Retail in the Wake of Coronavirus

OUTFORM Industry Trends

In the efforts to contain the novel coronavirus that has quickly taken cities across the globe by storm, major retailers are being forced to close their doors. The virus transcends all industries, generations, and continents, and what we are seeing right now, especially in retail, is absolutely unprecedented. As retailers try and brace themselves for the uncertainty that lies ahead, business leaders around the world fear that a recession in the global economy could be a foregone conclusion. Amidst all of the uncertainty, however, one thing that retailers can be sure of, and prepare for is the insecurity shoppers will be left with once government regulations allow regular activities to resume.

Global industries can be sure to expect a time before COVID-19, and a time after, where generations of people have become increasingly exposed to working from home, social distancing, and isolation. There will be no time more important than a “post-corona” era to encourage people to leave their homes, not only for purposes of economic stimulation, but also for the mental health of people who have been isolated for months. The urgency of this fact, however, does not discount the apprehension people will feel when they are urged to return to their places of work, crowded shopping malls, and restaurants, and daily life as per usual.

Retailers will have to think of innovative ways to encourage shoppers to return to stores and ensure them that they are safe. Retailers will have to live with the reality that people have been highly discouraged from touching surfaces in public places and are significantly more aware of social distancing measures to avoid the spread of germs or pathogens. Moreover, financial and health uncertainty will force consumers to be more deliberate about the retailers that they return to post COVID-19. For these reasons, in the wake of coronavirus retailers need to consider the benefits of offering immersive, interactive, in-store experiences that rely on gestures and hands-free activations to consumers who have been forced to stay home for months.  Here are the top hands-free technologies that we believe will help retailers return to the glory that they knew prior to coronavirus:

Offline Voice Experience.

Activated with any custom wake word, this first-time retail innovation allows customers to speak to the display, triggering a canned interaction without the need for internet connection. Outform’s offline voice experience is programmed with a prerecorded interaction that can be tailored to deliver a defined story according to the shoppers’ needs. Voice enabled interaction allows shoppers to experience product discovery in a seemingly interpersonal manner, without assuming the health risk of touching contaminated surfaces, or coming in close contact with other individuals.

Motion-Activated AR Try-Ons.

According to an interview with TODAY following a Sephora lawsuit, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist based in New York City, stated it is never safe to use makeup testers at the store, claiming that infectious diseases easily spread by using makeup testers.  By implementing motion-activated AR try-on experiences, retailers can bypass the risk of spreading infections in their stores, while encouraging a spirit of curiosity and fun in their shoppers. Motion-activated AR allows customers to explore products in an interactive way through gestures that activate the technology to view additional information and assist in the purchase decision, while also opening opportunities to show alternative colors, materials or models of the selected items.

Lightbox Displays.

Lightbox displays such as Dynamix by Outform, and lit art installations have the power to transform your retail space, inviting shoppers into an immersive experience without the need for interpersonal interaction or touch. These impactful light experiences are capable of lifting shopper’s moods, encouraging them to stay in your retail space for extended periods of time. Dynamix by Outform takes the traditional lightbox display to new levels, by offering customizable size formats, and endless possibilities for integrated showcase elements such as hangers, shelves, or TV brackets.

Transition from Buttons to Gesture Controls.

Today more than ever, people have become intensely cognizant of their personal hygiene, and to the transmission of pathogens. For this reason, people are hesitant to touch surfaces that other individuals have previously interacted with. One way that retailers can bypass shopper’s hesitations to interact with their products is to move away from button interactions, and transition to gesture and motion activated sensors. Much like the aforementioned solutions, gesture controls allow for product exploration and discovery without the need to physically touch the products themselves, or any surrounding surfaces.


Outform thrives in the business of shifting consumer behavior. In a time such as this, the responsibility and passion that is developing within our team is stronger than ever. As a team, we are staying informed, and positive believing that alongside our many retail partners, we are shaping the future of retail.