In this opinion piece, Bronwyn van der Merwe, general manager of Fjord Asia Pacific, part of Accenture Interactive, discusses why brands need to seamlessly interconnect the digital and physical in order to be successful.
A wave of change is coming. Following years of investment in digital as a key channel to enable consumers to interact with organisations, a greater emphasis is now being placed on intertwining both the digital and physical space.
The emergence of an increasingly integrated approach is becoming evident in Australia, where convenience, powered by seamless connectivity dependent on data, has led to shift among retailers and others to gather, use and act on customer data both more effectively and creatively.
With organisations such as Google, Mastercard and Alibaba leading the way, we are now at a point where digital and physical intertwine. Australian organisations will need to use their understanding of customers’ online behaviours to reshape offline experiences and vice versa. Take Google and Mastercard, who are working together to develop two-way tracking conversion that transcends the digital world to finally connect offline behaviour and digital marketing.
Nike also recently released a new app, which aims to bridge the gap between shopping online and in-store. Using geolocation tagging, the app knows when you arrive in store and offers a range of new features to improve the physical browsing experience.
In Melbourne, 7-Eleven removed the physical checkout from the store at its Richmond store, enabling Australian customers to pay only via mobile app. The store provides a more seamless and convenient customer experience, with more space and less queues.
In order to seamlessly interconnect digital and physical experience, Australian organisations will be required to undertake a fundamental rethink of the approaches and tools for designing spaces. Fjord, part of Accenture Interactive, have outlined four steps for organisations looking to do so:
Let online behaviours inform offline
Consumers’ digital behaviour can give powerful insights to what Australians want and value. Australian businesses need to use those insights where appropriate in a physical environment.
For example, Amazon opened a four-star physical store that only stocks products that have been given four stars or more in their online reviews. In the store, there are tables devoted to groupings such as “most wished for”, “Amazon exclusives” and “holiday deals”.
The experience of seamlessly moving between digital and physical channels is evolving. To mind the gap and stop consumers from being left behind, Australian organisations should explore the potential of new technology partnerships to make it happen.
Apple recently expanded its enterprise SAP partnership focusing on increasing iPhone, iPad and Mac use in enterprise through the use of augmented reality (AR) and machine learning. For example, SAP and Apple will leverage augmented reality to repair machinery and stock shelves.
Link space and business strategy
Australian organisations also need to define the productivity they want from their space, and design around it. The business purpose of space is constantly changing, and as organisations move to new agile ways of working it’s imperative that this is reflected in an organisation’s workplace strategy.
WeWork focused, until recently, on offering individuals and small businesses physical coworking spaces. Now, it’s augmenting its physical space offer with digital information gathered from its 268,000 members in 287 locations across 23 countries. WeWork uses this data to give real-time recommendations to big corporations on how to get more out of their spaces and reduce employee churn.
Hub Australia has aligned their space to intermix digital and physical, by offering premium coworking spaces which include state-of-the-art media studios. Each media studio is equipped with full podcasting equipment for members to create their own audio recordings, interviews and content.
Create a connected ecosystem
In addition, organisations need to look at the ecosystems of services and experiences offered in their space. They will also need to open up to designing digital channels, stores, supply chain or communities as part of an integrated whole. Importantly, they’ll need to then link these ecosystems to Australian customers’ needs and mindsets, making sure this is what drives the design process.
Increasingly, the physical and digital journey will be designed as a single experience, meeting the holistic needs of Australian consumers. Australian organisations need to rethink their approaches and tools for designing spaces. Those who don’t invest in or drive differentiation in the physical environment will give up market share to those that can. The time is now.
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