What You Need to Know About Phygital: More than a Buzzword

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Introducing PHYGITAL: It’s More than a Marketing Buzzword

OK…we admit that it’s a freshly-minted word, but PHYGITAL recognizes an increasingly useful trend in marketing. PHYGITAL refers to a crossover of the physical (PHY-) and the digital (-GITAL) aspects of the brand experience.The majority of today’s consumers shop online and in “brick-and-mortar” locations, and those two activities are always closely integrated. Although the name might be new, it’s a commonplace consideration in the retail world, and it’s making inroads in healthcare marketing as well.

Healthcare can take a page from retail brands and others as they devise new ways to meet customer expectations. The end result is to create a better, smarter, and more personalized customer experience. The goal is the same in healthcare. Your marketing vocabulary says “enhanced patient experience. ”Long before the buzzword arrived on the scene, retail consumers would often look online for information that helped formulate their shopping and purchase decisions.

Retail customers would visit a physical store to validate their decision and finalize their purchase. Nearly 25 percent of consumers make their purchases in a real-world store. The percentage is much higher for in-person healthcare delivery.

Steal a Page from the Retail Phygital Playbook

These purchase steps can be in any order. An item that is seen (tried, touched, experienced, encountered) in a physical store first, might be subsequently purchased online through Amazon or the like, or vice versa.

A few retail examples of the phygital experience include:

    • An Apple Store in an upscale, real-world location where prospective buyers have a hands-on experience with Apple products;
    • Fashion retailers invest in state-of-the-art websites to display clothing, illustrate fit and colors, a “virtual fitting room,” with stores for final experience
    • Futuristic outlets use sophisticated artificial intelligence, shopper data, and facial recognition to identify customers (and their preferences) upon entering the store
    • Online and interactive auto showrooms (Audi, for example) with touch screens and large panel displays
    • And there’s an app for leasing a car, including make, model, financial terms, etc. The car is delivered to your doorstep.
    • Some physical stores have “smart retail” chips imbedded in the product—clothing, for example. The data is recognized during the quick, convenient and simplified checkout.

    Why Phygital Immersion Marketing Is Increasingly Important

    For various reasons, phygital marketing is proving to be essential to brick-and-mortar retail. It’s true that real-world retail locations often struggled against the tide of online eCommerce. As a practical matter, these two activities can be integrated marketing tools that seamlessly complement each other for the benefit of the customer.

    Today’s healthcare buyers—prospective patients—typically shop online and buy in person when considering a course of treatment, a doctor or hospital.

    What’s more, the physical and digital crossover has a strong connection with the large and vital millennial audience. This demographic group has never been without the Internet. Major retail brands increasingly target the “phygital generation.”

    It’s perfectly natural and expected for millennials to begin or conclude their purchase process online. Healthcare immersion marketing has the opportunity to create a positive (and integrated) Healthcare patient experience through the office, the website, and via social media.

    Millennials also love, expect and demand quick answers and fast, convenient customer service. Often, that’s as close as their smartphone. The challenge for marketing professionals is to effectively combine these channels and deliver an immediate, immersive and positive customer/patient experience — essentially, immersion-communication.

    Increasing Phygital Connectivity in Healthcare

    In the past, doctor offices, hospitals, and the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt new technology…patient-doctor email for example. Competition and availability of tech advances are now bringing techie tools and ideas to provider offices. Ideas like phygital may be somewhat slower to gain traction. But patient expectations, and productivity benefits, have energized the adoption curve.

    Healthcare thought-leaders, leading medical practices, and hospitals have recognized this trend as an increasingly important marketing and business operations tool. Before the phygital catchword popped up, providers had begun embracing change.

    In addition to the website, social media and other marketing and communications elements, major healthcare players such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and many others are finding current-day examples that use phygital to enhance the patient experience, professional reputation, and brand allegiance.

    One of the most significant advances in accessibility is the growing adoption of telemedicine and virtual office visits (online, smartphone or app), nearly any time and nearly anywhere in the world. In addition, consider:

    • Wearable devices such as Apple Watch, headbands and similar that link personal monitoring data (weight, BP, EEG, exercise) with self- and physician-guided health and wellness decisions
    • Personalized text and email appointment and other reminders
    • Patients use Internet connectivity to quickly and easily make or change medical office appointments
    • Secure patient online portals providing transparency to health data, history and lab/test results
    • Arrival sign-in (tablet, etc) and waiting time for a medical office appointment
    • At-home monitoring devices to track pacemaker data, vitals or issues of concern
    • Online order/reorder (with home delivery) of pharma and OTC products
    • Results and monitoring for genetic testing, real-time blood testing and body scans
    • Voice-enabled lookup and communication channels
    • Validation and measure of quality of care and patient satisfaction
    • On-demand educational information

    Building on the Benefits of the Phygital Experience

    Major brands and others in the retail world have recognized the benefits of the PHYGITAL customer experience in the path to a purchase decision. By aligning all the physical and digital touchpoints, the retail consumer (or healthcare patient) quickly and easily receive consistent information that helps their purchase decision.

    In the future, healthcare systems brands will be able to provide a single tech platform to enable individuals to multitask. They can book virtual and real-world appointments, connect with allied health providers, and manage their personal wellness plan from a single online device.

    Eventually, the target audience and individual health-and-wellness plan will expand from online and social media to include emerging technology in augmented reality, artificial intelligence, integration with the Internet-of-Things (smart home and smart car devices).

    In many respects, the phygital buzzword is late to the party. It is now catching up with many aspects of physical-and-digital marketing techniques. Convenient, quick and informative are the watchwords.

    Begin with the consumer/user perspective. Millennials alone are an important and demanding audience. Recognize the importance of expanding on phygital opportunities that support the brand experience, capture more opportunity, and greatly enhance the patient experience.

    Stewart Gandolf
    Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
    Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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