With the most recent COVID-19 studies from PYMNTS reinforcing the need for health and safety in the retail world, some retailers are stepping up to accommodate consumers’ concerns.
A new survey from Ipsos found that U.S. shoppers have identified the specific conditions that would make them more comfortable returning to physical stores and choosing the retailers they would visit. Among them: company-issued face coverings, customer capacity limits in stores, six-foot social distancing, employees wiping down high-traffic areas and plexiglass dividers at checkout stations.
“We found that 62 percent of shoppers would stop shopping at a retailer not taking health and safety seriously,” Nick Mercurio, executive vice president and service line head of U.S. channel performance at Washington, D.C.-based Ipsos, said in a statement.
The survey and consequential retail index shows how retailers are dealing with consumer fears, which extend to having groceries delivered to the home. The PYMNTS research shows that 30 percent of American grocery shoppers were using delivery options by late March, a percentage that is expected to rise over the next few months.
“Yet consumers have not wholly abandoned in-store shopping or the use of brick-and-mortar services like curbside pickup,” the PYMNTS survey showed. “Many consumers are in fact using a mix of methods to complete their grocery experiences, including mobile apps and meal kit subscription services. Grocers must, therefore, be ready to adapt innovative tools, both online and in-store, that can help keep that experience seamless for consumers.”
Ipsos surveyed consumers and conducted mystery shopper visits at 45 of the top retailers. The highest-ranked retailer was Whole Foods, followed by Costco and Trader Joe’s. The grocery category, it says, has "exerted the most consistent and visible efforts in implementing health and safety standards," followed by big-box and drug stores. In fact, grocery and big-box brands took 13 of the top 15 spots in terms of compliance with health and safety standards, and grocery brands represented three of the top five.
According to Ispos: “Big-box stores performed better at cleaning interior locations (51 percent of locations visited) than any sector besides grocery. Mass merchants, too, came in just behind grocery and drugstores in providing plexiglass shields at checkout (83 percent of stores visited). Drugstores excelled at providing protective barriers at checkout (92 percent of locations examined) and were at parity with the grocery industry, the study found. Eighty-nine percent of drugstores also provided interior signs reminding customers to maintain social distancing, on par with the grocery industry’s 90 percent compliance rate.”
Overall, consumer trust with brick-and-mortar retail is low, according to Ispos. While grocers have proven to receive the highest scores for cleanliness and safety protocols, 24 percent of consumers state that they do not trust any brands in any industry.
“This lack of trust has resulted in American consumers feeling apprehensive about returning to traditional shopping practices,” noted Ispos. “In fact, two in three American consumers will delay returning to brick-and-mortar retail for at least one week once restrictions are lifted, and 30 percent said it will take at least three months before they feel comfortable returning to brick-and-mortar retail.”
The PYMNTS studies suggest that the 90-day estimate may be conservative. According to that research, the average consumer does not expect the pandemic to end until February 2021, and 43.3 percent of the adult population do not expect their lives to return to “normal” for at least another year. Ten percent do not believe their lives will ever go back to how they were before. This strongly suggests that the recent uptick we have seen in their propensity to shop and pay online will continue for the foreseeable future.