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Experiential Retail is How Brick-and-Mortar Stores Can Survive Post COVID-19

When it comes to bricks and mortar retail, the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be one of those moments that forces retailers to completely rethink everything they thought they knew. There is no doubt to say that lockdown and social distancing has caused an abrupt change in consumer shopping behaviour that is likely to be irreversible, and whilst retailers gradually reopen, it will take time for footfall to bounce back to previous figures. All this change is leading some to question the longevity of physical retailing. But does this really signal the death of the brick-and-mortar store?

Empty shopping mall as fear of COVID-19 spreads | Chung Chow

Brick-and-mortar retail still has a place in the world

Physical retail has been suffering long before a global pandemic appeared on the scene. It seemed that every month another established store would be making headlines because of financial difficulties. But at the same time, predominantly online brands have been thriving in their offline efforts.

What did the online brands do differently that made them succeed where others failed? It is unlikely that peoples’ desire to experience brands in the ‘real world’ is going to decrease anytime soon, even taking into account the current situation, and the answer to this question sheds light on how retailers should approach physical retail in a post-COVID era.

Experience-focused retailing

COVID-19 and the continued lockdown will only accelerate on-going shifts of focus towards customer engagement and experience rather than pure footfall and sales in physical retail. The focus will be on creating and maintaining fewer, but better, physical stores, that exist for relationship building and brand immersion.

House of Vans in London

During the pre-lockdown period, there were many examples of this approach as brands gradually embraced the benefits of the experiential store. House of Vans, for example, had its skatepark in London where skaters could spend time on hobbies in the Vans brand world. Boots re-imagined its beauty halls, removing all the traditional beauty counters, replacing them with Instagram-able furniture, ‘trend zones’, ‘discovery areas’ and live demonstration zones.

As a result, an important part of any physical store survival strategy will be refocusing offline efforts on experiential retail and brand-building, with concept stores that offer a premium experience to drive loyalty.

COVID-19 will undoubtedly make this more difficult. However, in the longer term, if retailers provide an enjoyable space to spend time at , customers will gradually value and embrace the new version of physical retail as an element of everyday life.

Technology to enable customer-first mindsets

How can retailers create premium brand experiences that match the convenience and digital-first nature of ecommerce?

The hallmark of an excellent customer-centric approach is acknowledging the uniqueness of every single customer, and technology that offers insight into customer behavior has made this possible. Retailers must get creative to gather in-store insights in ways that make sense for each individual brand and that creates offline experiences that add up to a fantastic customer-first strategy.


Cyclops is a retail analytics system that can help retailers generate insights into how their customers shop inside their stores. To understand more about how Cyclops can help retailers digitally transform their stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our website:


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