Experiential Retail

Post Covid

As the government gives non-essential stores the go ahead to open mid-June, we look at how retailers can create an engaging experience for returning customers.



Prior to the Covid pandemic retail was on an exciting path. After years of uncertainty facing bricks and mortar stores, retailers were investing in experiential retail and seeing success both attracting and retaining customers.

A study released by Westfield in January this year predicts that ‘Upside Down Retail’, where more space is dedicated to experiences, will be the norm by 2025.

Their research shows-

  • In the UK, nearly three-quarters of shoppers say they will spend more in stores that offer experiences as well as product
  • Today, shoppers want at least 40% of retail space to be dedicated to experiences
  • 42% of shoppers want more creative experiences instore

Major retailers like O2, Primark and John Lewis have announced that they’ll reopen on the 15th of June and it’s clear that it will be baby steps at first, but as we navigate through the remainder of 2020, how can retailers start to bring back in-store experiential in a safe way?

Safety First

Research suggests that shopping is one of the ‘Top 5’ activities consumers are looking forward to post lockdown, but there will still be a fair amount of nervousness and caution from consumers. Retailers that put safety first and clearly communicate their plans to customers will be the first to attract returning footfall.

A recent Kantar study reports that ‘Ninety-seven percent (97%) of shoppers say that it is important that they see evidence of cleaning and sanitising efforts in-store. And 95% of shoppers say that it is important that accommodations are made in-store to ensure safe distancing.’ 

Consumers will be looking for reassurance that retailers have plans to protect returning shoppers and retail staff through queue management, new store layouts and increased cleaning.

Retailers can reassure customers ahead of opening by creating a suite of content to educate customers about the measures their store is taking. This can be seeded on social channels and by targeted advertising to spread the message to customers that they will be safe in their store.


Technology will be an essential tool for facilitating customer interactions that don’t require touch. Early in the pandemic customers were asked to use contactless payment methods rather than cash and have therefore been primed to expect and embrace touch free options.

The Lush Lens app allows customers to use their mobile devices to scan products and receive product information and ingredients. This app enables customers to discover product information without interacting with store staff or handling products before deciding to purchase them.

Our client Swipestation’s app was used by football fans to skip busy bar queues at matches, they have now adapted their technology for use in pubs and restaurants. ‘Safety Thirst’ allows people to browse menus, select, order, and pay directly from their mobile phones.

Technology can also inject fun into the shopping experience, for example gesture controlled activations. Nissan in Australia used gesture-controlled touch screens for an experiential campaign targeting families. People were encouraged to ‘pack the boot of a virtual Nissan Vehicle with everyday family household items’, the game could be customised with four settings- beach, camping, parks and the city.


Customers in the queue will likely accept that this is now part of shopping but there are ways to make waiting more enjoyable. Retailers like O2 and Asda are trialling ‘virtual queue’ technology so customers don’t have to wait outside the store. They text to reserve a place and then get a notification when their wait is over. Brands can take this technology further by creating interactive content to help people pass the waiting time- videos, games, and even virtual tours allowing customers to browse the stores pre-entry.

Interactive shop windows are an opportunity to get creative and extend the experience outside stores. Lone Design Club in London have just launched a ‘shoppable window’ where customers can scan and purchase each of the items displayed in the window.

Samsung utilised their store windows in NYC to create a ‘super slo-mo’ experience for the S9 mobile launch. Using interactive window screens passers-by could capture their film, watch it played back and then share it on social. All without handling the device!


Increasingly retailers are using their stores to host events highly relevant to their customer base but in 2020 these will need to be adapted to limit crowds and allow for enough space for social distancing.

Hybrid events are hosted from a physical venue but also include an audience online and will be a way to engage with customers who can’t fit in the store or would rather stay home.

We delivered a series of hybrid events for Pandora Jewellery from their flagship Oxford Street store featuring female musical performers like Ella Eyre and Pixie Lott. We created a ‘Pandora Lounge’ set within the store so each performer could deliver an acoustic set to a small audience of 100 attendees.

We extended the activity using livestreamed video that was projected onto screens in Pandora’s shopfront and to the audience online. User generated content from the event attendees was also aggregated in real time so online attendees could experience the event from multiple points of view.

Despite the challenges facing retailers in 2020 there are plenty of opportunities to engage with customers in new and innovative ways. First consider safety, then examine how to use each touchpoint within the new user journey to create an experiential environment for your customers.

Emerging technologies can not only make the shopping experience safer and more efficient, there’s also plenty of room for innovation and creativity!

If you’d like to chat to us about solutions for your retail brand then please drop us a line on hello@undercurrent.uk.net