With new CDC guidelines in place across the country, small businesses everywhere have been tasked with finding ways to maintain their customer base. As stores and restaurants of all kinds open their doors for indoor and outdoor shopping and dining, a variety of factors can make or break a customer’s decision to enter an establishment. And while businesses had trouble keeping up with the rapidly changing consumer habits during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have now picked up on a few new widespread consumer habits. Here’s how consumer shopping and dining habits have changed and a few surefire actions your small business can take to suit them.
HOW CONSUMER HABITS ARE CHANGING:
Consumers are buying more local and ethically sourced products. Consumers know that small businesses are hurting, which has contributed to the new trend of supporting local stores and restaurants, many of which sell more ethically-sourced products than large brands. And with the increasing popularity of making socially conscious and environmentally friendly choices, more and more consumers are looking for ethically-sourced products.
Ernst & Young published a new Future Consumer Index revealing that 34% of consumers are now willing to pay more for local products, 23% will pay more for ethical brands, and 23% will pay more for well-trusted brands.
Consumers value safety. A store’s set of health and sanitation protocols and/or its method of service has never been more important!
This can mean anything from requiring masks and the use of sanitizing stations upon entry to the frequency of surface sanitization and the distance between customers and employees during service.
Consumers value the option of contactless service. While many of us are comfortable entering an establishment with a mask and adhering to safety measures while indoors, other high-risk customers that practice increased social distancing measures would rather opt for contactless/curbside service. And with providing curbside service, comes the necessity for an easy way to order, whether it be online or by phone.
HOW SMALL BUSINESSES CAN ADAPT:
Make the changes. A business that fails to adapt to these new consumer habits brought on by the recent health and societal changes will most likely not see success.
Follow CDC guidelines and make as many changes as possible to protect the health of yourself, your employees, and your customers. Sanitize frequently, enforce social distancing measures and require the use of masks indoors or when in close proximity with one another.
Providing a sense of safety and security to your customers will increase the likelihood of them giving you their business. Once you’ve done that, the offering of extra safety measures like curbside service and easy-to-use remote ordering tools will help establish trust and appreciation.
Make your new safety protocols and methods of service known. Once you’ve tackled a COVID-19 response, get the message out that you’ve made changes to suit your customers’ changing needs!
This should include clear signage in the storefront or door as well as on your website and social media stating what customers should expect from you upon entry, and what you expect from them. This should include information regarding if they need to wear a mask, if/how to order curbside, whether you have a new maximum capacity and whatever other knowledge customers need to know before entering or ordering.
Increase your business’ online presence. If you don’t have an online presence, now is the time to get one!
Make sure it’s mobile-friendly and updated frequently as it’s the main avenue your customers will be taking to seek information about your business. Information about your COVID-19 response should also be easily accessible online on your website and/or social media pages to let all customers know what changes you’ve made to make their service as convenient and safe as possible.
Now is also a great time to introduce or freshen up the blog section of your website as it’s the best way to keep your site updated (which Google likes to see) and easily adds content/updates to your website. These consumer habits will likely be long term, and since businesses are subject to a back-and-forth of being open and closed, maintaining a strong online presence is the most important way you can retain existing customers as well as reach new ones to establish a sense of safety and trust with people who may have never been to your restaurant or store before.
Make new connections. Use your online presence to not only promote your own business but to encourage others to buy local!
Post articles and stats about the importance of buying local. Also, consider reaching out to other local businesses and making new connections. Put together fundraisers and events to support one another while spreading your business’ name and increasing your customer base in the process. This is the time for local businesses to come together and support each other and the community as best they can.