The phygital experience: what it means for consumers, patients, and marketers
By Kendrah Neff
Technology has revolutionized the way we behave, communicate, and complete our daily tasks. It goes without saying that our world is digitally driven, with the average person sending 40 emails and 72 texts, seeing up to 10,000 ads, and streaming about 4 hours of music – all in a single day. Technology has saturated all facets of our daily lives. This saturation will not only continue, but integrate even further to create entirely new experiences – through augmented reality, virtual reality, the metaverse – and, quite literally, drive us forward with autonomous vehicles.
While the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the digitization of our world, it also taught us one important thing: we all crave real, human connection. We were suddenly in lockdown and thrown off from normal routine, when we realized how much we took handshakes, hugs, and face-to-face conversation for granted. COVID-19 revealed an important truth – our lives need a balance of digital and physical. We need technology that connects us to data and offers instantaneous answers, but we also need physical, human interactions to keep us from feeling disconnected. Bridging the gap between physical and digital is more important than ever. The term phygital describes this interrelationship of the physical and digital worlds that helps to bridge the gap.
But what is “phygital”, really?
Coined by Australian ad agency Momentum in 2013, “phygital” defines the blend and balance of the physical and digital working together in harmony. It acknowledges that many of our daily experiences today intertwine high-tech digital experiences with high-touch physical experiences. To effectively engage consumers today, marketers need to use a phygital strategy that proactively reaches consumers where they are. While online shopping has grown exponentially, reports of the death of brick-and-mortar stores have been greatly exaggerated. In-store spending rose 8% year over year in 2022, growing at a higher rate than in 2021. And, 75% of shoppers say they research and purchase both in-store and online, across a wide variety of product categories, according to McKinsey.
As we see in omnichannel retail, consumers often interact with various brands and products across numerous channels and touchpoints at different times in the buying journey, based on convenience and personal preferences. For example, someone might buy clothing online but pick up the order in-person, arrive at a fast-food chain and use a kiosk to place their order, or use an app to remote start their car before driving to work on a cold day. We know that consumers interact with brands and products both physically and digitally. The question is: are you proactively interacting with consumers phygitally?
The difference between omnichannel and phygital marketing
Phygital is the next evolution of omnichannel. Omnichannel marketing has historically been about having a presence across multiple channels. In retail, this was often considered having consistent, compatible in-store and online experiences. Phygital elevates omnichannel by delivering a truly seamless experience across channels, incorporating technology to enhance the customer’s experience, and creating new ways for customers to interact with brands. Think about the tech-powered Amazon Go shopping experience that enables shoppers to leave the store with a cart of food without pulling out their wallet. Or, think about furniture retailers like Target, Wayfair, and Crate & Barrel that offer 3D visualization tools powered by AR to help online shoppers visualize a new sofa in their living room before purchasing. Both examples create convenience for consumers by blending technology into a physical setting, making the transaction easier, and driving a better experience. That’s phygital.
The phygital patient experience
On any given day, we can be both patients and consumers. For example, someone might go to a retail pharmacy to pick up a prescription they refilled through an app, talk to the pharmacist, get a vaccine they were overdue for, and pick up milk on their way out. Phygital experiences have progressed into healthcare in several ways, such as through virtual care. Video visits, phone calls, messaging, and online questionnaires are often combined with in-person doctor’s appointments, usually based on the complexity of symptoms or the services required. Wearable devices such as the Apple Watch track heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and sleeping respiratory rate which can help individuals better manage their health at home. These wearables, combined with other remote monitoring tools, help doctors, nurses, and pharmacists with remote patient care such as with Chronic Care Management (CCM) services. With these patient experiences now commonplace, marketers must incorporate phygital strategies as part of their efforts to drive awareness and inform patients, too.
How pharma brand managers can balance human and digital
Pharmaceutical brands are facing shorter product lifecycles, increased cost pressures, decreased budgets, and difficulty engaging patients. On top of this, HCP marketing is typically 55% of pharma marketing budgets, but the current shortage of physicians is continuing to worsen over the next decade leading to busier physicians with less capacity to consume messages from pharma. This means consumer marketing is increasingly important for driving awareness, access, and adherence of medications. A phygital strategy that balances human touch and technology can help brands can reach patients in a timely and convenient manner. For example, consumers should be equipped with relevant knowledge as soon as they are prescribed a new medication, pick up their first fill, struggle with adherence or fall off therapy due to price, side effects or forgetfulness. They should be nudged both digitally and through their trusted healthcare team, like physicians and pharmacists, to ultimately improve their experience and health outcomes.
Your phygital consumer marketing plan can utilize patients’ trusted pharmacies to reach individuals at the right time. Through a network of over 16,000 pharmacies and 40 million patients, Outcomes delivers personalized and intelligent digital communication to patients and initiates live one-on-one conversations between pharmacists and patients. Using both digital micro-nudges and meaningful conversations timed to key moments in the journey, you can influence consumer behavior across awareness, access, and adherence. For pharma brands, this influence includes lifting adherence by 13-23%, bringing back 27% of patients that are non-adherent, and better empowering individuals with meaningful and educational information.