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  • Karl Turley

The future of retail is phygital

Technology and innovation strategies are powerful tools for change, especially in retail customer experience. Their roles in facilitating growth are frequently highlighted to ensure brands stay present and on top of customer trends [1]. For physical brick-and-mortar stores, this often means adopting an omnichannel approach which allows customers a selection of channels to purchase from. Brands are having to think “phygitally” more now than ever, combining their physical retail stores with digital strategies, creating an ecosystem between the brand and the consumer.

How brands adopt innovation can vary depending on their proposition, and we discussed some of the challenges retail brands face in delivering innovation for business growth at an event held by WPP agency, Geometry, last month [2]. It’s been obvious from the outset: innovation is driven by frequent contact with customers. “JustEat” for example, are always looking for micro-trends and developing prototypes on their platform, to validate when the micro-trend might become something much larger – a trend of vegan takeaways for instance. Facebook are another good example, as they’re known to have 60 different versions of their application out at a time, and split testing and learning from each [3]. However, physical products such as “Heinz Tomato Ketchup”, aren’t able to benefit from agile software platforms for testing product innovation: they would need to develop physical prototypes and distribute through sachet forms for example, which could be costly.

Failure is very much part of the process too. Geometry’s Digital Director noted that 40% of innovation is successful, but the learning aspects originate from the 60% attempts that failed. Brands need to be sure of their methodology so as to not to scale stupidity; validating ideas through developing minimum viable products (MVPs) and reporting their success through ordinary and learning-specific, key performance indicators (KPIs).

The journey of corporate change is also an important factor. The common assumption that the innovation idea needs to be concealed until it is ready, is fundamentally wrong [4]. When an idea is available for implementation or testing, it’s often best to involve many different individuals and teams throughout the process, including internal stakeholders, ranging from the Product and Innovation teams through to Legal and Finance.

Individuals’ perspectives of change has long been an issue in the workplace. Involving everyone early on in the discussions can be the difference between success and failure, and the process also allows ideas to be evaluated from all aspects for suitability. For example, the idea could be flawed by a legal issue, which could be discussed further by all members of the team. Furthermore, innovation can be encouraged through the use of non-jargonistic language so that ideas are understood by all members of a team.

As a 3D solutions company, we see real value in adopting innovation practice to drive growth and solve customer needs. Technology is a flexible tool, not only for in-store customer experience, but also for how it can enable the capture of personal data, to provide consumers the convenience of being able to shop from home, and to give retailers an opportunity to communicate, upsell and repeat purchase promotions. We say, “phygit more”!


1. Delloitte. Technology in retail: From centre stage to supporting player. Beyond four walls. Retail trends 2016/17, Vol. 1. 2. Captivate. What is the role of innovation in driving category growth? Geometry. June 7th, 2018. 3. Matsakis, L. There are over 60 different versions of the Facebook app. Motherboard. October 17th, 2017 4. Llopis, G. 5 ways leaders enable innovation in their teams. Forbes. April 7th, 2014.

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