I have been asked by a number of people “Do your Sneeze Guards actually work?”
It is a good question – because if they didn’t work, then Coles, Woolworths and countless other essential services who have implemented tens of thousands of clear screens, sanitiser towers, floor stickers and other Covid-19 products, have wasted a lot of money.
On an aerosol level, the screens help to prevent infection from a sneeze, cough or touch from an infected person by creating a physical barrier. When combined with other measures such as hand sanitiser towers which disinfect the hands, and floor decals and information stickers which remind customers of the social distancing requirements, the reasoning is clear.
But as a life-long student of consumer behaviour and of the biases that occur in our brains and guide our purchasing decisions, I know the Sneeze Guard products have a much deeper effect. Consumers browse different products in different ways, but our basic shopping actions rely on us being in a predictable or stimulating environment which opens us up to the messages that we need to help us choose our products. Those of you who have studied Daniel Kahneman and Paco Underhill are aware of the great lengths that retailers will go to, to appeal to the different subconscious levels to ensure that our customers are able to focus on getting what they came for – be that burger bargains or luxury lipstick.
I noticed myself throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, that the level of fear in supermarkets has put customers on edge, aware of the people around them and not concentrating on comparing the benefits of one organic ice cream against the other. Rather than doing the hunting, we have become the hunted, and cannot wait to get back to our sanctuary. Then, the stores got the sanitiser, the friendly messages and plastic barriers in place, the atmosphere became less tense. As the stores in Australia started to fill up with pasta and toilet roll, I even noticed some people enjoying the act of shopping again.
We are very lucky in Australia to have ‘flattened the curve’ due to early action from the government. There are green shoots on the retail and services horizon and brands are starting to think about marketing campaigns again. I cannot stress how important it is to create a safe environment for our consumers to benefit from those campaigns.
Hand sanitiser should be at the entrance and clear messaging should state that stores have taken measures to prevent infection. Once inside the store, creating an in / out store flow may ensure that customers are 1.5mtrs apart, but it can also create irritating bottle necks which will increase anxiety. Sneeze Guards at the checkout or consumer/employee touchpoints should have a polite message in brand colours to remind them that it is there for their protection. (it also has the effect of making the screen more visible). The sense of cleanliness should be upheld by a regular and visible wipe-down by employees. If the exit has been separated, then customers will appreciate the option to sanitise once more.
Our goal is to make the shopping experience enjoyable again. The effect will be to save Australia from a serious recession. The bonus will be the creation of a brand that shows that it values the welfare of its employees and customers as well as providing great products or services. And, the answer to the question therefore is “Yes, on many levels”.