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The evolution of Experience Design in 2021

02 March 2021

This article first appeared on Advertising Week 360 by our Head of Connected Experiences, Christophe Castagnera.

As we look at experience design going forward this year, we must do so bearing in mind two key things. The first – and most obvious to everyone – is how the pandemic has impacted live physical experiences, and the second is how experience can inform the entire consumer lifecycle.

By keeping both these perspectives firmly in our sight, we can most effectively consider the experience in the current climate. There’s a tendency for people to overfocus on customer experience (CX) for specific touchpoints – digital interactions, call centres, customer service or navigating websites. But if we think about the consumer lifecycle – through the stages of product design, marketing, point of sale (POS) and then ownership – experience can be used as a business and design enabler at any stage.

What’s interesting with the impact of COVID is that a new focus has fallen on the ownership experience – the idea of participatory, richer experience interaction – as well as marketing and retail POS. Ownership tends to be under-used as an experience, but as COVID has led to customer journeys becoming more digital, brands are trying to find new, micro touchpoints.

So in this context, here are five experience principles that are fundamental to how we can design and reimagine brand experiences that work at every stage of the consumer lifecycle, for 2021 and beyond.

Curated journeys

As we live through our third lockdown, it increasingly looks like social distancing will remain a consideration for some time yet. And that means we need to redesign the same spaces, but for fewer people. Therein lies an opportunity to create more curated journeys for guests through a more personalised, in-depth experience.

The experience can be designed with more space for people to interact with their favourite products and services, with seamless logistics throughout. Timed slots for selected guests would ensure distancing, ease of use and a more intimate experience.

We have already seen this start to evolve with the concept of bubbles – to allow people to gather and enjoy a group experience, but while maintaining safe social distancing through limited capacity.

Hybrid experiences

With in-person live experiences off-limits, brands have allowed millions of people to engage online through virtually accessible experiences, using online technology, augmented reality and virtual reality.

And in an uncertain world – where restrictions can vary from one geographical region to another – this has led to the evolution of hybrid experiences. These combine creative storytelling and integrated technology to make a hybrid experience that is a mix of live and virtual – offering a sensory, interactive experience that is elevated beyond typical virtual events.

New forms of engagement

The way people behave in public spaces has changed and some of these changes are likely to stick – to varying degrees – after this pandemic has passed. It will prove a tipping point for the more widespread adoption of touchless technology.

Experiences can be designed around touchless engagement to ensure guests can interact with their favourite brands and products in new ways. From AR to voice assistants, gesture control to facial recognition – brands will increasingly turn to this type of technology as well as integrating people’s own, trusted personal mobile devices to offer reassurance and innovation.


Mass-gatherings will continue to be a challenge in many markets – perhaps until vaccination has reached a certain level or vaccine passports become an established thing – so brands can respond by developing micro-experiences for home environments, vehicles and other spaces where personalisation is possible.

This involves co-creating the experience with audiences, involving them in creating the scenarios with tools and content to keep them involved with your brand and products in smaller settings.

Free-range outdoors

Larger outdoor gatherings have been the gateway to new forms of experiences as well as the return of older formats as people embrace nature, the variable weather and find ways to connect in person, working within their local guidelines.

From outdoor concerts to drive-in movies, from landscaped brand spaces to collective ‘outdoor pod’ festivals, combining weatherproof design, heating options and rethinking layouts has confirmed the maxim that where there is a will, there is a way.