It's a Phygital World

How convenience stores can leverage the trend.
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“Phygital” retail experiences — in which elements of physical and digital experiences and offerings coexist — offer opportunities to bring your customers closer to your brand by allowing them to interact with and purchase from you when, where and how they prefer.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for, and the convenience of, online connections. That shift cemented the necessity for a brand’s coexistence in both spaces. The bottom line: The phygital trend is here to stay.

Consumers want to interact with a brand in stores, online and using apps according to their preferences and convenience, and they expect a consistent experience and uninterrupted service at every touchpoint.

For many convenience stores, this phygital experience is most prevalent in the use of robust apps that integrate a brand’s physical and digital storefront. These apps allow customers to check inventory and prices, access program rewards and deals, read product reviews, and make contactless payments — all of which further blurs the lines between in-store and online shopping.

When it comes to phygital experiences, Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc. delivers on multiple fronts. The convenience store chain offers in-store self-checkout at several locations. For those who crave their infamous built-to-order sandwiches, in-store touchscreen kiosks are available as a convenient way to order. Wawa’s app also allows customers to preorder and prepay for food, and to create a favorites list for easy-ordering return visits and a more personalized experience. Also in the app, Wawa offers a loyalty membership to earn store rewards, and gift cards can be registered in a customer’s account and used to pay and automatically earn rewards.

Another good example of embracing the phygital trend is Love's Travel Stops, which caters to commercial truck drivers. The chain offers exclusive deals through its Love's Connect app, as well as Love's Mobile Pay, which allows drivers to answer prompts, arm the pump, and receive a digital receipt using only a mobile phone from the truck cab. Mobile Shower Check-In provides My Love Rewards members the option to check in and pay for a shower with rewards points and credits, and tells drivers when a shower is ready in-store. The Love's Connect app also provides a fast, convenient way for drivers to look up fuel and in-store transactions; easily filter by date range, state or store number; and share receipts for fuel reimbursement.

Casey's General Stores Inc. provides a wide range of options and benefits through its app, too, including easy mobile ordering of snacks, groceries and pizza — with choice of delivery, pickup or carryout. The Casey's Rewards program provides exclusive deals and offers, such as earning points for every purchase that can be redeemed for free food, merchandise, fuel discounts or school donations. The rewards program also offers loyal customers giveaways, instant-win games and prizes, including free pizza or fuel for an entire year, plus recipes, DIY ideas and tailgating tips.  

There are two key takeaways here for how convenience stores should engage and incentivize customers with phygital experiences:

  1. Integrate app capabilities into the store experience: Allow customers to check inventory, access member pricing and offers, and scan and pay right from their phone.
  2. Consider loyalty’s role in product usage: Give members the ability to unlock benefits after consistent use or deliver relevant content based on their purchase patterns. Analyze product use data for deeper insights on what would entice customers or bring them back.

In addition, consider integrating Web3 and loyalty strategies if your brand has already embraced the metaverse. Your brand could use currency and tiers to reward Web3 activity and enhance the Web3 experience for a set of high-value customers through collected data. Identify your brand’s best customers and offer them exclusive Web3 assets and experiences.

The convergence of digital and physical creates openings for convenience stores to differentiate their loyalty offerings and create member-exclusive experiences. As your brand continues to leverage data to better understand your audiences, equip your in-person locations with innovative, immersive, technology-driven phygital interactions that are truly personalized and memorable.

Technology that recognizes loyal customers and harmonizes their interactions across channels helps acknowledge, reward, surprise and delight customers everywhere your brand meets them: in stores, using your app, or the growing meta spaces in between.

Lisa Schneider, account director, and Ashley McMillin, account executive, are part of The Lacek Group, a Minneapolis-based data-driven loyalty, experience and customer engagement agency that has been delivering personalization at scale for its world-class clients for more than 25 years. The Lacek Group is an Ogilvy Experience company.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.  

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