The most successful brands innovate and pivot based on consumer concerns and problems.
Automobile consumers were concerned about their safety, so brands designed seat belts and airbags to offer more peace of mind. People grew tired of household chores like sweeping and cooking, so brands developed vacuums and microwaves to improve speed and convenience.
The coronavirus pandemic is already changing customer concerns and habits. While shoppers used to approach brands primarily with an eye for value and quality, other factors like safety and flexibility are gaining influence on their decision-making.
If you’re reopening your business in the COVID-19 era, you should assess how your consumers’ mindsets have changed. While you may not need to overhaul your products or services, you may want to consider some strategic changes that address new customer concerns.
In-Store Safety and Cleanliness
One of the most noticeable customer concerns is the level of cleanliness in your brick-and-mortar locations and the in-store safety measures you establish.
For example, having your employees wear masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and provides an added layer of safety for customers shopping at your store. Implementing a mask-wearing policy is a great step toward increasing in-store safety and cleanliness following the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s only the first step.
Consider also establishing hand-washing or sanitizing stations throughout your store. You can also create social-distancing practices like one-way aisles and buffered checkout lines. You may even want to go a step further and add plexiglass barriers at your contact points.
Some customers will be more sensitive to your safety policies than others, and they will notice if you aren’t taking the pandemic seriously. If your customers feel unsafe, you risk losing their business. They could equate your lack of care to a negative shopping experience and refuse to return, or—even worse—they could share their negative experience with others.
The steps you take and short-term investments you make today to increase customer safety will set your business up for long-term success and better brand loyalty.
The pandemic disrupted millions of travel plans, from weekend getaways to extravagant weddings. Many people were devastated that they needed to change their plans—which turned to anger for some when they decided to cancel.
Several airlines, ticket vendors, hotels, and wedding venues refused to budge on their cancellation policies, even during the global crisis. Their customers lost their money and became frustrated with the companies they’d chosen to patronize.
Once the pandemic ends, customers will scrutinize and question cancellation policies for goods and services. They may even base their financial decisions on whether one business’s policy is more flexible than another’s.
Knowing that customers will be more aware of cancellation policies moving forward, evaluate and update your business’s policy. Whether you make immediate updates with pandemic-related language or implement sweeping consumer-friendly alterations, you will need to prepare to defend your policy if asked.
Moreover, be ready to enforce cancellations if necessary to avoid putting your staff or customers at risk. For example, you may implement temperature testing for your employees and customers to detect potential sickness. If symptoms emerge in either group, be prepared to cancel the event or close the store.
The safety of your employees and customers should be your #1 priority—design your cancellation policy to reflect that.
Employment Policies During COVID-19
Customers care about corporate social responsibility, and their interest continues to grow. People buy from companies based on their actions, including how they source their products and treat their employees. This perception is even more important now that consumers have seen how some businesses handled the pandemic.
What employment policies have you established in the past few months?
- Do you offer paid sick leave so employees exhibiting symptoms can self-quarantine without losing money?
- Did you furlough your employees and leave them to navigate difficult unemployment systems without support?
- Did you apply for a PPP grant through the SBA to try and cover the payroll of your team members?
- Did you require your employees to return to work before they felt comfortable?
- Did you ban masks and other PPE at first because you thought it made customers “uncomfortable?”
These are all questions that your customers will ask. If they feel like you haven’t treated your employees well, then they are less likely to shop at your locations. Why should they support your business when you don’t support your team?
Prices and Opportunities for Savings
Your customers will likely be more price-sensitive in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people lost their jobs or were furloughed with limited unemployment options available to them. Even employees who were able to work may have taken pay cuts due to a lack of tips or bonuses.
A family can be devastated after 2 months without a steady income. These customers may need to pay back rent and pay down debts that were accrued during the pandemic. Many of these consumers and their families will face a challenging road ahead and may not be spending as much on non-essential items for the foreseeable future.
There are many ways to tell if your customers are more price-sensitive post-COVID-19. Shoppers may opt for lower-cost items, buy fewer items per visit, and/or redeem more coupons. You may also notice fewer visits to your physical store or website. Servers and waitstaff might also receive lower tips, making working for you less profitable.
If this is the case at your business, you may need to adjust your prices to accommodate these customers and win them over with your value.
Even if the number of coronavirus cases drops significantly over the next few months, these customer concerns and habits will remain for longer. Some trends, like price sensitivity or increased concerns about health measures, could last for years.
As you look to grow your business after the pandemic, keep your customers’ concerns and problems in mind. If you find that you’re not addressing a consumer trend, work diligently to make improvements.