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COVID19 Shopper Insights|March 18, 2020

Caring During COVID-19 Crisis: Learning from Costco, CVS, Alibaba and Others

The most important acts retailers and brands can take while scrambling to adapt to the COVID-19 epidemic are acts of kindness. Based on the results of our recent “Caring Score” research, shoppers are most likely to stick to those retailers and brands that are proving now that they care about their workers and communities. From Delta Air Lines to Urban Outfitters, we’ve pulled some worthy examples.

Retailers and brands: Stand by your shoppers (and your employees) and they will stand by you.

This was made clear in 2018 when WSL created a “Caring Score” to measure how many consumers believe that the stores they shop care about their health and wellness. Now that Caring Score is being put to the test in ways never predicted, as the world scrambles to limit the spread of COVID-19 virus.

Corporate Kindness, and Caring, must be immediate. Today, shoppers are responding to acts of generosity with pleasant surprise, but quickly those reactions will transition into expectations. By tomorrow, retailers and brands that are not putting their workers and shoppers before profit will be the bad guys.

Consider this: When we launched our Caring Score in 2018, the highest score was 54 out of 100. Of the 13 retailers we tested, almost all scored under 50. The score measured how shoppers rated retailers on nine attributes, from “helps me keep my family healthy” to “cares about the community.”

Rise to the occasion. Rethink your culture, and your position in the shoppers’ lives. Here are a few examples of companies, including retailers, proving they care:

  • LVMH, the luxury brand and perfume maker, is converting its French cosmetics factories into hand sanitizer producers, for distribution to 39 hospitals in the region.
  • Urban Outfitters, Everlane, Reformation, Nike, Lululemon, Lush Cosmetics, REI and Under Armour have closed stores but pledged to continue paying their workers for their lost shifts. Other retailers are likely following suit.
  • Walgreens has waived delivery fees on prescriptions and other store orders, no minimums. Customers worried about COVID-19 symptoms can chat with a pharmacist via mobile app. CVS Health, which owns Aetna insurance, is offering co-pay-free telemedicine visits for any reasons, and waived-copays on all COVID-19 diagnostic testing for commercial, Medicare and Medicaid patients. It also has waived prescription delivery fees. Rite Aid added 6-ft tape dividers to help with social distancing, a small but smart effort.
  • Walmart said if an employee or facility is required to undergo quarantine, it will provide two weeks’ pay and waive the absences from its attendance policy.
  • Costco has been wiping cart handles with sanitary wipes before their shoppers use a cart. Even these little efforts have an impact.
  • Marriott International is providing full refunds on all changed or cancelled reservations up to 24 hours prior to arrival, including more restrictive reservations made with pre-paid rates.
  • Delta Air Lines’ CEO Ed Bastian is foregoing six months of his salary after announcing it would reduce flight capacity by 40%. This followed an announcement by Southwest Airlines that CEO Gary Kelly would reduce his salary by 10%.
  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has committed to donating 500,000 COVID-19 testing kids and 1 million protective face masks to the U.S.
  • The New York Times is waiving its online access fee for all coronavirus coverage so readers can have free access to up-to-date information that will help them understand the pandemic and its repercussions.
  • Apple, which has closed all of its stores outside of Greater China, is matching all employee donations, two-to-one, to help treat those who are sick and to aid in community and economy recovery. As of March 16, Apple’s donations were $15 million. Its hourly workers will continue to receive pay and it has extended its leave policies.
  • Similarly, Facebook has committed to matching $20 million in donations to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Foundation. Facebook also is providing free advertising space to the WHO to ensure its followers have access to reliable information.

By the time this story runs, it’s likely other companies have initiated Caring efforts.

The COVID-19 crisis presents an unprecedented test of trust – possibly the most important test of a company’s worth to date.

Those that prove they can put the well-being of their shoppers and employees before profit, without sacrificing their long-term operations, will see their Caring Scores climb. These are the companies shoppers will return to. What they do now will determine their recovery.

We want to do our part for caring as well. You can download our new Hot Topic report, How America Shops® in a COVID-19 Crisis, for FREE Here. This report is free to everyone and includes fresh shopper survey feedback regarding:

  • The percentage of shoppers concerned about contracting COVID-19.
  • The latest shopper sentiment results relating to their financial status, job security and the durability of their savings.
  • A complete list of who shoppers believe is caring for them now, during the COVID-19 crisis. 

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