and vision but its relationship to its customers, too:

When great content is created both online and offline, great and invaluable customer experiences are also being created. A customer may be drawn into your physical store by fun messaging they saw online or they may be compelled to learn more after being impressed by the seamless experience they had at your pop-up.

In other words: quality content is timeless, and it allows brands to use their distinctive voice to tell their own story, in person and online. “Consistent, high-quality content is not easy to come by, but it is crucial for creating an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter where a customer is interacting or viewing your brand,” Liu shares.

“To truly understand your brand, customers need a seamless experience and consistent messaging across every channel that your brand is represented on.”

How might phygital marketing evolve in the next decade?

How might phygital marketing evolve in the next decade?

For most of us, 2030 feels lightyears away — but if we can conclude anything from the past, it’s that we can’t predict the future. Marketing has shifted dramatically since 2010, and the next decade will see an uptick in phygital explorations for forward-thinking brands.

Kubinski believes we will see a stronger emphasis on experiences that offer real-time data that’s tailored to a user’s in-store journey. This is useful for retailers, he says, when they streamline purchase opportunities by offering suitable alternatives in the moment. Imagine going to a running store you frequent, and you’re asked to “check in” upon arrival. When you meet-and-greet with a salesperson, they project your purchase history, exact measurements and goals on a screen, then demonstrate what shoe you should buy next.

As we all struggle to figure out how AI will play a part in the years to come, Kubinski says to add phygital into the mix, too:

Humanoids that learn and read each customer using face recognition could also begin to learn customer’s patterns, routine orders and personal details in order to predict advanced future purchases.

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10 brands that are nailing phygital marketing

If you want to start schooling yourself on phygital best practices, it can be helpful to learn from leaders within the industry.

Whether you want to take on this proficiency as an offering for new clients, or you are curious on how to create an experience for your business, take these tips from brands who are currently killin’ it.

1. Sonos

Their phygital challenge

Widely known as the best audio sound on the market for homes, Sonos hired Kubinski’s company, Bergmeyer, to create pop-up phygital experiences in select cities around the world. The focus centered on technology and the digital journey users have with their software, which is a challenge since they’re known for physical products rather than online ones.

The goal was to create unique interactive moments that were controlled by customers, allowing them to create their own listening path.

Their phygital solution

“We designed acoustically isolated sound chambers that provided users an iPad pre-loaded with a series of options to choose from based on their interests that resulted in a truly unique and personalized experience with the technology,” Kubinski described.

Through this, Sonos was able to track the data and follow the user’s journey to analyze key performance data. This included where users went to first, how long they stayed there, what booth (each unique in musical options, theme and experience) was most heavily trafficked, how large of an impact the musical genres played and more.

2. b8ta

Their phygital challenge

For some brands, the mere cost of creating a phygital content marketing experience is the greatest barrier to entry. Though this wasn’t the issue for b8ta, it was where they discovered their niche in a crowded market. As an all-digital retailer, created by the founders of NEST, they work with brands on a rotating subscription basis, offering a space in Boston’s seaport district, to have customers test and trail their goods.

Their phygital solution

Not only does this give a company the option to showcase their goods in a market, but it helps them understand how a physical location works with their mission and their sales before they sign a lease.

“Customers are able to trial participating brand’s products in person, and these brands are able to obtain vital data on how customers engage and respond to their products and follow their journey, offering a 360 view of the customer’s experience,” Kubinski explains. It’s also important to note b8ta’s founders acquired Toys “R” Us, with the goal of reviving their model through phygital experiences. TBD on where they’re headed with it — but we bet it’ll be stellar.

3. Reformation

Their phygital challenge

With a large Instagram following, Reformation is a lust-worthy clothing retailer beloved by many professional women. But with a price tag on the higher end of the spectrum, many females want to really understand what they’re getting before they invest. And, they seek hands-on attention during the purchasing process. To meet this unique audience, Reformation had to find a way to blend digital and physical effectively, according to Liu.

Their phygital solution

At every Reformation brick-and-mortar location, you won’t see too many garments. This is because they’re more focused on allowing shoppers to touch and feel the quality of the goods — but perhaps not buy right away.

“Reformation blends their digital and physical experiences extremely well: not only creating a seamless fun branding experience, but also solving some supply chain and staffing issues along the way,” Liu explains.

“Reformation’s brick and mortar locations all include touch screens that allow customers to pick and choose the products they want to try on. These touch screens allow for a convenient experience that almost exactly mirrors their customers’ online journey.”

Since there are minimal goods, associates can focus on answering questions, rather than restocking and cleaning, thus the customer feels catered to throughout every step.

Glossier is a great example of phygital marketing.

4. Glossier

Their phygital challenge

Created by a beauty blogger, Glossier has seen an incredible amount of success in the years they’ve been in business. But their digital-and-physical struggle was evident from the get-go: How can a popular blog encourage customers to buy real products? Liu says they solved it by focusing on one word: fun!

Their phygital solution

Via showrooms throughout the country, fans can lose themselves in a playground of experiences. Liu describes the phygital approach as lighthearted, yet ethereal, all centered around the world of ‘Glossier Pink.’

“Customers can play with makeup, take selfies in their abundant — and aesthetic — mirrors and connect with the brand in a physical way not usually available via their online channels,” she explains.

“The showrooms also create hype by limiting the amount of customers allowed in at a time and ensuring that the experience stays fun, easy and comfortable for all participating.”

5. Warby Parker

Their phygital challenge

Perhaps one of the most recognizable phygital examples is the revolutionary eyeglasses brand, Warby Parker. They were the first to make the pain of finding fashionable prescription eyeglasses easier. Even though their model centered around “trying on at home” they still realized some customers wanted to shop in-store.

Their phygital solution

According to Liu, Warby Parker founders weren’t tasked with a traditional challenge, but rather motivated themselves to become more convenient than they already were. Potential digital shoppers and new in-store shoppers who weren’t familiar with online could vet the quality of their frames without making any sort of commitment.

“Should they choose to refrain from buying in-store, can remember the look and feel of the products as they complete their journey online at a later point,” she explains.

“In keeping up with their digital identity, Warby’s store experience is also simple and streamlined — customers can checkout with any salesperson and also save the frame model numbers to their online account so they can revisit them at home.”

6. Sanuk

Their phygital challenge

California-based footwear brand, Sanuk, is no stranger to brick-and-mortar retail, according to founder and CEO of Crowe PR, Anna Crowe. From mom-and-pop surf and skate shops to larger chain stores, they have their — ahem — foot into many avenues of retail.

They’re also online, via Amazon and Zappos, but they didn’t know how to figure out how to incorporate the action-backed mission of their brand with a phygital marketing experience for customers. It’s one thing to look at a shoe that’s great for the beach and another one to determine exactly how it is, in person.

Their phygital solution

You’ve heard of “pop-up shops” before and likely, you haven’t given them a second thought since they’re so common. But here’s the deal: They can be an effective way to test a new market, and they serve as a lower-entry into phygital experiences. Crowe says Sanuk is experimenting with these types of experiences in the Hamptons, and collaborating with Whalebone Magazine to reach new customers.

7. STM Goods

Their phygital challenge

When you’re a 20-year-old company that offers a selection of tech accessories — including backpacks and laptop bags —  you have to evolve to remain relevant. Such is the case with STM Goods, with products available in-store at major retailers, and online. To remain competitive in a crowded space, Crowe says they needed to do something to set themselves a step ahead of the noise.

Their phygital solution

In January of 2018, STM Goods became the first to launch an augmented reality app that allowed customers to try their products in the comfort of their homes before purchasing.

“This AR technology provides customers with the ‘experience’ to virtually try on the backpacks and explore size, fit, and functionality though the app,” Crowe explains. “AR is recognized as the future of retail and STM has positioned itself at the forefront of this innovative direction in marketing.”

Crowe says this activation is effective because it bridges the gap between retail and digital, enabling customers to shop from their phone while having a more ‘physical’ experience.

Example of how Nike uses phygital marketing.

8. Nike

Their phygital challenge

Ask any runner about what it’s like to go running, and most will say it’s not just a hobby — but a necessity in their life. And the gear they choose to take with them every single day can make or break their mood, stride and energy.

Finding a way to have an online and in-person experience that gains a runner’s confidence is tricky — but one that Pelucarte says Nike has continually proven. Their challenge, however, was to keep raising the bar.

“They understand the importance of the customer, and the results from the fusion of digitally-driven consumer interactions and tangible products that take place in brick and mortar retail locations,” she continues.

Their phygital solution

One of their most successful phygital concepts was their first one: the Nike ID location in New York, which Pelucarte says continues to pull in consumers.

“They pick the personalization and design of the sneakers and they offer the immediate satisfaction for the consumer since they are able to take that product home, or even wear right out of the store,” she explains. “This results in a unique experience and product that cannot be duplicated or replicated by anyone else.”

9. Huda Beauty

Their phygital challenge

Huda Beauty is one of those brands that started off the internet, and was easily a digital phenomenon, according to Pelucarte. They already had a 42 million fanbase on YouTube, but how could the founder give her customers a physical experience to be closer to her?

Their phygital solution

In London, Pelucarte’s company helped create a pop-up experience last year, titled ‘Mercury Retrograde.’ As the first of its kind, loyal fans rushed to the opportunity to test it out in person.

“When analyzing the KPIs of the pop-up, it is obvious to realize that phygital is the perfect combination to bridge the online/offline gap as she had over 20,000 consumers in her pop up, increased her followers by 2 million in the last two months and beat her projected sales forecast,” she shared.

10. Princess Cruises

Their phygital challenge

Traveling is a tough phygital content marketing experience since you can’t exactly transport someone to a secluded island or to a city street. However, there are ways to integrate some of our digital necessities — like Alexa and other voice-activated conveniences — into a trip we’re already on. This was first demonstrated by Princess Cruises’ newest ship, Sky Princess.

Their phygital solution

To capitalize on the phygital marketing experience, Princess Cruises related the Ocean Medallion technology. Anikia Howard, the vice president of brand marketing and digital for Foxwoods describes this as a quarter-sized pendant that can be worn as a bracelet, necklace or tucked away in your pocket.

“This complimentary wearable device that elevates the guest experience by enhancing guest-crew interactions, eliminating friction points and enabling interactive entertainment to deliver a high level of service and personalized attention on a large scale,” she explains.

What can it do? Allow you to scan into your stateroom, greet you with a personalized greeting, gamble at the Ocean Casino, see the ship’s journey and engage in games throughout the ship. Plus, Princess now has all of the data on their guests to inform what’s popular and what’s not, allowing them to be smarter with their choices.

You’ll be wowed by these #phygitalmarketing examples that drive sales and customer happiness. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Keep up on marketing trends beyond phygital:

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Lindsay Tigar

About Lindsay

Lindsay Tigar is an experienced, established travel and lifestyle journalist, editor and content strategist. Since uprooting from Asheville, North Carolina in 2010 to Manhattan, Lindsay's work has appeared on several websites, including Travel + Leisure, Vogue, USA Today, Reader's Digest, Self, Refinery29 and countless others. While she is always up for the challenge of any assignment, her main areas of focus include travel, wellness, career, psychology, love and healthy living.

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