There’s no doubt that COVID has radically, and perhaps permanently changed the way consumers behave. The biggest change is, understandably, their reluctance to be close to others and touching things that others have touched. So, now with many states reopening businesses, can you make customers comfortable returning to your business?
Morning Consult did some research to find out, asking 2,200 consumers as well as companies, business experts and medical professionals. Here’s what they found.
1. Regularly sanitizing high touch surfaces
This was the number one safety measure that made a difference in consumers’ minds with 55% saying it made them much more comfortable and 26% somewhat more comfortable for a grand total of 81%. Sanitizing minimizes the spread from objects to people, one of the two ways medical experts say COVID-19 is transmitted.
Consider posting signs with your cleaning schedule. For example, if you use shopping carts, you can post a sign saying “Shopping carts are sanitized immediately after being returned to the front of the store.” Do you use a disinfectant fogger? Post a sign that lets customers know how often you disinfect with the fogger and how long each application works to kill viruses. Customers also feel comfortable when they see store employees actively sanitizing surfaces.
2. Installing more hand sanitizer dispensers
More than three-quarters of US adults (77%) said that installing more hand sanitizer dispensers would make them feel more comfortable. While medical experts say this plays a relatively small part in reducing transmission, it is easy and affordable to implement. Hand sanitizer dispensers cost about $130, and hand mounted units are less. Commercial refills cost around $50.
3. Allowing fewer customers in a space at the same time
Seven in ten consumers want smaller overall density in stores and other spaces. Businesses will need to know how long the average customer spends at their location and average revenue per customer. Then you need to balance these numbers with how many people can safely be in your store at the same time. Keep in mind, you may need to increase your prices to stay profitable with reduced customer volume.
According to FEMA, maintaining a six-foot radius around each person means one person per 113 square feet. Take your business’ total square footage and divide it by 113 to calculate how many people (including employees) can safely share the space.
4. Dedicated hours for elderly and other vulnerable customers
Almost seven in ten Americans (69%) said they would like dedicated hours for the most vulnerable customers including the elderly and immunocompromised people. Businesses selling high ticket products like jewelry stores can operate on an appointment basis. More one-on-one interaction with customers will result in better customer satisfaction, and possibly more sales. For lower margin businesses, consider extending your hours to reduce crowding and rearrange staffing accordingly.
5. Spacing seating 6 feet apart for social distancing
Nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) said that increased spacing between seating would make them feel more comfortable. While not every business has seating, you can also apply this to cashier lines and other places where customers gather. Movie theaters have roped off seats and even rows and gyms have made some machines off limits to create more space between patrons. Grocery stores have installed floor stickers telling people where to stand and making each aisle one-way so customers will have less possibility of encountering each other face-to-face.
6. Require all employees to wear masks
Sixty-one percent of consumers breathe a sigh of relief when a business’ employees are all wearing masks. And medical experts say it makes sense. After all, the mask is less to protect the wearer than others in the area in case the wearer is sick but asymptomatic. Although masks were in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, supply has mostly caught up with demand, so this shouldn’t be a problem, whether you ask employees to bring their own or you supply them with masks.
7. Posting signage reminding people to social distance
Almost two-thirds of people surveyed said this inexpensive measure would make them feel better, another 25% said it wouldn’t make any difference. Still, it costs little to put into practice so it is worth the effort. Remember, social distancing means fewer customers at a time, so see #3 above to make sure you have enough customers and sales to stay profitable.
8. Requiring all customers to wear masks
While 63% said that signage requiring all customers to wear masks would make them feel more comfortable, another 20% said it would make no difference. Keep in mind that this would really only be a suggestion or reminder.
While you can refuse to do business with anyone not wearing a mask, you might end up doing more harm than good. In some locations, customers angry at being told to put on a mask have even brandished guns or become violent.
9. Providing to-go options for restaurants
Six in ten customers are looking for restaurants that offer pre-packaged or takeout options rather than (or in addition to) dine-in. Think about pre-packaging your most popular dishes where customers can just grab them from a refrigerated case. You might also want to rethink your walk-in takeout process to avoid customers clustering as they wait to place their orders. Options include online ordering with pickup and directing customers to a spaced single file line to order with belt stanchions.
10. Requiring temperature screening for all customers
Although 57% of respondents thought temperature screening would make them feel safer, 30% were neutral and 13% said it would make them feel less safe.
This intervention has a lot of downsides, including being intrusive, expensive and labor intensive. Thermal imaging units cost between $2,000 and $40,000. It also only would identify people who are well into the symptoms, not asymptomic or pre-symptomic people who can also be contagious. On the plus side, it would act as a deterrent for sick people to go out.
Addressing customer fears with safety measures make customers comfortable shopping with you, so it’s a win-win.
Looking for other ways to get your small business back on its feet? Contact Pro Creative for custom, research-based creative strategies to get profitable and thrive in the new normal.