Brick-and-Mortar Brands Must Adapt More to Survive COVID-19

This is an interesting time to be in business – the world is open to anything new. For traditional brick-and-mortar industries, like retail, restaurant, and hospitality, it may feel like it’s out with the old and in with the new. However, it can be a fruitful time for those that can think differently and adapt to their customers’ needs.

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We’ve seen innovation come in all forms: A national smoothie chain allowing customers to pay-a-smoothie forward to a healthcare worker on the frontline. Retailers offering special hours for high-risk individuals. Gyms offering free at-home workouts. Restaurants offering family meal kits.

To help businesses through this challenging time, my company, MomentFeed, commissioned a consumer survey* aimed at understanding how consumer preferences have changed during the crisis, and at predicting how they will continue to change in the future. We are releasing data from this extensive data set over the coming weeks…

Our survey found that while concerns around contracting COVID-19 are high, with 94% of consumers expressing concern and 93% altering their daily routines as a result, consumers are still willing to support brands that go above and beyond to meet their needs. In fact, 86% of consumers highlighted one or more ways local restaurants and stores can earn their business amid COVID-19.

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How to Earn Your Customers Trust and Business

Before you can earn your customers’ business, you must first earn their trust. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 crisis, 31% of U.S. consumers say they struggle to find information about local brick-and-mortar businesses online. Those that do find this information, may not trust what they find. The study found that only 61% of people currently trust brick-and-mortar business information found online.

This is particularly troubling as citizens rely on accurate information such as temporary closures, updated hours, in-stock items, and online options to limit trips and unnecessary exposure. They weigh the benefits and risks of ordering takeout or delivery against waiting in line at a crowded grocery store.

To ease distrust, make sure to keep your local listings up-to-date across all online platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and others important to your industry. If you haven’t already done so, claim your local listings for all locations. If you don’t, these listings will rely on crowd-sourced updates and appear unclaimed if a potential customer stumbles upon them, further eroding your credibility and trust during these uncertain times.

Top Eight Ways Consumers Report Brands Can Earn their Business

Once you have earned your potential customers trust, you must demonstrate how your organization has adapted to the new normal. Here are eight ways consumers said brick-and-mortar organizations can earn their business:

1 – Free delivery – Free delivery was cited by nearly half (47%) of all survey respondents as something stores and restaurants can do to earn their business during COVID-19. This indicates that free delivery is quickly becoming an expectation or at least a defining reason for choosing one brand over another.

2 – Take-out options – For restaurants unable to ramp up a delivery service or worried about the commission cut of food aggregators, takeout being the second best way to earn business is encouraging.

3 – Easy online ordering – Easy online ordering was nearly tied for second, with 41% of respondents citing this capability as important. Consumers prefer an easy experience when they do choose to order food or buy products or services online.

4 – Curb-side pickup – As consumers look to limit exposure to other people, curb-side pickup is another service that seems to be gaining popularity, coming in at number four, with 38% saying they prefer this option. Things to think about here are whether you are providing a COVID-sensitive pickup experience. How are you facilitating parking and making it easy for a customer to pick-up their orders with no/low interactions with others?

5 – Transparency into work environment precautions – Many restaurants and stores are publishing the precautions they are taking to ensure the safety of customers and employees. According to our survey, consumers reference these precautions before making a purchase decision.

6 – Fast delivery – While not as highly valued as free delivery or easy online ordering, fast delivery is still appreciated, with 35% of consumers indicating this as a preference.

7 – Discounts and offers – Over a third of respondents (34%) indicated discounts and special offers as a way to earn their business. Consider a gift card with purchase to earn repeat business or a free with purchase high-margin item with perceived value (coffee / soda / etc.).

8 – Commitment to local jobs – While commitment to local jobs was lower on the list of ways restaurants and stores can earn consumer business, it is still encouraging to see 30% of consumers taking notice. Doing good at a time like this is a rare opportunity and a chance for brands to build respect in their communities that may not pay off immediately, but will hopefully boost their brand and sales in the long run.

While whole industries are getting hit hard, there is still opportunity for those businesses that can pivot. The winners will be those that listen to their customers and adapt to the new normal.

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