Design experts and architects are currently looking through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic to identify areas that may help drive future store-design formats forward.

“The pandemic has brought this idea into greater focus. Customer demands changed. The customer journey was altered, and the customer experience was forever changed,” Lawshe says. “And we had to react quickly. As we looked at new norms like social distancing, it has made us more aware of the customer journey from a different perspective: the customer’s. The temporary adjustments caused by the pandemic led us to rethink some of our traditional norms in design, and change them.”

For example, spacing dictated by social distancing has moved the design bar, and c-stores are allowing more room for aisles and stacking.

“The desire for a frictionless customer experience also has changed things like self-checkout, restrooms and dispensing equipment,” Lawshe says.

Bona says that drive-thru is one of those areas that seems to have gained traction during the pandemic. But aside from new and larger sites, how this impacts legacy locations remains a challenge.

“On the flip side, accommodating in-store pick-up points for mobile orders, use of technology for self-checkout, contactless inter actions and layouts that better organize flow are more likely where we see the biggest impact on new formats as we put the pandemic in the rearview mirror,” Bona says.