Groundbreaking study provides insights into how businesses preparing to reopen can help customers feel safe

ChoiceFlows Inc. (Choiceflows) along with nonprofit Restart Partners today released a groundbreaking study revealing what worries customers about visiting businesses as they reopen, and actions business can take to attract customers while limiting COVID-19 transmission. Washington state is currently on track to fully reopen no later than June 30. 

The study uses a Volumetric Choice Experiment (VCE) modeling approach developed by the founders of Choiceflows. Data from the study is being used to inform development of a new “Smart WA” online system that will help businesses tailor their reopening plans. 

“This research indicates many people remain hesitant about visiting businesses,” says Sandy Archibald with Restart. “This data gives us important insights about the kinds of actions and policies more likely to help customers feel safe and ready to return.”

“We see wide variations on this hesitancy by type of business and by county,” says Jordan Louviere, COO of Choiceflows, “Our research finds there are steps businesses can take to tamp down worry and get customers through the door.”

Over 3000 people were interviewed in Washington in two waves in May – one wave before general mask mandates were lifted at the national and state level – and one wave afterward. Key findings include:

  • Those reporting being vaccinated would prefer to not use face covering with proof of vaccination by others in public settings. The most popular second choice is requiring masks of everyone.
  • People not planning to get vaccinated soon prefer masks not being required or encouraged. Their least preferred option was allowing only people with proof of vaccination to not wear face coverings.
  • Attitudes about face masks also differs across categories of businesses. Choiceflows VCE research finds enforcing facemask rules and social distancing substantially increases planned visits over the next three months to most categories of businesses, including restaurants, bars, personal services, and retail. However, fitness service customers (gyms and yoga) place almost no importance on facemasks or social distancing requirements.
  • Price increases over pre-COVID levels has a statistically significant negative effect on planned visits, even when businesses attribute increases as COVID-related. A moderate price decrease has a predictable effect of increasing planned visits to all business categories.

“These findings can help business owners make better decisions about which reopening policies will be most effective in attracting customers, says Kevin Clark, CEO of Choiceflows.

“Restart Partners partnership with Choiceflows and work with Tanjo AI since the beginning of this year has been truly remarkable,” says Sandy Archibald, Founding Board Director for Restart Partners and Senior Research Fellow. “We look forward to sharing this research far and wide to improve the decisions business owners and managers need to make in Washington State.”  

The full report about the study can be found on the Choiceflows  website: www.choiceflows.com

Choiceflows is also the lead in partnership with Restart Partners LLC and Tanjo AI for design, development, and release of an online system to help businesses make reopening decisions. Both this system and the VCE research is chartered by Washington State Department of Commerce as part of its Safe Start initiative. Commerce’s Safe Start is funded through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Richard Boyd, CEO of Tanjo AI says, “This use case is Tanjo at its best, machine learning that informs and clarifies current COVD conditions and helps people understand real opportunities for action.”

Lisa Goodman, also a Founding Board Member and Senior Research Fellow of Research Partners working with the WA Department of Commerce, says “This research indicates a retail shop owner, for example, may want prominent signage emphasizing that facemask rules and social distancing policies are still in place. A business trying to increase revenue or offset costs may want to revisit potential price increases on their goods or services.”

Choiceflows is a choice and decision modeling company founded by the inventor of Best-Worst Scaling (BWS, also known as “MaxDiff”) and the pioneers in Discrete Choice Modeling (DCE), and most recently the invention of Volumetric Choice Modeling (VCE) and Customer-Company Alignment (CC-Align). Choiceflows co-founders Kevin Clark, Dr. Jordan Louviere, and Dr. Richard Carson, are all authors, and Louviere and Carson are among the most highly cited researchers in the world in their fields – choice modeling research and economics. 

Restart Partners is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based and chartered in the State of Washington, dedicated to COVID-19 response for public good. Restart’s mission is saving lives and livelihoods during the pandemic through science, data and policy that empowers communities. Restart employs evidence-based tools to protect the most vulnerable, increase public trust and encourage safe economic recovery.

Tanjo AI LLC is an award-winning artificial intelligence and machine learning company dedicated to achieving balance between human and machine interaction to optimize outcomes. Serving multiple industries from healthcare and education to financial and consumer market research, Tanjo helps customers gain greater business insight and drive actionable innovation. Tanjo was a finalist for the xPrize Pandemic Response Challenge based on unique machine learning human behavior models.

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