Commerce in the time of Coronavirus
As someone who has worked from home for a long time, “social distancing” has pretty much been my regular way of life for years. But for many others, this new lifestyle has required major adaptations, made in the name of safety. It’s also caused massive disruptions in the business world. How can stores sell anything when people are staying at home, either by choice or by mandate? How much toilet paper does one household really need?
During this time, I’ve been inspired by the actions of the meat markets across the country. I follow a fair number of them on social media, and every day, they are reaching out to calm their customers and inform them of all the latest company developments. These companies, many of which are generations old, have re-invented their sales structure in a matter of days to meet the current needs of the consumer.
Multiple businesses have posted updates or made videos letting shoppers know that they are in no danger of running out of their favorite products. People are used to seeing barren store shelves when they go to the big box stores, so that note is itself a relief. Processors have explained their regular food safety and sanitation procedures and then listed all the new measures that they have undertaken in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. While there have been no reports that the Coronavirus is transmissible via food, these assurances help consumers do their shopping with a little less fear.
In more recent days, some companies have announced additional retail options, like the call-ahead order. Instead of walking into the store, shoppers can call ahead to place their orders, and the markets’ employees will process and assemble the order and then deliver it straight to the customer’s automobile when they come to pick it up. In some cases, that has become the only way to shop, as the markets are no longer allowing shoppers into the store. The major grocery chains around me have experimented with call-ahead ordering, and these small companies have instituted it in a moment’s notice. It’s an impressive leap that they made at a moment’s notice.
Eventually, we will return to normal. Businesses will reopen, and restaurants will fill up with people again. Some of these business innovations, though, may be worth keeping. Consider bulking up your company websites to allow consumers to shop online and pick up at the store. Consider keeping this level of food safety transparency after the current fears die down. Keep communicating with your consumers through social media – not just about bad things, but about new products, in-store specials and promotions. The next few months may be difficult, but it’s very possible to emerge from them stronger than ever.