Taking A Phygital Approach to Your Retail Business: Lessons from Sunglass Hut

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Taking A Phygital Approach to Your Retail Business: Lessons from Sunglass Hut

Taking A Phygital Approach to Your Retail Business Lessons from Sunglass Hut 1

In light of the extended reach and operational efficiency the online retail space offers, more and more businesses have been shifting to the digital realm. However, beyond simply moving your offerings online, a previous post entitled ‘Phygital: Exploring the Capabilities of Phygital-ing Industries’ introduces the concept of a phygital approach — a hybrid business model that closes the gap between the physical and digital worlds for greater ease and convenience. In other words, the phygital approach is synergistic, integrating digital tools into physical interactions so both aspects can benefit one another.

Whether it leverages emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) or augmented and virtual reality, the phygital strategy’s advantages mainly lie in enhanced customer experience, business productivity, and competitive advantage. Such benefits are achievable when a business is instant, connected, and engaging, as highlighted below through the history and performance of the eyewear retailer Sunglass Hut.

Pioneering e-commerce in the eyewear industry

As an international retailer of sunglasses and related accessories, Sunglass Hut was among the pioneers of e-commerce in the eyewear industry, officially making its move in 1998. Since then, Sunglass Hut’s extensive online catalogue of sunglasses has significantly expanded, ranging from outdoor-oriented brands like Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Costa to designer names like Prada, Versace, and Gucci. 

Not only is its website optimised for a user-friendly experience through brand segmentation, special editions, and virtual try-on features, but it also offers an instant, seamless shopping experience by offering flexible delivery options. Besides free shipping, which is already common within e-commerce, Sunglass Hut incorporates a drive-to-store strategy into its phygital approach by allowing customers to browse products online and check their in-store availability, as well as order online and pick them up at nearby stores after three business hours.

Bridging online and in-person retail experiences

Aside from providing products and services instantly through website optimisation and drive-to-store tactics, Sunglass Hut’s business model also embodies the second pillar of the phygital approach, which is creating an interconnected environment of physical and digital elements. On top of its undeniable success in e-commerce, Sunglass Hut embarked on a strategic partnership with Hudson to help operate standalone travel retail locations across North America.

Through this partnership, eyewear consumers will be able to shop in physical stores while still maintaining the convenience and efficiency of online shopping and checkouts. This is made possible by carrying the same range of brands as the Sunglass Hut website, as well as by deploying mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems and other frictionless checkout capabilities.

Creating immersive marketing campaigns

Last but not least, Sunglass Hut perfectly captures the engaging component of the phygital model by rolling out immersive marketing campaigns that translate well both online and offline. A notable example of this is the retailer’s recent collaboration with the avatar creation platform Ready Player Me. Amid the rise of digital fashion, Ready Player Me allows new and existing customers to design avatars that sport virtual versions of eyewear offered by Sunglass Hut. This adds an interactive and gamified component to the promotion and advertisement of Sunglass Hut’s physical products. 

Overall, Sunglass Hut illustrates how it is possible to balance online and in-store retail experiences for optimal customer service and satisfaction. By investing in new and emerging technologies, targeting consumers’ ever-changing needs and preferences, and collaborating with other brands, Sunglass Hut is a prime example of how the phygital approach is possible for business growth and success.