The New Rules of Retail: How to Bridge Physical Distance with Technology

Andy Austin
3 min readJul 31, 2020

Over the past several weeks, we’ve examined the challenges to retail caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve looked at some steps retailers can take to respond to this unprecedented threat.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks exploring how the consumer’s own mobile device can become the new retail interface — but that’s really just the beginning.

There are lots of other ways technology can transform the customer’s experience when she walks into your store, delighting and engaging her while keeping her safe in this new normal.

Consider voice systems. Just about everyone has used Siri or Alexa or Google Assistant, so using voice to interact with a display is now very comfortable for the vast majority of your customers. It’s safe, friendly and familiar, and it can easily be built into existing technology — if you have a product catalog in store and people aren’t touching it, voice can be part of that, and it’s very easy to implement.

Motion sensors are also key. For clothing retailer C&A in Germany, we designed a display that acts as digital signage, with an added benefit: a motion sensor detects passing shoppers, and a greeter appears on the display to invite the shopper to interact with it, sharing the story of the brand, providing suggestions to match the items the shopper may already have gathered, and even offering a fun gesture-activated dress-up game for kids.

That brings up a third technology: visual gesture interfaces. A gesture interface like the one offered by Ultraleap can allow a shopper (or a family, or even kids playing a brand-focused game) to control a digital interface by moving her hand through three-dimensional space. It’s fun, it’s interactive, and it’s safe and touchless by nature.

And those are just three of the many, many options that are out there. They’re very simple to deploy, and many of them fit into what you already use. And that’s what we do at The Industrious: we build experience layers on top of what you already have in place to transform how consumers interact with your brand, turning the tables and making the shopper the star of the show.

That’s almost it for this look at retail in the New Normal of COVID-19. Next week, I’ll look back at what we’ve learned and at what the future looks like for retailers.

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly here, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.



Andy Austin

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background