As we have learned over the last few months amid the coronavirus pandemic, grocery store workers have become more essential than ever.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation, most customers chose where to grocery shop based on a store’s location, prices and food selection. Lately however, more consumers are also noticing the importance of the stores that are doing all they can to protect shoppers and workers from the coronavirus.
In the newly released Consumer Health & Safety Index, marketing research company Ipsos Group compared the safety measures grocery chains have adapted during the pandemic. The findings revealed that Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco have made the most positive impressions on customers with the strict changes they have implemented.
2,000 Americans were surveyed during the first week of May about the retail safety measures that were most important to them regarding the threat of the coronavirus. Between May 8 and May 20, thousands of “mystery shops” were conducted (people paid by Ipsos posed as regular customers to generate reports) across the country to see what 45 major U.S. brands in seven industries have done to keep shoppers healthy.
Protective safety measures such as company-issued face coverings, social distancing markers, customer limits in the stores and frequent cleaning of surfaces were among the biggest priorities for most shoppers. The survey revealed that 62% of customers would stop shopping at a particular store if they didn’t think the company was taking health and safety matters seriously.
When it comes to in-store safety, Ipsos Group awarded Whole Foods first place in the “health and safety all-star” survey.
At the Whole Foods stores visited, 98% of employees wore face coverings inside and 91% of customers observed a distance of six feet between others while shopping. The retailer had also installed plexiglass barriers at the checkout areas in 95% of stores, while contactless payment was available in 87% of stores visited.
Second place went to Costco where 83% of employees were seen wearing face coverings outside and 95% of employees wore them properly inside. Social-distancing markers were available in 94% of Costco stores.
Trader Joe’s earned the 3rd spot for its “consistency and attention to the most important health and safety factors to consumers.” At 94% of Trader Joe’s stores visited, employees were seen actively managing the number of customers entering and exiting.
Despite the positive marks for the top three stores, survey results revealed that many stores still are not meeting customer expectations. For example, employees at 25% of stores visited during the mystery shops were either wearing face coverings incorrectly or not wearing them at all. A larger group (51%) weren’t wearing gloves and 31% of stores didn’t have plexiglass dividers at their checkout aisles.
Of the stores visited, 58% did not appear to be actively limiting the number of customers allowed inside and 64% didn’t have staff regularly cleaning high-traffic items or areas, such as carts and baskets, counters, credit card readers and doors handles.
In coming months, the nation will continue to see safety measures as a top priority to influence consumer decisions, according to Nick Mercurio, executive vice president and head of U.S. channel performance at Ipsos.
“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,” Mercurio said.