A survey conducted by the Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce finds that customers want to see locally owned businesses taking safety protocols seriously.

By NSC Staff

Photo courtesy of Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed everyone out of their normal routines, but a recent survey conducted by the Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce offers some insight into the safety protocols that customers value as businesses reopen to ‘new normal’ operations. Businesses and consumers are adopting new habits and behaviors, some of which could continue for the foreseeable future, perhaps even permanently. 

“Business owners and managers are making really tough decisions about how to best operate their business.” said Gina Grone, executive director of the Chamber. 

The Chamber, in support of the Northside business community, conducted a survey in June to highlight consumer activity and preferences that would help businesses to effectively respond to customers. Full survey results, which go beyond those outlined in this article, are available to members of the Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

“The results of this survey can provide some localized insight about how to keep and gain customers by understanding what is most important to them and how expectations and preferences have changed.”

The survey was completed by 184 people that either live in, work in, or regularly visit the Northside. It focused on three areas: how various safety protocols affect consumers’ likelihood of patronizing a business; whether or not factors such as ownership, hiring practices, and ease of ordering have become more important to consumers; and consumer activities to gauge comfort level, short-term, and sustained change.

Key findings

The bottom line: Safety protocols lead to increased visits. Respondents were asked how various safety protocols affected their likelihood of visiting a business. More than 75% of respondents indicated, for most of the protocols listed, that they were “far more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to visit if the protocol was in place. This finding is corroborated by a finding that 76% of respondents are less likely to visit if employees are not wearing masks and 83% are less likely to visit if the business has posted safety measures, but is not adhering to or enforcing them.

A survey conducted by the Chamber in June shows the value customers place on various safety protocols as businesses reopen to ‘new normal’ operations. Courtesy of North Side Shore Chamber of Commerce

Small business support

The survey also asked respondents about their activities and attitudes toward small or locally owned businesses: It’s clear that people want to keep supporting them. Forty-nine percent of respondents reported shopping at locally owned retailers (online or in-person) more now than compared to before the pandemic. Sixty percent of consumers anticipate that they will shop more at locally owned businesses after the pandemic compared to before. One question asked consumers how the importance of a business being locally owned had changed compared to before the pandemic: 57% of respondents said that it was “far more important than before” and 30% of respondents said that it was “somewhat more important.” Answers indicate a sustained commitment to supporting small business. 

Changes in activities

Respondents were asked how they anticipate their activities changing after the pandemic compared to before the pandemic, to uncover long-term or permanent behavior changes. Some of the notable findings were as follows:

  • Video chat (personal) – 33% will do this more after the pandemic than before
  • Video chat (professional) – 36% will do this more after the pandemic than before
  • Telemedicine (physical) – 28% will do this more after the pandemic than before
  • Restaurant takeout – 22% will do this more after the pandemic than before
  • Shopping at locally owned businesses (in-person or online) – 60% will do this more after the pandemic than before
  • Shopping at big-box or chain stores (in-person or online) – 49% will do this less after the pandemic than before

Takeaways for business owners 

When asked how business owners might use the survey’s findings, Grone gave the following suggestions:

  1. Capitalize on the renewed commitment to localism. Emphasize local ownership in promotions and signage, express extra appreciation for regular customers, and think about creative ways to reward local customers.
  2. Understand that consumers are taking safety protocols very seriously. Customers who see safety being taken seriously are much more apt to return. More importantly, a customer whose expectations for safety are not met can result in permanently lost business.
  3. With some of the changes in activity anticipated to be permanent, think about the products and services that you offer now or could offer in the near future that would meet the needs of the changing market.

The Chamber’s survey was sponsored by Wesbanco. Gift certificates from Penn Brewery and Priory Fine Pastries were donated and given to 10 randomly drawn survey respondents.

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