December 11, 2015

Going Phygital: How Physical Spaces Could Benefit Digital Services

Designing Experiences

Why Phygital?

Not long ago, there was “shopping” and “online shopping.” There was “education” and “online education.” People interacted with brands in either in a space or online, but not together. Now, physical and digital experiences are inseparable, though the people who design and manage them rarely work together to create an integrated experience for the user.

People depend on mobile devices to navigate and connect with people and information. They rely on online maps and reviews to plan their visits to physical places. They use online platforms to make appointments, arrange pick-ups and deliveries, discover new things, and just make their experience in a space better all around.

At brightspot, we’re constantly thinking about how to understand and improve people’s experiences by reinventing service offerings, rethinking spaces, and redesigning organizations. This post documents our thoughts on a few hypothetical situations where online entities could benefit from integrating physical places in their user experience strategy – with an important disclaimer: none of these concepts are affiliated with, commissioned by, or endorsed by any of the entities referenced below and are purely brightspot’s speculations.

The Benefits of Phygital

Born-digital companies like Warby Parker and Trunk Club are among the leaders  reaping the benefits of creating a physical presence and thinking about digital and physical experiences together. We took a day off from our client work recently to explore the “phygital” approach. We first brainstormed what the benefits could be for other online services, looking at some current case studies and creating our own future potential concepts.

Across industries and examples, we identified 6 core benefits:

  1. Visibility: Using space as a living advertisement that makes what you offer more visible to more people
  2. Relationship-building: Enabling in-depth interactions with customers allows you to build a better relationship with them
  3. Discoverability: Exposing customers to new products and services they may not have known about or come across on a small screen
  4. Community: Building community and knowledge among your customers through special events and classes held in your space
  5. Convenience: Complementing online offerings with in-person services like in-store pickup and return
  6. Experience: Combining the above to create experiences for customers and staff, that are more productive, memorable, and profitable

A Few Digital Services That Could Benefit

Next we identified five online services that could benefit from physical spaces and brainstormed how they could go phygital and become so-called “clicks and mortar” businesses. Here are our concepts for cooking-at-home delivery, finding a pet, online TV and movie content, fantasy sports, and language learning service companies.

Cooking Café: A home food delivery service like Plated or Blue Apron could create a kind of cooking café that would offer cooking classes in a demo kitchen, showcase local vendors and their provisions, feature a café to sample food and recipes, provide a place to drop-off reusable / recyclable containers to minimize packaging waste, or even provide an in-store pickup/takeout option.

Pet and Owner Match-making: A service that connects pets with prospective owners like Petfinder or Adopt a Pet could create a place for the two to meet in person as well as bring together a suite of related services like a vet or training or selling food, accessories, and educational resources – call it the “Institute for New Best Friends”!

Cultural Hub for Online Content: Streaming content providers like Netflix and HBO are not just in the content business, they’re in the popular culture business. They are creating works that bring people together for reflection, discussion, and shared experiences. These digital organizations could take a page from libraries and museums that have embraced new and various roles as curators, hosts, and facilitators.

Fantasy Sports Lounge: While much of fantasy sports takes place online, people want to come together to strategize, socialize, and compete. The NFL, MLB, or ESPN could create a Fantasy Sports Lounge to provide a kind of “clubhouse” with just the right setting for this, featuring a data-rich environment for real-time stats, offering a place to find teammates and meet competitors, and creating a hub for the community, especially around events like draft day.

Language Café: Language learning programs like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo could benefit from a physical setting that brings people together to practice new language skills in real-world situations. For instance, what better place to learn and practice speaking a language than in a café? People could meet for conversation, for events, or for classes and tutoring. If the café is the hub, pop-up satellites could also be possible, say, in a grocery store, where cross-promotion of products from another country might be featured along with its language.

These are a few of our thoughts on how digital services could go phygital – of course there are many more services and many different directions to take them. What they represent is the opportunity to use physical space to make digital services more visible and discoverable, to better connect with customers in more depth, and to build community among your customers.






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