Study: Stores will lose customers if they don’t take COVID-19 safety seriously

Retailers will pay a price for not paying attention to in-store health and safety measures related to COVID-19. 

Sixty-two percent of shoppers would stop shopping at a retailer that is not taking health and safety seriously, according to global research firm’s Consumer Health & Safety Index, an ongoing health and safety benchmarking study that evaluates how retailers across seven industries are operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The ability to deliver on health and safety efforts is now the most important aspect of the customer experience, and it will be for some time,” said Nick Mercurio, executive VP and service line head of U.S. Channel Performance at Ipsos. 

The study found that, when deciding to return to stores, American consumers consider certain health and safety practices more critical than others. These include the consistent use of company-issued face coverings, managing the number of customers entering stores, 6-ft. social distancing markers at checkout, employees visibly wiping down high-traffic areas, and plexiglass dividers at checkout.

Ipsos uncovered several glaring gaps between these consumer expectations and what was observed at the stores. The findings are below.

● Employees at 25% of the stores visited in the Index wore face coverings improperly or not at all inside the store.
● Employees at 51% of stores visited were not wearing gloves inside the stores.
● 77% of the stores visited did not provide any hand sanitizing or hand washing solution inside the entrance.
● 82% of the stores visited did not provide any hand sanitizing or hand washing solution at checkout.
● 64% of the stores visited had no staff actively cleaning interior high traffic areas, such as carts/baskets, counters, credit card readers, doors, and demos.
● 31% of the stores visited did not have plexiglass dividers at checkout.
● 58% of the stores visited were not observed to be managing the number of customers entering stores.

While there is definitely room for improvement, a few brands stood out among the crowd and offered superior performance implementing the health and safety measures of the new economy.

Whole Foods stood out as the health and safety all-star and was the top performing retailer in the study. Whole Foods demonstrated near universal compliance with associates wearing face coverings inside (98%), respecting 6-foot boundaries in customer interactions inside (91%), providing plexiglass barriers at checkout (95%), and offering contactless payment (87%) at the stores visited.

Costco emerged as the #2 retailer on Ipsos’ Consumer Health & Safety Index. Employees at 83% of Costco stores visited wore face coverings properly outside the store, and employees at 95% of the stores visited wore face coverings properly inside the store. 94% of the stores visited had social distancing markers present inside the store.

Rounding out the top three performers was Trader Joe’s due to their consistency and attention to the most important health and safety factors to consumers. Consumer research conducted by Ipsos confirmed that active monitoring of traffic and guest occupancy is something consumers value significantly. Trader Joe’s far surpasses all the other grocery retailers in this area, with 94% of stores visited actively managing this process at the entrance.

Ipsos approach in launching the Consumer Health & Safety Index was 2-pronged:

● Step 1: Ipsos conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans to understand which health and safety attributes are most important to consumers in the current retail environment.

● Step 2: Ipsos conducted mystery shops to measure brand compliance to these health and safety attributes across 45 major US brands in 7 key industries to report on their performance. A random sample of 125 locations per brand were visited during this study, while ensuring geographical representation and a margin of error of 5-7%. While the results presented in the study have a 90% confidence level, observations contrary to the findings reported in the study may be found at individual locations and should be used as an opportunity to further improve the customer experience at these locations.

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