In the weeks and months ahead, consumers will engage in a very different shopping experience. That "new normal" is likely to persist for quite some time. As we have seen in grocery stores during quarantine, that experience will include social distancing, required masks, strict queueing procedures, contactless payment, limits on the number of people in the store at any given time, one-way aisle traffic, and a variety of other measures designed to protect our health and safety.
Which retailers will thrive the most in this new world of shopping? It won't simply be the ones with the best safety precautions, though naturally, that will matter a great deal. I would argue that it will be those who design the best NEW customer shopping experience given these constraints and rules. Applying design thinking can help stores not only provide appropriate protections for workers and customers, but also provide a positive experience. It will be different, of course, than the old shopping experience. Using design thinking will mean starting with a concerted effort to empathize with the consumer. What are they thinking and feeling in this new shopping environment? What are their pain points and frustrations? What work-arounds are the consumers and/or the store employees adopting to deal with the situation? From there, retailers can develop insights that can help them craft an experience that alleviates these pain points and enhances customer satisfaction. Of course, they won't get it right the first time. Retailers will have to conduct experiments and test new ideas, and then adapt them based on customer feedback.
In sum, customer experience still matters a great deal. It just won't be the old customer experience. It will be an entirely new one, designed from the bottom up based on a deep understanding of the consumer's needs, pain points, frustrations, and desires.