As a business owner, you’ve likely been wondering what it would look like for you post COVID-19. While it’s not post COVID-19, states are starting to reopen and allowing businesses to reopen as well. Despite this, polls indicate the majority of consumers remain nervous about the virus. This raises the question for many business owners – is reopening worth it?
Are Consumers Ready?
A recent survey by the Washington Post found that while 56% of consumers are comfortable shopping in a grocery store, 67% are not comfortable with the idea of going into a retail store, and 78% would not go into a restaurant for a sit-down meal. Another survey by Fluent found that only 34% of respondents were comfortable with governors lifting stay-at-home orders. Despite those results, the survey also found that 60% of the audience feels “calm and collected or neutral” about COVID-19, while 38% are “nervous or very nervous.”
These results are contradicting and confusing for owners trying to make critical decisions. This is probably due to consumers being confused themselves. People want to return to “normal” activities, but are concerned whether it’s really safe to do so.
Where Consumers Feel Safe
A survey from First Insights revealed how comfortable consumers are with going to different types of stores. Respondents were asked in which types of stores they would feel safe or very safe. These were the results:
- Grocery stores: 54%
- Drug stores: 50%
- Big box retailers: 45%
- Warehouse clubs: 43%
- Local small businesses: 43%
- Department stores: 37%
- Shopping malls: 33%
Another contradiction was found when looking at smartphone location data. When Georgia reopened, location data showed more than 60,000 people came from neighboring states, to visit stores, restaurants, gyms, salons, etc. These data points suggest that even though majority of consumers claim they’re apprehensive about going to stores, there’s a sufficient amount of people that would still turn out for reopenings.
E-commerce Continues to Surge
There have been many surveys and other data indicating e-commerce will continue to grow even after reopening. E-commerce order volume has increased by 50% compared to 2019. Not only that, but 57% of consumers are shopping online more than before. And 65% prefer to do that shopping on a smartphone, rather than PC or tablet. New safety protocols on stores that do reopen may also cause enough inconvenience for consumers to find going to stores not worth it. For example, many stores are requiring shoppers to wear masks, some even requiring temperature checks, and some are only allowing shopping by appointment. While this is all for the safety of shoppers and employees, it may require too much effort for what it’s worth.
Tips for Reopening
No matter what, people will be going back into stores. Possibly in large numbers in those states that do open over the next month. Even with the regulations, details are complex and not always clear. Business owners will have to problem-solve and make their own plans on how they will keep their employees and customers safe. Here are some tips on reopening your business, including advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Keep social distancing guidelines in place. Social distancing, meaning keeping 6 feet of distance between people, can be difficult in the workplace. But this will likely be the new norm, for a while at least, and it’s important for keeping employees and customers safe. Consider these efforts to ensure your business can properly social distance:
- Rethink desks, displays, and workspaces to create proper distance.
- Consider staggering work hours to limit the number of employees there at a time.
- Limit the number of seats in common areas.
- Use tape to mark 6ft intervals where people wait in lines.
- Post signs in or around the building that promote social distancing and advise those who aren’t healthy to please not enter.
- Encourage employees and customers to wash hands and use sanitizer frequently. By now, we’re all well-aware of the efforts that are necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus. Washing and sanitizing hands is crucial. Consider installing signs around the workplace that encourage employees and customers to wash/sanitize their hands:
- When they get to work/enter the building
- After sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose
- Before and after eating
- Before and after touching their eyes, nose, and mouth
- After interacting with coworkers and customers
- After touching displays and other equipment
- After visiting the restroom
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces multiple times a day. This not only keeps employees and customers safe, but it can help customers breathe easier knowing anything that they touch has been cleaned thoroughly moments before. This includes doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, tables, desks, keyboards, remote controls, elevator buttons, toilets (including handles), faucets, sinks, cash registers/point of sale (POS), displays, business equipment, phone etc.
- Provide PPE to employees and create a policy that addresses guidelines and proper usage. Depending on the state where your business is located, you may be required to supply your employees with gloves, masks, etc. Even if your state doesn’t have requirements, it may be in your best interest to provide your employees with them anyways.
The decision to stay closed or to reopen is ultimately up to you. At this time, it’s difficult to know when to do anything. You know your business and your customers best. If you believe they’re eager and ready to get back outside, reopening may be a smart business decision. If you can see that the majority of your customer base is still very apprehensive and nervous about the current state of things, staying closed may be the better option. When you do choose to reopen, make sure you take the time to prepare and protect yourself, your employees, and your business. Rushing things will not help your chances of doing well as we all face the next steps.
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