Breaking Down Mask-Requirement Strategies for Local Businesses

Data Scout is Localogy’s series that curates and draws meaning from third-party data. Running semi-weekly, it adds an analytical layer to the industry data that we encounter in daily knowledge building. For Localogy original data, see the separate Modern Commerce Monitor™️ series.


 

Over the past five months, SMB SaaS players have put their platforms to work to define shifting consumer behavior. As examined in our Covid Location Index, this includes location data players whose foot-traffic measurement engines have been repurposed to track Covid-era local shopping trends.

A slightly different spin on this concept comes from local reviews optimization engine GatherUp. The company this week released new data that quantify how consumer sentiments over the past five months have mapped to mask-requiring businesses. This mostly includes national multi-location brands.

Beyond being generally interesting, this has strategic implications for businesses that are deciding the revenue impact they can expect from establishing mask mandates for shoppers and employees. We break it down below (Spoiler alert: having a mask requirement wins in terms of business impact).

By the Numbers 

One component of GatherUp’s methodology was to analyze Google ratings for five mask-requiring businesses across categories: Home Depot, Menards, Costco, Walmart and Dominos. For each brand, it compared the same pre-covid 90-day period (control group) to a post-covid 90 day period (test group).

So what did it find out? All brands experienced a loss in their average review rating. Home Depot took the biggest hit, dropping 0.3 points, followed by Menards (.o2 point drop) and Walmart, Costco, and Domino’s (0.1-point drop each). These can each be seen charted below from GatherUp.

Menards drop — though only .o2 points — was larger symbolically and optically than practically. In other words, it crossed the dreaded threshold from an average rating that starts with a “4” to one that starts with a “3.” This drop hurts more than any equivalent delta within a given whole number.

Zeroing In

But one question that arises from these data is how mask-wearing can be correlated to such drops. These were of course overall reviews, whose point-drops could be attributed to other factors. Indeed, consumers are more on-edge and contentious than ever, which could impact explicit review behavior.

So GatherUp zeroed in on mask-wearing specifically by parsing reviews by language to determine mask-specific sentiments. More importantly, it directly asked consumers via online survey if they’d be more or less likely to shop with a business that mandates masks for employees and customers.

Among four randomized responses, 55 percent of shoppers report that they’re more likely to shop with businesses that enforce masks. 27 percent were neutral while 10.4 percent reported that they’re less likely to shop. 8.2 percent reported a more definitive “never shop there again” attitude.

Adding up the negative sentiments, 18.6% are less likely or unwilling to do business with firms that enforce masks. This notably seems lower than news media would suggest, meaning that anti-maskers are a vocal minority whose attitudes tend to get amplified by politically-charged coverage.

Safe Call

The practical question all of this leads to is what’s the business impact from requiring masks. For SMBs or multi-location brands asking themselves this question, insights can be gained from the above. The real question is whether more attrition results from requiring masks or not requiring masks.

The fact that anti-maskers are a vocal minority suggests their gripes have less business impact. Larger positive impact could come from instilling comfort among positive and neutral shoppers who represent 81.4 percent of U.S. adults. So beyond being the safe call, it’s also the right business decision.

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