Business in the World of Corona: Customer Behavior and How Small Business Can Cope
As we all know, COVID-19 is having a serious impact on a number of industries globally. From the manufacturing companies who are not able to get the supplies they need, to the travel industry finding people who are reluctant to get on a plane or boat, the global economy is taking a hit. But what about the small to medium size businesses? How are they going to survive a massive change in societal behaviors while this situation unfolds? Here are some behaviors we can expect:
People are going to minimize their time outside of the home. This means less shopping, reductions in eating out, minimizing entertainment outside of the home (Netflix is surging right now…), and less time for non-essential services such as getting nails done, haircuts, or massages.
People are going to be on high alert for hygiene and cleanliness. This means that if they walk into an environment that they are unsure is under-sanitized, they may just walk right back out.
People are going to be hoarding no only cleaning supplies and sanitizers, but essentials such as bottled water and toilet paper. They will be looking for anyway to reduce their likelihood of their own and their family’s transmission and preparing for minimal trips out of the home.
People are going to be looking at other people with suspicion. More than likely, you have already witnessed someone sneezing or coughing and somewhere in your brain you thought, “Are they infected by the Corona Virus?” This is going to mean that high density areas such as big box stores, restaurants, and movie theaters are going to be places where people will naturally feel uncomfortable.
People are going to rely on technology to maintain their own quality of life. This means more time on Facebook, Netflix, Zoom, Apps, and Tik Tok. These will be even more utilized than they have been historically.
People are going to rely on delivery to maintain their own quality of life. They naturally will feel more comfortable at home where they have control over a majority of their environment. This sense of security will mean they will also be more scrutinizing to who they will let walk through the door.
These barriers and hurdles may be devastating to the small business owner who relies on customers to walk through their door, trust that their employees have washed their hands, and feel confident that purchasing their goods or services are not going to be a risk to their health and wellbeing. So how can small businesses give themselves the best possible chance to capture these leery customers? Here are some tips:
- Have a company policy towards the Corona Virus and be transparent in sharing it with your customers. Do you have a hand washing policy? Do you have a “stay home if you’re sick” policy? Do your employees get to work from home? How are you handling goods that are being shipped to you? Do your products come from China? All of these are questions in the consumers mind. Having a policy and sharing it (and also, most importantly, abiding by it) is something that will help put your customers mind at ease. Not sure how to do this? Let us know, we have assisted all of our clients with their communication and crisis plans.
- Make sure your facility is kept at the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Have sanitizer out and in eyesight, and make it as accessible as possible. Make sure to sanitize floors and shelves as often as possible. Have people cleaning during the day, while customers are onsite. Show it is a high priority for your business and your staff. Customers will appreciate the effort.
- Make sure that your facility is well lit and wreaks of cleanliness. Obviously, this is not something that will reduce the transmission rate of the Coronavirus. However, psychological and neuroscientific research has shown that people have lower thresholds for trust when they think something “doesn’t smell right.” Making sure that your place does not trigger a false concern from the scent of your facility will give you an advantage. Keeping your facility well-lit is another way to induce psychological safety. When something is well lit, humans have a stronger propensity to feel safe. Dimly lit or dark places are where the Boogeyman lives, and incidentally he probably has the Coronavirus.
- Incorporate a virtual solution wherever possible. Can you show your potential customers your products via video? Can you demonstrate your services digitally? Here is an example: We helped a real estate agent use a video-communications solution to take their potential customers through homes they wanted to see from the comfort of their own couch. The customer felt safe and that the agent truly cared for their well-being. Not sure how to incorporate this into your business, give us a call and we can help.
- Incorporate delivery or home service whenever possible. People feel safer in their own castle. How can you bring your products or services to them? We recently consulted with a salon owner who is now going to take an approach of allowing their employees to “work from home,” just not their own. They will be on the road delivering their expert service in the customer’s safe space for a small fee. People will pay to feel safe. If you have products for sale, its time to really think about having a delivery service to bring them to your customer’s doorstep.
- Create and enforce a company-wide hygiene policy. This can be accomplished through a number of different means. Uniforms, dress codes, clean equipment, and clean vehicles, are all something that the customer will perceive. Having a professional standard that is clean and fresh will go a long way to comforting the customer’s concerns. Also, never underestimate a friendly smile. Body language and strong customer service help people feel safe and protected. What about those businesses that are naturally messy, such as outdoor work or painting? This is where having a number of additional coveralls or uniforms available for changing can be a huge benefit. Yes, that may be an upfront cost, but if your customer perceives that your personnel are cared for, they know you will have their best interest in mind as well.
- Increase public space and social distancing. If you can spread out your customer areas, do it. The perception of safe space is a way that gives people psychological safety. Reduce lines, spread out tables, and move your high-demand products to different areas of the store. It may be inconvenient, but it is something that will be impactful to your customers.
These are just a few ways to give yourself an advantage as a small business owner. While some may not solve the Coronavirus itself, they can help create a psychological safety in the minds of your customers. If you need support in creating company policies, communication strategies, or marketing approaches to help you through these challenging times, Coeus Creative Group is here to support your small business’ development and growth!