The Indian economy has seen dramatic changes in recent years, with the majority of this change being driven by technological adoption. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts India’s ICT Spending to grow by over 10% to reach $91 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $111 billion by 2024. As the concept of hybrid work models gains traction, its impact on all economic sectors can often be seen, with organizations integrating their digital and physical operations into a single entity known as ‘Phygital.’
Oil and gas major Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), a Fortune Global 500 Company, with a strong network of about 18,000 retail outlets, spread across India, is also betting big on ‘phygital’ experiences – one that combines physical and digital experiences – through implementing a hybrid approach and driving customer experience.
In an exclusive with CXOToday, Rahul Tandon, Head, Digital Transformation (Project Anubhav), BPCL, talks about the superior experiences that BPCL is creating in the ‘Phygital’ age, technologies that are contributing to a sound ‘Phygital experience and how this emerging concept can help companies drive customer engagement and promote brand loyalty. Excerpt.
How, according to you, has the perception of digital transformation changed for businesses in the last few years?
The last few years have been quite transformative in terms of digital transformation. Digitalization is no longer seen as a choice for businesses, but a prime aspect to maintain business continuity and sustain the position in the industry. In essence, companies are proactively utilizing advanced technologies to improve and expand their business processes and investing in them quite extensively. The shift in perception can be linked to several variables, including disruption caused by the pandemic, market competitiveness, a rapidly changing technological landscape,a highly connected and informed customer, and pandemic-induced remote operations among others. Analyzing the current trends and scenarios, the coming years will become even more transformational, with some major developments expected.
Brands are talking about blending the physical and digital experience today. What are some of the advantages of ‘Phygital’ for both businesses and customers?
Changing customer expectations, new digital competition, evolving regulations, and technology advancements all combine the needs to bring in the concept of Phygital. This forthcoming and game-changing model brings numerous value adds such as cost savings, resource optimization, employee safety considering social distancing concerns, and increased consumer engagement. Additionally, it also provides firms with an alternative platform in the occurrence of market shocks, which is crucial given the current state of uncertainty. Whereas on the customer side, the model gives customers a simple and quick way to interact with brands, ultimately allowing them to have both in-store and online shopping experiences. While offline shopping will always remain significant in terms of having one-on-one consumer interaction, meanwhile online shopping pattern has exploded in popularity in recent years due to its ease, and with Phygital, both firms and customers stand to mutually benefit.
What technologies are contributing to a sound ‘Phygital experience and how?
A perfect blend of physical and digital i.e.,Phygital experience is facilitated by a variety of rapidly growing technology. It includes both advanced technologies and digital solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics are two key emerging technologies that have become key contributors in providing a Phygital experience. Not only are these technologies assisting organizations in optimizing and digitizing customer operations, but they are also supporting them in digitizing all back-end activities and operations. However, phygital experience creates a platform for the company’s stakeholders like employees and managers to automate and digitize their day-to-day activities. The network of phygital experience is combined with the new technologies can be leveraged not just to drive growth, but to establish competitive advantages.
Could you please elaborate on some of the best practices that BPCL is implementing in the Oil and Gas industry in terms of technology adoption and digitization?
Collaboration is a key value for us at BPCL. One of the major issues that come in during the technology adoption phase is the ownership of the user function of the technology developed by the project teams. Some of the best practices companies can use are:
– Involving the user function in the design and testing of the product and platforms; which leverages the IKEA effect and ensures complete ownership by project teams and user functions leading to immediate adoption without friction
-The key communication strategy is to ensure the benefit to the user are understood more than the functionality
– Elaborate and extensive training is required for the users to move through the adoption life cycle curve rapidly
Specifically looking at the Oil and Gas industry, we are into a commodity business where products need to be delivered physically. That is why Phygital plays a key role in our industry in the delivery of digital experience and customer experience. Digital Transformation is like an awakening, sometimes the new age technology forces us to think in new ways of changing our business processes and one must keep an open mind during the whole journey, otherwise, the tendency to create solutions to the existing business processes may restrict the whole spectrum on transformation.
What has been the role of analytics & AI in driving customer satisfaction at BPCL? How is BPCL undergoing digital transformation using CX cloud?
At BPCL we are driving customer campaigns that provide great personalized engagement depending on whichever lifecycle the customer is at. For our Digital marketing pilot under Project Anubhav, this has been possible with a lot of insight and intelligence which has stemmed from the AI powering Oracle’s CX cloud solution. We have used this across some useful use cases, and this has helped to provide our customers with unique offers, personalized for their segment and that too at scale. We are seeing the positive impact of this on business-specific KPIs such as campaign engagement, opt-in to receive more communication from BPCL, and greater footfalls at our retail store. Our digital maturity has grown considerably with the adoption of CX Cloud and what started as an Intelligent Customer Communication engine is now slowly transforming into Hyper Personalized customer engagement for us in this pilot.
For a large enterprise like BPCL how did you ensure your organizational culture is conducive to your digital transformation?
The common knowledge or understanding is that People, Process, and Technology are the important pillars of any digital transformation. However, we approach this journey with a people-first approach. People are key to the design, development, and ultimate usage. The change of course starts with the topmost leadership who have been crucial in driving the whole cultural transformation. One important differentiator of Project Anubhav, our digital transformation journey is that we have involved the business or user functions at all levels. Technology that is disconnected from the physical realities at the point of business may rarely lead to transformation.
At the design stage, we held multiple workshops with employees at all levels to get a firm grip on the key areas of transformation both from an internal efficiency perspective and the customer perspective. We have put in humongous hours of training to enable the field to effectively utilize the technology pieces and get conversant with new platforms. Organizational cultural change is a very slow process and doesn’t finish even when we have covered the last mile field force. Rather it is a continuous engagement and improvement process, which we have firmly believed in and continue to follow.
Customers often prefer an emotional ‘connect’ with brands, more than the technical aspects. How can your digital strategies bolster this experience?
As mentioned earlier, the physical leg of customer engagement will never go away. Customers have a physical connection with businesses, and as the economy improves, they would explore in-store experiences, something we have all been sceptical of for the past couple of years. Brands, on the other hand, can use digital tactics to not only improve customer experience but also expand their consumer base. Customers may connect with brands from all over the world as per their comfort levels through digital platforms. Similarly, initiatives such as offers, referrals, cash backs, and loyalty points assist firms in interacting with their current customers and increasing brand loyalty.
As a result, digital strategies may help brands improve customer experience by acting as enablers and supporters. The term “Phygital” was credited with pioneering a combination of physical and digital aspects that produces mutual gains for both companies and customers while also providing greater purchasing experiences and more evolved product and price discoveries.