What is Physical Evidence?
As you most likely know, the traditional marketing mix, referred to as the 4 Ps, includes Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. However, in services marketing, the marketing mix is extended to include three additional elements, making it the 7 Ps. These extra 3Ps are:
Recognizing the role of people, both employees and customers, in the service delivery process. This includes employee training, customer service, and the overall interaction between people in the service encounter.
Refers to the systems and processes that a company implements to deliver its products or services. This involves the methods, procedures, and flow of activities that contribute to the overall customer experience.
This involves the tangible cues or artifacts that customers can observe and use to make judgments about the service. It includes the physical environment, facilities, equipment, and other visible elements.
Physical evidence embraces all corporate tangibles that customers perceive through their senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. In essence, it forms the service environment in which the service is offered and delivered; setting the stage for the experience that is delivered.
One way to think about physical evidence is that it comes from police work, where a detective would turn up to a crime scene and assess the “physical evidence” of the crime in order to identify what most likely happened and to gain clues and insights.
The same concept can apply to consumers when they use physical evidence. It is primarily used to help consumers assess the quality of a service offering before and during their service encounter. Unlike physical goods that we can inspect and touch, service offerings are intangible making them harder to assess their quality.
For example, if we need some car repairs and we see that there are three competing firms in the local area, we have no information about the quality of their services – and generally we need to take their word that they are good at servicing cars. No doubt you’ve come across consumers (perhaps family members) who have had a car repaired and being given a large bill to pay, and being uncertain if that level of work was really done.
And that’s why as consumers, to help evaluate and justify our choice, and determine the overall quality of the service encounter, we often rely upon physical evidence.
This means that in some service industries, physical evidence is a significant factor in the success of the business and needs to be managed appropriately, primarily from a marketing and customer-centric perspective.
What are Some Examples of Physical Evidence?
Note: the following list will depend upon the type of service industry and business…
- The quality and presentation of staff uniforms
- The popularity (number of customers) of a shop
- The number of online reviews of the business
- The quality of their website
- Whether or not they have a smart phone app
- The quality of the menu (paper or stylish) in a restaurant
- The location of the business
- The look of a reception area
- Whether the business premises have been maintained
- How tidy is the shop?
- Do they use social media?
- What are influencers saying about them?
- And lots and lots more…
Physical Evidence and Services Marketing
Reasons why is physical evidence important services marketing
- It Adds Tangibility to Services: Services, by their nature, are intangible. Physical evidence helps add a tangible dimension to these offerings, making it easier for customers to assess and appreciate a service. Everything from business cards to the design of a website contributes to this tangibility.
- It Enhances Customer Experiences: The right physical evidence can greatly enrich a customer’s experience. A clean, well-designed physical or digital space can make a customer feel more comfortable, better served, and more likely to return.
- It Emphasizes Branding: Physical evidence offers a clear avenue to showcase a company’s brand. For instance, uniforms worn by staff, marketing materials, or the overall aesthetic of a service environment can reinforce a company’s brand image.
- It Facilitates Decision Making: Effective physical evidence can assist customers in their decision-making process. For example, the professional look of a website or a well-kept storefront can influence a customer’s decision to invest in a service.
Implications for Services Marketing
Understanding and leveraging the power of physical evidence is quite important for many service businesses. By creating a strong, consistent and appealing physical presence, businesses can enhance their service delivery, boost customer satisfaction, and ultimately, scale their success.
Physical evidence isn’t limited to only brick-and-mortar businesses. In today’s digital age, online service providers also need to pay attention to their ‘virtual’ physical evidence. This includes factors like the user-friendly interface of a website or app, quality of visual content, and even the speed of response to customer inquiries.
Key Components of Physical Evidence
The various components of physical evidence within the broader spectrum of the marketing mix can be broken down into three main categories:
- Ambient Factors: These elements pertain to conditions within the environment that independently influence a customer’s mood or behavior, such as temperature or music playing in a store. It’s crucial for a business to create an atmosphere that aligns with their brand identity and customer expectations.
- Inanimate Physical Evidence: This component refers to the tangible products and materials associated with the service, such as signage, brochures, the firm’s website, stationery, or uniforms. These factors add to the overall brand image of a company and can heavily influence a customer’s perception of the service’s quality.
- Social Factors: This refers to how the behavior and appearance of other customers and staff contribute to the experience. Social factors can have a powerful impact on a customer’s service evaluation. Thus, professionalism and proper etiquette from service providers are integral.
Understanding the Applications of Physical Evidence
Thinking about physical evidence in the context of practical applications, consider a fine dining restaurant. The ambient factors could involve stylish interior design, ambient lighting, and soft classical music.
Likewise, the physical evidence involves high-quality place settings, a beautifully printed menu, and elegantly dressed staff.
Social factors could include the behavior of other customers and their perceived enjoyment, which would contribute to the overall dining experience.
As another example, for an online tutoring service, the website design and functionality form part of the physical evidence, together with tutor profiles, online learning materials, and the virtual classroom interface. Social factors include the perceived competence and friendliness of the tutor, as well as the feedback of other students.
Physical Evidence: More than Just Physical
Physical evidence can extend into the digital world. For instance, a brand’s online presence and reputation for part of evidence for a consumer.
Reviews and feedback shared on social media platforms, comments shared on message forums, or testimonials on a website are all a form of virtual physical evidence.
Role of Physical Evidence in Brand Image
Physical evidence helps in different forms and plays various roles in shaping a brand’s image:
- Depicting Quality: The physical elements of a product or service gives the customer an inkling of the quality to expect. For instance, a diamond dealer who presents his gems in elegant velvet boxes instead of plastic bags communicates an impression of high value and superior quality.
- Setting Expectations: A brand’s usage of physical evidence sets the expectations of its clientele. Take a gym, for example. The quality of the gym’s equipment and facilities gives members an idea of the type of service they can anticipate.
- Differentiating Brands: Physical evidence can set a brand apart from its competition. A restaurant’s unique décor, a hotel’s signature scent, or a retailer’s in-store layout can make a brand distinct and memorable.
Physical Evidence Impacts
Physical evidence provides an to depict a quality service and frame expectations. The appearance of a website, the neatness of the service space or merely the quality of printed promotional materials; all give silent signals relating to your dedication to quality service.
Anticipations play a vital role in customer satisfaction. Physical evidence can help you set realistic expectations for the customer. An elegantly set table, a detailed service description on a website, or comprehensive product documentation can guide clients on what to expect, reducing the chances of dissatisfaction.
In a competitive business environment, differentiation is critical. Physical evidence allows you to set a brand apart. The aesthetic selection of interior décor, user-friendly web interface, company uniforms, personalized service delivery are some instances.
Optimal usage of physical evidence also helps a distinct brand personality.
Influences Consumer Behavior
Ambient factors comprise the conditions that customers encounter during a service delivery: lighting, background music, color schemes, and aroma. They play a subtle yet determining role in the consumer’s behavior.
For instance, specific background tunes might encourage customers to spend more time (and money) in a department store.