Hybrid Retail creates best-in-class experiences

Steven Hubbard
11 March, 24

4 out of 5 consumers today see the retail landscape as a mix between the physical and the digital world[1].

Yet since the beginning of e-commerce, the two worlds have remained mostly divided between so-called ‘brick-and-mortar’ shops and online shopping[2]. Now with the popularization of Hybrid Commerce, these market silos are finally being broken down – and the two worlds are becoming ever more intertwined.

Some in the e-commerce business lovingly refer to this as ‘phygital’; I simply refer to it as Hybrid Retail. Hybrid Retail, as I see it, is a subset of Hybrid Commerce. But whereas Hybrid Commerce mostly deals with acquiring digital and logistical know-how to manage the complex logistical and digital infrastructure (that Hybrid Commerce requires), Hybrid Retail mainly focuses on the customer-facing technology[3].

From ‘Bricks and Clicks’ to new best practices

The concept of Hybrid Commerce is actually nothing new, despite being popularized during the Covid-19 pandemic. What is new, however, is the current accessibility of fully developed technology and the necessary infrastructure for retailers to adopt a Hybrid Retail model.  For this reason, I believe it is time for retailers (and brands for that matter) to move beyond operating and thinking in separate channels, categories or silos, and instead focus on delivering top-notch shopping, brand or social experiences.

The Hybrid Retail model is all about providing exceptional experiences to customers, regardless of the channels or touchpoints they use. Nowadays, what makes an experience exceptional is fast and reliable service, as well as personalized and trustworthy information from people, who customers can relate to and connect with. In my 20 years of experience in retail and e-commerce, I have learned that the brand or retailer that provides the best overall experience will stand above the rest.

This is where Live Shopping and Hybrid Retail fit like a glove. The latest Live Shopping technology like Sprii allows companies to bridge the gap between physical stores and e-commerce by merging best practices from both into one. On one hand, customers can discover and purchase products from the comfort of their homes and with the ease associated with e-commerce functionality. On the other hand, they can interact with product experts and staff in real time in a similar yet more profound way than they would typically get in-store. It is the best of both worlds, really.

What is #Nextpractice in Hybrid Retail

While we wait for conventional retail and e-commerce to fully embrace the inevitable digital transformation that all brands and retailers will undergo sooner or later, I believe that Hybrid Retail 1.0 should encourage companies to focus on building trust and continuously improving the customer experience. Part of that improvement is to organize one’s e-commerce and retail team into a hybrid team, thereby breaking internal silos and nurturing a hybrid culture in both thought and business. Now there’s a paradigm shift that would move the proverbial needle.

Another best or next practice for the future of retail is using Live Shopping technology for educational purposes. This specifically applies to quality versus quantity consumerism, and high-involvement products. A key component here will be utilizing customer-facing technology as the primary tool. Certain industries with high-involvement consumer products and pioneering brands are already doing this. General Motors (GM) is one of my favorite examples of how to do it right. GM uses Live Shopping to educate buyers about their electric cars, as well as society in general on their commitment to green mobility.

In general, I believe most industries could stand to learn something from companies like GM in this regard. As more and more conventional business models move to Hybrid Commerce and Hybrid Retail, the next best practitioner – and the next thought leader – will be the one that can create the best-in-class experience for the consumer.

[1] Source: https://blog.lengow.com/e-commerce-trends/hybrid-commerce/

[2] Source: https://blog.lengow.com/e-commerce-trends/hybrid-commerce/

[3] Source: https://www.sngular.com/insights/169/insight-hybrid-retail-model

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