What has coronavirus taught us? by 0813 studio commercial interior designers .

In this article, we discuss coronavirus' impact to business and potential plan of attacks for business survival.  

2020 doesn't have a good opening, and it is actually a pretty crappy one with pandemic coronavirus. This undoubtedly has put unnecessary pressure over the already recessing market. 

What are the impacts?

The nature of this virus similar to SARS is that the best method to avoid this virus is physical barrier. We witnessed the national economic pause in China from January and possibly all the way to April, now we gradually see its impact to Europe, United States of America and here down under. 

Retail - unless your main business is selling PPE like facial masks, health supplements, hygiene products like hand sanitiser and surface disinfectant sprays or even toilet paper; it is just scarily empty trading floors and less transactions. 

Travel - with the international travel bans across the globe, it's obvious that no one is coming in and no one is going out of the boarder. 

Food - statistic indicated that less and less customers are eating out, then how about take away? There is a risk factor too with the food prepared by others

Retail transformation 101: The purpose of retail physical shops has shifted to customer experience and marketing.

The million dollar question: Is this the end of physical retailers? If not, how to attract customers back to physical stores and increase the quality transaction volume?

We know the conventional discount strategy won't work anymore! There was a time when sales only happened on holidays and end of financial year, now it has become a norm that 20% off sale happens every day and above 50% off is definitely expected during holiday season. I went to this discount floor which was the recent effort from this department store. Every items had been marked down 50% - 70% off and then a further 40% off if purchasing 5 items in one transaction! The problems are: 1) even with this huge discount, the whole trading floor there was only me and no other customer around! 2) yes, indeed I bought 6 items in one transaction, but this was an extremely low margin transaction, only screaming out loud the message that this department just wants to clear the stock.

Then what works now? 

Let's forget about the traditional retail activity (buying and selling) for a second, as this can be easily replaced by online shopping. The purpose of physical retail shops need to be fundamentally changed. While buying and selling activity will still be a part, the emphasis of human interaction will be predominant; through which attracts customers to have the retail experience that online shopping cannot provide. Take Apple store as an example. Through the years we witness the development of Apple concept stores by combining traditional retail activity with customer interaction space, like experience bench, learning centre and genius bar. Have you even seen an empty Apple store, like ever? All Apple shop assistants are friendly, easy to chat, knowledgeable with their products inside out, happy to have a random conversation. Never have I been encountered with anyone pushing me to buy anything, instead they would just greet and let me lead the conversations, try anything or ask any questions. All in all, for physical shops it is not about the sales any more, it is about increasing foot traffic, lifting customer experience, building up the trust to the brand, products and shop assistants, and 'selling' a better branding image so that customers could relate to the brand and start interaction, come back or later purchase online.

In summary, the purpose of retail physical shops has shifted to customer experience and marketing.

The purpose of physical retail shops need to be fundamentally changed. While buying and selling activity will still be a part, the emphasis of human interaction will be predominant.

How can we save physical retails? Ahhhh, the good old topic of retail transformation strategy. This is certainly not a 'one-size-fits-all' situation, but there are some ground rules to follow:

  • Market analysis first before spending cash! Question yourself - What are your target customers? What do they like? What make them start talking about your brand/shop and start interaction? What method of interaction would they like? What do your peers in the field do these days?

  • Re-design. Re-configure. Be open to ideas of multi-functional space, rather than traditional sales racks and display units. For example, have you thought about getting a small cafe counter in your retail banking? Have you thought about including customer training program in your tech shop?

  • Be trendy, or even better be original - create a new trend. From design point of view, tired of dark metal, brick veneer, concrete flooring? Start a new trend now, how about a shop with minimalism design? How about you pick a feature color and make it a theme? There are limitless of options and combinations.

  • Start with one store to test the field. Do a performance study after 6 months and 1 year. Do not do a national roll-out. 

  • Embrace the online digitalisation. Have a well maintained virtual selling platform and a good supporting team, that includes logistics.

  • Fully utilise the social media platforms to generate leads, topics, attractions, especially among younger generation.

  • Use your current resources, get some sponsors and use trading floor to host events. For Myer or DJ, a fashion show with all clothing ready to buy in stores might be an option.

  • Create some WOW factors and/or WOW moments for customers to talk about.


We don't believe it is the end of physical retailers, but certain level of transformation is a must and we suggest taking proactive actions sooner rather than later. Remember:

  • Embrace the change and think outside-the-box.

  • Be bold

  • Be flexible

  • Be persevere

  • Accept this is a long battle

We have abundant experience of retail transformation, providing clients with strategies and designs catering for their own business. Let's start with a free consultation. For more information, please contact: peter.wang@0813studio.com / +61 466 20 0813

Please also have a read of our methodology page and retail hospitality interior design page to find out how we could give you some real support on your retail project design and delivery, as well as retail transformation strategies. 

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director: Peter Wang MDes., BEng.

email: peter.wang@0813studio.com

mobile: +61 466 20 0813

address: lvl 2, 65-71 belmore road, randwick, nsw 2031

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weekends: by appointments

please give us a call to book your one on one appointment and free consultation.