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The importance of delivering meaningful experiences post-pandemic

It goes without saying that the last 12 months haven’t been easy for retail, but even before the pandemic (that is, if you can remember back that far), things weren’t all that rosy.

It’s easy to romanticise pre-pandemic life with social distancing a distant memory and Corona something you could enjoy on a summer’s day, but let’s be honest, the wheels for the existential shift in consumers and their values were already in motion.

Sadly, we already knew that the high street was in trouble and, as a result, 20% of stores won’t even reopen after lockdown and of those that do, how many can remain profitable is up for debate.

But, there’s still hope.

The truth is that consumers like visiting stores. In fact, a huge 80% say they prefer to shop in a physical store environment than online, and in the last quarter of 2020 the total number of both retail industry followers and engagement increased on both Instagram and Facebook.

For us humans, novelty and experiences are drivers of enjoyment and pleasure. And shopping delivers on these desires; it’s sensory, sociable, eventful and it’s somewhere we discover new things.

What’s more, as people’s choice to venture out has been taken away, their desire to get back out there will be greater than ever when things move back to normality. The high streets full of shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes will also be full of life, giving us the opportunity to experience something different, which we’ve all craving more than ever.

But, after the preliminary bump of boredom-induced footfall, the role of the physical store will be completely reimagined. No longer simply a repository for stock (we’ve all survived with the internet for that), when stores reopen properly, it will all be about delivering a real, tangible, and long-lasting brand experience. Put simply, giving your customers a reason to come into store rather than go online.

While many retailers, such as John Lewis and Selfridges, have already done a great job of turning a visit to their stores into a proper event, many others are falling victim to a complete lack of relevance.

That’s why when it comes to retail activations, good is no longer good enough. As Jim Carless pointed out in a recent Campaign article, “the wheat is being socially distanced from the chaff.” So, if you want to ensure you’re part of the glutenous former, it’s imperative to turn your stores into experiential playgrounds full of selfless activations that focus on the customer, giving them a meaningful opportunity to truly explore and experience your brand, first hand.

Yes, on a practical level, hosting experiences in store while navigating restrictions is a challenge. But, technology can help. And so can we.

The alternative is a downward spiral into obscurity.

Written by Dawn Nottley
February 17, 2021

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