Social Distancing Ripple: What Does That Mean for Your Business?

In a recent Harvard study, scientists are predicting that the effects of social distancing could ripple into 2022. With that report and growing concerns, we must acknowledge that these ideologies around distancing will not be going away any time soon. Regardless of when social distancing ends, its psychological effect will alter consumer expectations and weaken their trust. When nonessential businesses can open back up, what practices should you be implementing to boost customer confidence in your retail space?

Understanding the Process

I am writing this blog under the assumption that in the future, life will appear as it once was pre-pandemic. For the current, we must understand there will not be an immediate switch from distancing to not distancing. We must realize that returning to “normal” retail operations will be a gradual shift. All actions made by state and medical officials will be measured and calculated to ensure there will not be another spike in cases. A full lift in social distancing is not in the foreseeable near future, but that does not mean we cannot prepare for when it is.

Keep Up Your Social Presence

There may be many consumers who are still fearful of entering public spaces when there is a gradual lift. For this reason, you must keep your social presence updated. Stay involved with your followers, hear their concerns and see if there are ways to appease them. Working towards developing an e-commerce site may be the optimal choice, but with limited income, your business may not be able to afford distribution. Our past article goes into some ways to stay connected with your consumers when e-commerce is not an option.

So, when your spaces can open under looser regulations, the curve has been flatted and we’ve found a vaccination, your pop up space or longstanding retail location should still …

Mind the Gap

Your future retail and pop-up endeavors may want to lean towards “gallery style” shopping. Gallery style shopping allows one piece of every SKU (a SKU is an identification number specific to each product based on exact detail like size and color) to be on display, while the rest of the stock remains out of public reach. Customers must ask for store associates to retrieve their desired item(s) from the back section. This retail display design option minimizes available touch-points. This model also limits the number of people occupying one space, as there are no racks with multiple access points to sift through.

Sustainable retailer Reformation is an excellent example of this model. Customers approach a large, interactive screen placed on either of the store’s walls, or they find an iPad on a table in the center of the shop. The customer selects the items they would like to try on and enters their name into a dressing room queue. Once a room is available, a staff member will alert them and escort them to their appropriate space. Inside, customers will find doors to a wardrobe containing their chosen pieces. An iPad located inside the fitting room allows the customer to request more items, change sizes, and make the decision to check out — almost entirely contactless!

How do I make sure the floor staff also remains safe?

Great question!

Be Clean…Like, Really Clean

As stated in our previous blog on how to improve your in-store customer experience, cleanliness will always be important to customers— and it’s also really important for protecting your workers. If you choose to offer self-service vehicles (ex: the iPads as pictured above), be sure to have sanitization wipes/products located next to the device. Employees should be instructed to wipe down these devices periodically while visitors are encouraged to do so after each use. (If you decide to offer sanitization wipes, make sure you have a disposal bin located near the device!). Staff members should continue to wear reusable masks and disposable gloves if they feel safer doing so.

To protect your workers who are checking out customers or providing customer service assistance, personal space is a high necessity. Build out your checkout area to encourage distancing. When choosing design pieces for this area, opt for that larger countertop instead of the narrower one. Adding a latched piece to your preexisting POS counter is an affordable switch (like this clever counter -shown to the left)! This design provides extra space during transactions, without compromising floor space or needing an entirely new fixture.

Promote Your Practices

How are your customers going to know you are implementing these systems if you don’t let them know. Tell them! Use your social platforms and newsletters to inform your followers of your changes. This can help assure them that you are taking the necessary measures now that your store is back up and running. It shows that your brand is compassionate towards their needs, understands their concerns, and is willing to take action.

Use sensory cues in your shop to subconsciously promote your cleanliness practices. Use shades of white, greens and blues throughout your space to signal an essence of nature and purity. Scents such as linen, lavender, and bergamot subconsciously trigger feelings of ease and freshness — helpful in setting the mental mood for your shoppers.


No one knows for sure when social distancing rules will be lifted, but it is important to be mindful of its aftereffects. Consumer concerns and apprehensions will not just disappear when stores can reopen. Familiarizing yourself with alternative options and thinking about solutions now will set your retail space up for success later. Until then, try and remain creative, kind to yourself and others, and practice proactive thinking.

by, Georgiana Zilli

popshop is an online platform for short term retail bookings as well as a global community for brands to interact, collaborate, and even share spaces.