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If you are a company that survived 2020, put on your emergency seatbelts as the New Year will be more challenging. Thriving is not enough, either you rebrand or revamp because you might devolve to extinction. Forget about traditional funnels, the way of doing retail customer experience business this pandemic has just gone through a 360 overhaul, and it is completely new gameplay moving forward.

From lockdowns to social distancing, the physical retail space is evolving due to restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside, less human interaction, caution on physical access to products, physiological and psychological comfort on safety risks. On a deeper level, customer life perspective and needs have evolved from excess to essentials, putting more value on family, experience, relationships, wise spending, trust, and empathy.

Here are the 4 main points for Brands to consider given the #NewNormal in Customer Experience for the year 2021:

1. People

Customers now take 85% share of the pie in branding. They are the core reason for marketing, sales, and service, a complete shift from the funnel model when marketing had the bigger chunk, followed by sales, and customers a mere by-product.

Today they become the CORE of the whole retail journey from pre-sale to sale and post-sale, as the discerning customer now relies more on a personal immersive experience, family recommendation, customer reviews, and industry experts’ white paper before they decide to purchase.

This new behavior becomes a game-changer in how marketing and sales are strategized—the whole process of marketing, sales and service now revolves around the customer, transitioning from transactional to relational, commencing from a virtual social awareness and interaction prior to purchase. And when the customer is “wowed” then they, themselves, voluntarily become the brand ambassador. Around 95% of shoppers rely on online reviews before making a purchase, catapulting reviews from being meagre source of information to a powerful tool for consumer engagement.

2. Digitalization

As you are now aware, customer experience now starts even before one enters your physical retail establishment. The impact of your online presence forms a pre-sale customer experience. That is why business digitalization/automation is the ONLY way forward, “Go digital or go bust”. —World Economic Forum. About 59% of the global population, which is 4.66 billion people, are active internet users and 3.8 billion of these are smartphone users. Businesses should leverage on this as 2020 has seen a rise in global online content consumption, thanks to the pandemic, from an average of over 3 hours per day to about 6 hours and 59 minutes. Ensure you have the following in place: website, virtual store, automated service and online payment gateways, real-time online expert advice, easy online communication (chat, messenger, WhatsApp, email and social media pages for reach, engagement, promotions, and reviews. All these build-up towards a customer’s interest to visit your retail establishment for a complete product experience – a touch-and-feel enhancement.

3. Biophilic Design

As an aftermath of the pandemic, discussions by designers and architects on how the design should evolve, have taken into consideration that pandemic and its restrictions are here to stay. Retail interiors must comply with space planning from the Decompression area to the Point-of-Sale and Showrooms, consider social distancing, yet still encourage a proactive customer service by the use of technology for interaction, and the use of interior finishes that will not harbor microbial and virus spread and sustain harsher and more frequent cleaning regimen. Guide pods are also recommended to provide a space for customers to experience the product, have a DIY mockup for a personalized and customized shopping experience.

But before you conjure a clinical-look setting, note that the main purpose of design is to manage space to improve user experience. And because of the pandemic, a person’s mental and emotional wellness is essential. Aside from the consumer traffic behavior and psychology of colors, the biophilic design considers a user’s biological mind-body system and its genetic connection to nature and natural processes as motivators for health and well-being.

The incorporation of nature into the interior space and the use of natural materials and patterns that mimic the natural elements create a continuous feeling of oneness with nature, ergo having a relaxing effect and more positive user behavior. In 2018, 54% of the world’s population lived in an urban

4. Sustainability, Community Empowerment, Social Entrepreneurship

The shock of the pandemic and its catastrophic effect worldwide has seen a rise in more humanitarian and inclusive behavior. The global crisis this 2020, pandemic plus natural and man-made disasters, have squeezed the human soul into its primary core values of empathy and love for humanity and the environment.

From excess to essentials, consumers now prefer brands that tell a story about advocacy, selling experiences, building human connectivity, uplifting lives, helping the marginalized, protecting nature through one’s carbon footprint, and offering solutions. This emotional connection will build authentic relationships between brand and consumer, relationships driven and based on purpose higher than self.



2 Customers During Pandemic/Rene Vader/2020


Bodnar/August 2020


5 : Go Digital-or-Go-Bust/Srikar Reddy & Arnobio Morelix/October 2020

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8. Koetsier

9 design: What is it? Why it matters? And how do use it?/Kaitlyn Gillis/November 2018


11 Waldron & James Wetherbe/April 2020