Insight & Article

The Rise of ‘Phygital’ Spaces

The Rise of ‘Phygital’ Spaces

June 28,2016 Posted by Libby Davies

Here at SignStix HQ, we were delighted to see one of our stores featured in a recent report released by Retail Week. Using Sun & Sand Sports’ flagship store in the Dubai Mall as an example, the report examined the ways in which retailers can merge digital and physical platforms to create a brand new ‘phygital’ experience for their customers. By working closely with Sun & Sand Sports - and our partners - SignStix was able to create a fully immersive, innovative and interactive experience, and this is what Retail Week had to say:


“Perhaps nowhere is experiential retail better demonstrated than at Sun & Sand Sports…the ultimate fusion of digital and physical.”Laura Heywood, Commercial Editor, Retail Week.


As part of the concept for creating an immersive, digitally-led space, SignStix helped to deliver a first-of-its-kind digital concept store, offering customers an innovative retail experience loaded with interactive buying guides, digital wall displays, customisation areas, interactive playing zones and smart dressing rooms. By integrating the most exciting features of online retailing into a brick-and-mortar environment, Sun & Sand Sports has embraced both the physical and digital worlds, and delivered a truly innovative experience for their customers. The very heart of the store features a huge event space, consisting of a giant LED floor surrounded by digital displays; all of which can be controlled via the SignStix Commander application, which allows store associates to takeover store content in seconds, all from the convenience of a smart device.


In Heywood’s introduction to the “When Digital and Physical Collide” report, she concluded that Sun & Sand Sports “speaks volumes about what today’s consumers are craving from their shopping trips.”


In this article, we take a look at what phygital means for retailers, and how it is a reflection of the modern consumer.


What is ‘Phygital’?

“In the UK, property directors and their digital colleagues are embracing a future of collaboration as they work together to better blend the online experience with real-world shopping. Such joined-up strategies are ushering in a new era of phygital retailing – where the lines between physical and digital shopping are eroding. It’s this kind of fresh thinking that is future-proofing the stores of tomorrow.”Laura Heywood


The concept of ‘omnichannel’ and ‘multichannel’ shopping has been around for a while now, with the aim of seamlessly blending online and offline worlds being the goal of retailers for some time.


Rather than viewing online shopping as a threat to the brick-and-mortar store (as was the case when online first rose in popularity), retailers are instead choosing to embrace it, and looking for ways to leverage the benefits of eCommerce into a physical space. The ‘destination’ store is fast becoming an exciting and thrilling concept for retailers and consumers alike, with digital solutions helping to blur the lines between online and offline. “Shoppers want interaction, new experiences, and a chance to immerse themselves in the spirit of the store,” explains Heywood, and it is now becoming more viable for retailers to embrace multichannel by creating digital platforms within their stores. UK shopping centres have grown to become a destination in their own right, with investments in leisure and food facilities, cinemas and children’s activities meaning families are growing to view a trip to the shopping centre as a day out. This shift in consumer behaviour means retailers have the benefit of a customer’s time, but they still need to embrace digital as a method of encouraging their visits to last longer:


“The upshot is that retailers and their ecommerce and multichannel counterparts have to work even more closely to meet and exceed customer expectations of the shopping experience by redesigning spaces and offering digitally enabled services that drives shoppers to physical stores and encourages them to stay longer whilst they visit.”Retail Week


As outlined by Retail Week, it is now vital for forward-thinking retailers to redesign their existing spaces to accommodate digitally enabled services, such as Click-and-Collect or Reserve-and-Collect. These services are extremely successful at converting online sales into store visits, and drive the opportunity for additional sales whilst a customer is in store.


Other ways of embracing digital services include location-based marketing messages, or mobile and tablet-based point-of-sale systems. Personalised push notifications and discounts are an extremely popular way of engaging consumers, and providing them with a tailored and unique service that is specific to the physical space. 


Experiential Retail is the Future

Sun and Sand Sports in Dubai 

The rise of online shopping means that a typical consumer’s behaviour has changed, and retailers must constantly match the pace with which their shoppers move. For many, Retail Week points out that this has resulted in a ‘re-imagining of the store, whereby the physical shop becomes more of a showroom for the retailer’s wider product range.’ Speaking to Retail Week, Hannah McNamara (partner in Cushman & Wakefield’s retail team) states that ‘experiential retail is the future.’ She says:


“Stimulating and creative retail environments play a major role in convincing today’s demanding consumer to spend time and money in store, and truly engage with brands. The more you can do this, they more relevant retailers become to their consumers.”


The advances in technology has resulted in the digitalisation of the retail industry, with the vast range of options a consumer has available to them at the click of a button meaning physical spaces need to be designed to compliment and enhance this experience. Retail Week concludes that the next five years will be ‘characterised by radical shifts in consumer behaviour, in part fuelled by the rapid increase in the number of people accessing the internet via smartphones and in part driven by retailers offering greater choice, convenience and accessibility through digital platforms.’ Utilising digital tools such as iPads or digital kiosks, retailers can find ways to make a consumer’s physical experience as painless as possible, by reducing queue times, and being able to showcase an entire product range without the need to have it in stock. A report from PwC adds “in-store dynamic display will change beyond recognition within the next five years, enabling customers to access the full range of sizes, colours and features for any product, regardless of location.”  The exciting developments in technology can provide the solutions for innovative and future-proofed strategies that can allow retailers to truly achieve an omnichannel, seamless experience for their customers, and as Retail Week finishes, it is this kind of ‘fresh thinking’ that will ‘revolutionise the stores of the future.’


Source: - Retail Week “When Digital and Physical Collide: How Fresh Thinking is Future-Proofing the Stores of Tomorrow.” Please click on this link to download the full report:

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