Editor’s note: Chris Brown is vice president of expert consulting at Confirmit. 

Welcome to 2021, where the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much present across the globe and things look eerily similar to 2020. Even with vaccine distribution underway, it will take time to return to what might be termed “normal life.” Although this will certainly not have as strict guidelines as we’re following in present time, it will presumably look different than pre-COVID. 

Despite widespread availability of vaccines, it will take a significant period of time for people – particularly the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions – to feel comfortable enough to go out and get back to their old routines. On one hand, many have gotten used to certain conveniences that the pandemic made more popular – things like grocery/prescription delivery, at-home workouts, DIY beauty services, etc. – but the longer this all continues, the more we expect to see an ever-increasing desire for “normal,” more traditional experiences similar to pre-COVID. Not just the obvious social experiences like travel, concerts and events, but even things as simple and normal as shopping and dining out. Although digital experiences can be great and have proven to be extremely beneficial, they lack the human touch to a large extent and just cannot be matched to an in-person experience. 

But this desire to return to traditional experiences may be fickle and fleeting if brick-and-mortar environments aren’t prepared for the short-term influx in popularity. The pressure will be on to create experiences that will make people want to come back – in person – again and again. It has to offer more than an online experience, and strictly digital competitors may be stepping up their game and increasing convenience and service more than ever to keep its current customer base strong. 

There are two caveats to mention during the shift to in-person ex...