By Krister Karjalainen
4 out of 5 consumers today see the retail landscape as a mix between the physical and the digital world.
Yet since the inception of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar shops and online shopping have largely remained divided. Now with the rise in popularity of hybrid commerce, these once-disparate retail channels are converging – and the physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined.
Some in the e-commerce business affectionately refer to this convergence as ‘phygital.’ I simply call it hybrid retail. Hybrid retail, as I see it, is a subset of hybrid commerce. While hybrid commerce focuses on acquiring the logistical and digital know-how to manage complex infrastructure, hybrid retail centers on customer-facing technology.
From Separate ‘Bricks and Clicks’ to Merged Best Practices
The concept of hybrid commerce is not new, despite gaining traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the accessibility of mature technology and infrastructure for retailers to adopt a hybrid model is novel. Therefore, I believe it’s time for retailers (and brands) to move beyond operating in silos and instead prioritize exceptional shopping, brand, and social experiences.
The hybrid retail model entails providing top-notch experiences for customers, regardless of channel or touchpoints
The hybrid retail model entails providing top-notch experiences for customers, regardless of channel or touchpoint. Today, exceptional experiences involve fast, reliable service and personalized, trustworthy information from relatable people. In my 20 years in retail and e-commerce, I've learned that the brand or retailer providing the best overall experience will lead the pack.
Brands providing the best overall experience will lead the pack
This is where live shopping and hybrid retail are a perfect match. Cutting-edge live shopping technology like Sprii bridges the gap between physical stores and e-commerce by combining the best of both. Customers can discover and buy products conveniently as with e-commerce while interacting with experts in real-time like in a store. It's truly the best of both worlds.
Customers can discover and buy products conveniently as with e-commerce while interacting with experts in real-time like in a store
What is #NextPractice in Hybrid Retail?
While we wait for conventional retail and e-commerce to fully embrace the inevitable digital transformation, I believe hybrid retail 1.0 should encourage focusing on building trust and continuously improving customer experiences. That includes organizing e-commerce and retail teams into hybrid teams, breaking down internal silos, and nurturing a hybrid culture. Now there is a paradigm shift that could really move the needle.
Another best or next practice is utilizing live shopping technology for educational purposes, especially for high-involvement products. Key players in certain industries are already demonstrating this well, like General Motors (GM) with their live shopping to educate viewers on their electric vehicles. Their focus on education around sustainability sets a great example for other industries to follow.
As more conventional business models shift to hybrid commerce and retail, the next best practitioner will create the best-in-class consumer experience
As more conventional business models shift to hybrid commerce and retail, the next best practitioner – the next thought leader – will create the best-in-class consumer experience.