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Rising Expectations for Clean: 5 Ways Cleanliness Drives Business Value for Retailers

September 23, 2021 9:00 AM by Tennant Company

Posted in Cleaning Solutions Staff & Personnel Best Practices

V-LWU-13B vacuuming office carpet

As retailers gear up for the holiday shopping season, there’s plenty of uncertainty around the impact of evolving COVID concerns. But one thing is for sure: Clean is front and center — more important than ever for getting customers in the door and earning their confidence to drive purchases and loyalty. And as Deloitte warned in a recent report on rising consumer cleanliness expectations, it’s an all-or-nothing game: The cleanliness of your business “either leads to increased trust or no trust at all.”

Expectations are higher than ever

The typical retail consumer is much more well-versed in the language of cleanliness and hygiene than two years ago. The public has a much better understanding of the direct connection between the cleanliness and health of spaces — stores, restaurants, offices, etc. — and their individual health and wellness. Seven in 10 people say they’re more aware of hygiene and sanitization in businesses. And what do consumers want? A full 85% said that visible cleaning is most important.

Higher expectations are here to stay

As with most shifts in expectations, once consumers have experienced a higher standard, they won’t go back to accepting anything less. Two in three retail customers say they expect retailers to continue to follow heightened cleaning protocols permanently.

Critically, it’s not just consumers that have higher cleanliness expectations: 83% of employees surveyed by Deloitte say visible cleaning is important to them, as well. With the tight labor market, the so-called Great Resignation of 2021 and the constant of high retail turnover, these employee expectations cannot be ignored.

The business value of clean in retail

  1. Getting customers in the door: Cleanliness is increasingly the make-or-break factor in whether people ever set foot in a store. More than half of retail customers say cleanliness is more important in determining where they shop than before the pandemic. And those first impressions start outside: 4 in 5 consumers say that a clean, inviting exterior would make them willing to try a new store.
  2. Keeping customers in the store: Clearing the first-impression hurdle is critical. But things can still go south quickly. Two in three shoppers say they’ve left a store after encountering an unclean appearance while shopping. And 25% of consumers say a dirty bathroom would send them running to the door immediately.
  3. Driving purchases: Converting foot traffic into sales is what matters most. So, take notice: 92% of consumers in a recent survey said that a clean, organized environment was the most important factor in increasing purchase likelihood. Plenty of other consumer spending research bears this out. For example, a Spring 2021 survey by Quick Service Magazine found that guests will spend twice as much in clean restaurants.
  4. Protecting your reputation: A retailer’s reputation is essential to success, and few things can ruin that reputation faster than sub-par cleanliness. Nine in 10 customers say they would immediately think negatively of a business if it didn’t meet their cleanliness standards. Half of those not satisfied with a business’ health and safety efforts will not return in the future. And in the age of social media, that negative impact grows exponentially: Half of consumers tell friends (including posting online) if they have a negative impression or experience at a store.
  5. Earning a cushion of confidence & loyalty: While a negative impression of cleanliness can quickly damage a retailer’s reputation, the opposite is also true. A 2021 study found that customers happy with the health and safety of a business are 6.3 times more likely to be satisfied overall. The confidence and trust inspired by clean environments are enough to build a cushion of loyalty: 3 in 4 consumers say they’re willing to overlook a poor customer service experience if the business is noticeably clean.

Tennant Service Representative with customer and T12 Ride-On Scrubber



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