08 - 09
May 2024

Phygital retail: The next level of customer service, inspired by Gandhi

We all have realized at some point that with happy customers businesses flourish well. So, did Mahatma Gandhi during a speech in South Africa, where he said:

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.

Though Gandhi’s thoughts are applicable to every form of business, it has become more apparent with the rising trend of Phygital Retail — a blend of physical and digital channels of retail. Customers also are going through the evolution of ‘what to expect’ in a similar fashion parallel with the increasing influence of tech in everyday life. As a result, businesses are changing their retail tactics from traditional “reactive’ to ‘proactive’, prioritizing customers first, just as Gandhi noted.

With uprise of technological advancement, artificial intelligence, chatbots etc., ‘push-pull dynamics’ of marketing are also shifting more towards ‘pull’ as customers are constantly getting bombarded with options by companies, topping one another day by day. For example- where brands like BoConcept, Timberland, Zara using artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. to provide an interactive experience in store. On the other side, grocery retailers and  food service platforms such as UBER Eats, Meijer etc. are using automation, machine learning etc. technology to create an immersive retail experience for the customers.

Sometimes one buys an expensive movie ticket, but 30 minutes into the movie, they suddenly find the movie failing to grip and an unwise expenditure. Despite the disappointment, most customers end up watching the film in entirely. That is a classic example of ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’, a psychological phenomenon, and brands are going to use this for customer attrition as we head more and more into the realm of phygital retail. With phygital retail it will be possible to create an experience so wonderful, immersive and yet so relatable, customers will be forced to consider the brands that tick the right boxes. This  will help the brands in turn to acquire loyal customer bases. And following Gandhi’s words, allowing phygital retail to serve the customer as the most important visitor.

–Sayan Mukhopadhyay