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  • Writer's pictureFederica Zulllo

Phygital & Grocery stores: analysis of the customer satisfaction

Technological innovations of recent years have had a significant impact on the lives of consumers, who are changing the way they think, produce and most of all buy. It is now clear that customers cannot live without e-commerce but, at the same time, this does not mean the death of physical stores. The concept of Phygital is intended to mediate between these two, as a combination of digital technologies and physical processes that make every shopping experience unique, in which the consumer feels a fundamental part of the process. The objective of this research is the analysis of customer satisfaction regarding the introduction of technological innovations in physical stores and, in particular, grocery stores.

The work consists of an initial overview on the Italian context in which the trend of online commerce is analyzed. It shows that 47.6% of the Italian population has made at least one online purchase in 2021, with a particular look on Food that has a weight of 6% on the total e-commerce turnover.

The analysis continues with the presentation of Retail 4.0, whose main characteristics are the speed, the scope and the impact of the systems, which allow the industry to develop at an exponential (and not linear) pace, with an unprecedented transformation of production, management and governance systems.

Retail 4.0 is also defined as omnichannel. As a consequence, it is crucial to analyze and understand the transition from a multichannel approach, composed of multiple disconnected touchpoints, to the current omnichannel one, in which each touchpoint converges the consumer towards the purchase. This paved the way for a more consumer-oriented approach, with the aim of creating a single experience for the consumer (Andreula, 2020) and, in which each channel has a fundamental role along the customer journey.

It is in this context that we start to talk about Phygital, a neologism born from the crasis between physical and digital. The philosophy behind this concept is to involve the consumer in these two worlds (Andreula, 2020): If in the past brands focused their efforts on the product or service they offered, now they see the consumer as the pivot around which the entire sales process rotates, in a customer-centric vision. Adopting a phygital strategy also allows brands and firms to more precisely meet the needs of modern consumers, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Personalization: defined as the involvement of customers in the definition of customized details of the final product that they are willing to purchase

  • Unique experiences: although e-commerce is becoming increasingly popular, it is clear that it will never completely replace physical stores. This is due to the fact that consumers give great importance to their purchasing experience in store

  • Brand omnipresence: as a consequence of the omnichannel logic illustrated above, brands must be omnipresent and available whenever the customer needs them

Last but not least, a deep dive on the physical store cannot be left out of the equation. Despite the huge spread of new technologies and online stores, it is highly unlikely to witness the disappearance of the physical store. More likely, the retail store will become a leading player in decision-making. According to a research by Dennis (2018), by 2025 80% of purchases will be made in-store, but with a profoundly different approach: stores need to work on their perception in the mind of the consumer, from being a must go place to a wanna go place (Andreula, 2020). This means that they must become places that consumers choose to visit to live a particular experience and not just for lack of alternatives in buying a particular consumer product.

To carry out this study, a qualitative exploratory research was carried out, in order to choose the topic of the quantitative part. People with different ages in the range 25-65 years has been interviewed in order to obtain a greater representativeness and variety of responses, with the only precondition to be grocery shopper.

From this first analysis, informants turned out appreciating, appreciate more the physical expense carried out in the supermarket. If they have ever shopped online, this has not become part of the normal family routine. At the same time, however, traditional physical spending is not always the best choice to reconcile family and work. For this reason, all the interviewees agrees that the introduction of some technological improvements would make the process more efficient.

In order to obtain a more significant and heterogeneous number of answers, a questionnaire was created for quantitative research, on the basis of the results emerged from qualitative insights. The survey was spread trying to cover the age groups 20-75, consistent with the Italian population. 220 responses were obtained and the output was analyzed using SPSS statistical software.

The analysis of the data showed that almost all of the sample (85.4%) usually carries out shopping by going to the supermarket, and that in store shopping is also their preferred option (with higher scores among female respondents). The main drivers of satisfaction are the ability to better test products’ quality and the chance of looking for limited-period offers and discounts. Finally, respondents rated the introduction of technological innovations to improve store experience quite positively (7 on a scale of 1-9), the focus of this research.

Then was carried out a segmentation of the market, to divide the respondents into homogeneous groups, based on their similarities in reference to the benefits sought. Two clusters of people have been identified as follows:

  • Pragmatic: those who are strongly interested in the functional aspect of sales processes. For them it is important not to waste time, but at the same time to have the best service possible

  • Aesthetes: for them it is important to find in the store some services that, apparently, are not strictly necessary for the proper functioning of the supermarket but that improve the in-store experience of consumers and increase their loyalty

In addition, both a concept test and a conjoint analysis were conducted to better understand the propensity of consumers towards this specific proposal that included four features:

  • Possibility to scan products via smartphone to keep under control the expenses

  • Possibility to book the fresh products via QR code and receive a notification on your smartphone once ready, so as to avoid queues.

  • Shopping list shared with the other members of the family.

  • Points and related discounts/benefits automatically uploaded to your digital profile.

The analysis of the results showed that the attribute that found the greatest appreciation in the respondents was the possibility to automatically upload the points and relative advantages directly on your digital profile so you can monitor them at any time and by any device, in order to not have more printed coupons. Also noteworthy is the excellent feedback (second attribute for importance level) among consumers for the idea of being able to book fresh products. This is a disruptive innovation, that it is currently not implemented by any grocery store chain in Italy.

In conclusion, it is important to keep in mind that consumers would greatly appreciate the introduction of technological innovations in their trusted supermarkets, so as to enjoy in-store experiences that are closer to their needs and more efficient. It is a process that must be carried out with caution, without completely disrupting existing formats but gradually accompanying consumers in this inevitable step towards a phygital store.

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