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Integrating digital, physical touchpoints makes for better customer experience

If businesses want a fresh and competitive mobile strategy, they’ll need to break mobile out of the bubble it’s been living in. “We’re in a post-mobile world,” said Kelly Manthey, vice president of strategy and innovation at Solstice Mobile, a mobile consulting firm in Chicago.

Manthey wasn’t trying to be provocative; instead, she wanted to convey to attendees of the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit in New York City that mobile devices and mobile app dev can no longer be considered a novelty in the workplace. It’s time to bring mobile into the fold and integrate it with other processes.

One tip? Rather than lamenting on how mobile technologies are taking the place of physical interactions, start thinking “digical,” Manthey said. In other words, figure out ways digital and physical interactions with customers can play off of each other to provide a better overall experience. That’s what health care startup Doctor on Demand and leading retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy’s are doing.

Last summer, Nordstrom spent $350 million to acquire fashion startup Trunk Club, a Chicago-based personalized shopping service for men that’s using digical to its advantage. After signing up online, customers talk with a personal stylist in person or have a Trunk Club fitting where they discuss personal preferences. After that, the interaction turns digital, with the stylist selecting several articles of clothing, sharing them with the customer for review and then shipping the “trunk” directly to the customer. Trunk Club members pay for what they plan to keep and can return the rest.

Nordstrom’s acquisition is “an extension of their brand to really enhance the physical with an awesome digital experience,” Manthey said, and pushes the 114-year old retailer into the subscription service.

Macy’s goes ‘digical’

A month after Nordstrom acquired Trunk Club, another retailer made headlines for its pursuit of digical. Macy’s announced plans to roll out Shopkick iBeacons, which use Bluetooth Low Energy to interact with smartphones in the vicinity, at all of its stores nationwide.

While the Macy’s mobile app gives customers a chance to browse through merchandise digitally when they’re out of the store, iBeacons can interact with customers when they’re in the store to, say, remind them of items they flagged online, deliver coupons or alert them to sales. “We know that while people are doing search and discovery and using mobile devices and using the Web to do some initial shopping and get some feedback, they’re actually doing most of the purchasing in the store,” Manthey said.

But retailers aren’t alone. Manthey pointed to the medical startup Doctor on Demand as another example of digical. The startup, founded by Dr. Phil (yes, that Dr. Phil) and his son, gives customers a chance to video visit with a medical professional via a smartphone or laptop. “You basically have a Facetime session with a doctor,” Manthey said.

The digital service isn’t cheap ($40 for 15 minutes with a medical professional), and if the problem is more complex than a cold, a skin rash, a sore throat — common ailments that bring patients into the doctor’s office — they can opt for an in-person experience.

Even the Mayo Clinic wants to figure out how to streamline the patient experience by marrying digital and physical interactions together. In partnership with the startup Better, the Mayo Clinic supports a mobile app that acts as a companion for patients, Manthey said. The app hooks into the clinic’s vast database when patients are searching for information about symptoms they’re experiencing and, for a fee, they can also call up trained medical professionals who are available 24/7.

Neither application will replace going to the doctor, Manthey said, but they may make visiting with the doctor less stressful — and maybe even more enjoyable.

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