Went to a Jersey Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast last week – normally that wouldn’t be breaking news. But with 2020 there is no more normal. And after months of joining chamber members by zoom — sometimes actually coiffed and always with coffee in hand — we finally regrouped in person.
It was an interesting energy as people convened for the first time since March. Admittedly though, I didn’t venture out easily. My entire world had been reduced to about a dozen people — most of whom are relatives. And outings had been to Wegmans, it’s liquor store, and Pop’s Butcher Shop. Lately my family has been throwing paddle boards and kayaks into the Shark River. C’est tout.
Now, on this Wednesday morning I was with a whole bunch of folks all trying to figure out how to socially dance — and not too closely. We were outdoors, had our masks (although none were really worn). and greetings to folks we knew were all done at (each other’s) arms length.
Turns out a new social anxiety has emerged.
McKinsey just did a global survey on consumer sentiment, and it turns out that I wasn’t alone with my nervousness. More than 70% of people state they don’t feel comfortable resuming “normal” activities — but when they do, shopping is tops on their list.
Further, 75% of folks who hunkered down said simply removing government restrictions weren’t enough. They want assurances from the medical community — and business owners — that things are being taken seriously.
Good news for small businesses: Consumer appetite to shop locally is strong. A recent survey by Yodle, an online marketing company, found that 82 percent of consumers now regularly shop at their neighborhood businesses and 48 percent plan to increase their use of local businesses over the next year.
Customers are drawn by the businesses’ caliber. Survey respondents cited quality, service, and trustworthiness as the main reasons they’re attracted to local businesses over major retailers — even over price. While 77 percent of those surveyed believe that national chains offer more competitive prices, 72 percent indicated that they are willing to pay a local business more for better-quality work.
So folks want to shop … locally … and safely.
This is a great opportunity for you to highlight all your efforts to keep your customers and staffs safe. Many of you have painted your interiors. Some of you have brought the indoors outside. (Curbside delivery, outdoor racks ,and patio settings). All of you are wearing masks. Some of you may have branded masks!
My hair stylist has gone to great lengths (see what I did there) to create portions between stations. So too my nail salon. In fact, I have never seen so much creativity with PVC piping and Lucite! Both take temperatures when you walk in.
My dance studio has resumed outdoor classes. So they can keep classes small, they limited class sizes – – actually creates urgency) They also created branded hand sanitizer and wipes.
And Wegmans won me for life when they had me walk through a TSA-like corridor made of shopping carts — with big yellow circles spaced 6 feet apart. When I got to the door, someone was busy sanitizing every cart.
All of you are doing something too — so showcase it!
Your customers are nervous and just want a little encouragement to put their anxieties aside. You can help them by showing how much you care.