How Safe Are Your Stores? Don’t Wait for Your Customers to Tell You Via Social Media.
“Respect health and safety protocol to the letter, or we’ll take our business across the street to your competitors who are following best practices.” That type of statement seems to be the new unspoken promise made by consumers across the U.S. — and it's being heard and felt by national retailers. Makes perfect sense.
Retailers not following and visibly promoting new safety guidelines issued by the CDC and OSHA run the risk of losing customers — permanently. In order to return, customers must have positive in-store experiences, and they're demanding stores enforce mask-wearing, disinfecting, and social distancing as top priorities. This is just the beginning. Evolving state and local guidelines are coming online weekly, making it even harder for retailers to stay in compliance with new mandates.
While inching back to their go-to stores, customers are taking note of what they’re seeing and experiencing. In many cases — doing what they do best — customers are becoming safety critics and using social media as a billboard to help steer their networks towards or far away from specific stores. And rightfully so when it’s a matter of life and death.
There are a few best practices for promoting and ensuring the safest retail environment possible.
Questions to ask yourself — and your team — include:
- Are you insisting that team members and shoppers are always wearing masks?
- Are you pacing the flow of traffic into stores and ensuring safe distancing?
- Are you providing a sanitation station and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) at entrances?
- Are you communicating traffic patterns clearly?
- Are you merchandising to welcome and delight customers?
- Are you over-communicating best practices and expectations to your teams?
- Are you washing hands and other high-touch surfaces frequently?
- Are you ensuring back rooms and break rooms are cleaned frequently?
- Are you ensuring that store teams don’t come to work sick?
- Are you making in-store audio announcements and posting signage reminding customers of the safety precautions being taken?
- Are you sanitizing dressing rooms, bathrooms, waiting areas frequently?
- Are you blocking out specific hours for groups of elderly or higher-risk shoppers?
- Are you monitoring that returns and exchanges are happening in a safe way?
- Are you shortening hours to allow more time for deeper cleaning when the store is closed?
- Are you advertising new safety policies and pictures on social media as well as the company’s website?
- Are you offering promotions and encouraging buying?
- Are you aligning each store with local government safety regulations?
- Are you ensuring appropriate levels of staffing in spite of furloughs?
- Are you remembering to decorate for and promote seasons and holidays?
- Are you remembering to thank your customers — now more than ever — for their loyalty?
Designate CertSafe Reps at Store Entrances to Help Boost Customer Confidence
It’s been widely reported that one of the nation’s leading grocery retailer's small investment of placing engaging personalities at store entrances to greet and monitor shoppers has been a huge confidence and loyalty builder for customers. In contrast, greeters at the chain's No. 1 competitor sit on chairs and offer customers wipes and masks, but aren’t nearly as engaging. It’s not a total confidence killer, but which store would you rather shop at?
Ensure Team Members Are All Aligned, or Customers Will Blast You for it — Publicly
Cross-store alignment is so critical. Social media posts asking consumers to boycott local stores where associates are not wearing masks are quickly becoming a new norm. One of the largest pet store retailers is one example; recently a customer posted about store associates not wearing masks and called it “disrespectful.” This can, unfortunately, have long-lasting, damaging effects for such important and respected national retailers. Even if just a slipup, customers are paying close attention and posting when given the slightest opportunity to do so.
At a particular moment in time when you can't afford any boycotts or bad publicity for basic protections, it's critical to understand that with social media one bad experience can become viral in a snap, and eight times out of 10 it's usually a slipup that with a simple fix could have avoided the bad press. However, watching over, protecting and taking to task hundreds of potential slipups, across thousands of stores, in over 50 states across the country can’t be done manually. Retailers need to employ an automated system to track and address safety breaches.
Gina Ashe is the CEO ThirdChannel, a retail intelligence platform used by the world’s leading brands and retailers to know what's happening — or should be happening — on the ground in thousands of stores, and to identify opportunities to improve the in-store experience.
Gina Ashe is the CEO ThirdChannel. ThirdChannel’s retail intelligence platform is used by the world’s leading brands and retailers to know what's happening — or should be happening — on the ground in thousands of stores, and to identify opportunities to improve in-store experience. ThirdChannel’s most recent solution, Retail Safety AuditorTM, simplifies how retailers are now able to track and act on in-store safety-related data gathered in real-time.