The pandemic has turned business upside down and we have observed how this has impacted reviews. Most businesses, some more than others, lost rating strength in their reviews. To understand the why around this we both looked at review and ratings from known brands as well as conducted a consumer survey.
Review Rating Drop In Major Brands
We took a look at Google ratings for these five brands: Home Depot, Menards, Costco, Walmart and Dominos. When comparing a pre-Covid 90 day period to a post-Covid 90 day period the brands we examined experienced a loss in their average review rating. Home Depot took the biggest loss dropping 0.3 while Walmart, Costco and domino’s dropped 0.1 in this timeframe. But Menards suffered the dreaded drop from a 4.0 to a rating beginning with a 3, a line you really don’t want to cross.
While most of the complaints in negative reviews revolved around the lack of consistent Coronavirus hygiene, not all of them did and the complaints from anti-maskers can be worse in some situations than others.
Consumer Survey On Businesses Requiring Masks
This raised the question of establishing a baseline for consumer attitudes towards masking. As our society moves towards widespread use of masks what impact would requiring masks for customers have on business? Would already distressed sales become more or less difficult as businesses took the lead on the question of mandatory masks? Are consumers more or less likely to support the decision by businesses to require masks?
While our earlier review research indicated that the vast majority of reviewers wanted businesses to provide stricter Covid hygiene, we wanted to understand exactly what that meant and what percentage of consumers overall might think masks are ill-conceived. We conducted two recently finished surveys that ask the question:
While the picture drawn is not as rosy as seen in our previous analysis of 40,000 reviews, 55% of shoppers indicate that they are more likely to do shop with businesses that have stricter mask hygiene. Another 27% indicated that stricter masking requirements would not impact their willingness to do business. Only 18.6% are less likely or unwilling to do business with firms that enforce masking.
Despite high visibility in the press, those that seem vehemently opposed to masks are a small minority and it would appear that over 80% of US adults are either more likely or equally likely to do business if the business enforces stronger masking criteria.
While they are a small minority, they do leave reviews in political (?) opposition to companies that require masks.
A Larger Survey Shows The Difference
When consumers were forced to choose between the options of doing more or less business the difference is more obvious. In this survey of 2,500 adult US internet users, respondents were offered More, Less as fixed choices and Other as an open-ended option. Roughly 80% indicated that they would be either more likely for them to do business or that it would have no effect if the business enforced stricter masking standards.
Feelings On Masks And Business Vary By Gender, Age & Region
We did see some interesting regional, age and gender differences in the responses.
Men more frequently answered that they were less likely to do business with companies that had strict mask enforcement by a 7% difference, although a majority of men were still more likely to do more business with companies that were stricter.
Understandbly, due to higher risks, folks over 45 are more likely to do business with businesses that strictly enforced masks for employees and customers than those under 45. Again though the large majority of 18 to 44-year-old shoppers desire stricter standards at just 6% behind the 45 and up age group.
The survey also surfaced distinct differences between regions of the United States. Not surprisingly, the Northeast was quite a bit more likely to do business if strict masking protocols were followed at 80.6%, while the Midwest was the lowest region at 68.4%.
One can reasonably guess that the impact of Covid-19 in the Northeast early on in the pandemic (notably New York City) is responsible for this.
What Does It Mean For Businesses And Their Reviews?
We think that there is a certain inevitability of businesses requiring that mask be worn by both employees AND customers. The moral, legal and consumer attitudes all point in that direction.
The early adopters of strict masking did suffer some arrows. Menards* and Costco both started requiring that masks be worn by all in early May. While the nature of their reviews might be different they suffered no more of a reputation loss than companies that had not required masks.
Walmart and a number of other large chains have recently started requiring that masks be worn and many of these larger businesses have asked that the governments step in and set clear standards requiring masks of all.
What Should A Business Do Regarding Masks?
As the larger businesses pave the paths, if the government has still not acted, smaller businesses will have to also start enforcing masking more broadly. There may be a few insults hurled their way but in the end most customers will appreciate the clear and unambiguous standards of masks for all.
In our last piece, we noted that you should head the voice of the customer and start implementing more rigorous masking.
Now we are saying that you need to “play the odds” and go all in on requiring masks for both employees and customers. If 71% of customers indicate that they will do more business with you, then that is the group you should be catering to. Obviously the question is larger than the plusses and minuses of a financial ledger but if you need one more reason, then the business case is clear.
Unfortunately, there is very little middle ground in this pandemic and by committing to a forceful, full on mask policy going forward you will be maximizing your chance to keep and attract more customers.
*Note that even the headline seems biased against Menards’ corporate decision to require customers to wear masks in early May