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Can COVID-readiness be a Competitive Advantage?

Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, there have been a plethora of mixed messages around how business can and should operate. And of course, whether they should be open at all, especially in retail.

But why are some retailers doing better than others? Is is purely luck of being “in demand” during COVID (such as household essentials or groceries) or is there more at stake? Is it time for retailers to throw up their arms and be swept away, or is it time to dig in and show some tenacity?

Having seen some retailers do it well, and others not really meeting the bare minimum guidelines, I strongly believe that in many cases, survival will largely be a decision.

COVID Savvy or COVID Clueless?

Mark What’s Been Cleaned

I was at a quick-service restaurant yesterday. They had table cards that consumers were asked to flip when they sat at a given table. One side was marked sanitized the other, not. Oddly, I had been at another location of the same chain only a few weeks before that had clearly not been cleaning its tables, nor marking them as sanitized.

Even Better, Eliminate Touch Points

Some restaurants are using paper, recyclable menus. Others are ensuring their menus are sprayed down between users, or using QR codes on tables that link to their menus. And others, if they are doing anything, don’t make it clear what they are doing, so it seems as though they’ve made no changes at all.

Actively Spray and Count the People in Store

When heading to the nearby grocery, there is a staff member paying attention to the number of people in the store, and spraying hands as customers enter. Other grocery stores are not bothering with any new processes and procedures and lineups are crowded and chaotic. Which one would you feel comfortable shopping in?

Instead of Closing Off, Install the Barriers

Some cafes have closed all tables, some are partially closed, and some are installing lovely plexiglas barriers to make efficient use of space. Certainly the ones who have not closed altogether will be more appreciated by customers who truly need a safe but different place to go rather than being home all the time.

Can you Service People in Your Lineups?

Some businesses are lined up outside beyond belief, and others are hustling to ensure this is not the case. One of our clients had extra staff running outside to take customers’ “orders” to ensure they were not going to walk away, and to keep the line moving fast. That’s a huge improvement over a stagnant, hopelessly long line.

Can’t Provide Service? Create New Products!

You’ve all heard about businesses who have pivoted – in other words, changed up their offerings to keep some revenue flowing. Breweries making sanitizer. Restaurants selling meal kits. These are great demonstrations of creativity and tenacity that make the difference between survival and defeat. At Tenato, we’ve published many “pivotal” ideas right here on this blog.

Now that it’s been a year since the pandemic started, I am inclined to think that if a business can remain open at all, it has a chance to survive – especially get creative about giving excellent service and turning this into an advantage.

I know for our family, we still need to get out and around…and we’re certainly going to choose the cafes, restaurants and retailers that have shown they are being diligent, considerate and careful.

So, if you’ve been loose about your COVID procedures, tighten up. And if you’re tight about it, promote it. It matters.

If you need help considering how to strategize your business in the face of this unrelenting pandemic, give us a call anytime – we’re here to help.

QR Menu from Monki in Inglewood

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Jacqueline Drew
About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."