Digital 101 – Figital

David is a cross country runner. While on a practice run, the soles of his shoes gave out, forcing him to need a new pair. He walks into a sports store to look for the ideal pair of shoes but finds the prices to be out of his budget. As he walks out of the store emptyhanded, he quickly fires up his phone to look for similar shoes at more affordable prices. He eventually finds the same pair he tried out at the store, at 60% off.


At the same time, on the other side of the world, Daisy spends a lazy Saturday evening browsing through clothes websites. Although she loved the variety of clothes she found, she worried whether they would fit her and if they would suit her. Luckily, the website she was searching allowed potential buyers to log in their measurements. Then, they are presented with a digital rendering showing them how the clothes would look on them, allowing them to make informed decisions.


The advents of digitization and digitalization have resulted in physical and analog systems being converted to digital. In essence, pen and paper moved to typewriters, computers, floppy disks, CD-ROMs, hard drives and now cloud systems:


  • Physical books are replaced by eBooks
  • Classroom-based learning is losing favor to eLearning
  • Board games and card games are moving from physical to digital experiences
    However, in the process of this transformation, we have realized that not everything tangible can be digitized. Clothes, food, shelter, transportation, and other physiological human needs specifically, cannot be digitized. However, experts have determined that the experience of interacting with commodities that fulfill these needs can be digitized, giving rise to the ‘Figital’ culture – a reinvention of customer experience by bringing together physical and digital experience.


The scenarios mentioned above – the experiences of David and Daisy, are examples of ‘Figital’. A concept coined by consulting firm Bain & Company, this concept is also recognized as ‘Phygital’ or ‘Digical’, and was conceptualized to firm revolutionize the retail industry. 

The evolution of Retail into Figital

When people started moving into urban spaces in favor of better-paying jobs, mom-and-pop shops started emerging at every street corner to support the working class. These stores carried all the essentials. Every store was similar.


When Tom Ford revolutionized the assembly line production to lower the prices of automobiles, cars became a commodity affordable to the common man. This allowed the masses to travel far and wide for work, entertainment and even making purchases. This necessitated brick-and-mortar stores to differentiate themselves to retain existing customers. 


From here, every human invention has directly affected lifestyle, significantly altering retail business. The advent of the internet continues to allow people to access everything fathomable at the click of a button. People can go for extended periods of time without having to step out of the house.


Retail, being a luxury for the most part, has been significantly affected by this revolution. Despite incomes going up, people were making fewer trips to retail outlets, simply because they didn’t have the time to spend ‘shopping’.


As a result, retail outlets, like most other industries, started to create their online presence, exhibiting their offerings in a systematic manner on their website. As more retailers created their digital footprints, they were not only competing with each other but also with marketplace platforms like Amazon. Essentially, the retail marketplace became overcrowded.


Add to this the advent of social media, and the role of the customers significantly shifted.


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