In our “new normal,” consumers have already grown accustomed to wearing masks and using plenty of hand sanitizer when they go out, and relying on e-commerce retailers to meet their needs when they stay in. But with health-and-safety guidelines continuously evolving — and differing state to state — a lot of uncertainty remains: Is it even safe to handle those e-commerce deliveries? Can the coronavirus survive on cardboard boxes?
E-commerce retailers are uniquely positioned to reassure consumers. Keeping your customers updated on safety practices and directly communicating the latest information about COVID-19 builds trust and confidence that you are a transparent, reliable brand. It can also keep consumers safe.
What the Experts Say
The coronavirus spreads through droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Inhaling those droplets puts healthy people at risk, as does touching your face after you’ve touched a surface with viral particles on it.
Studies in late March and early April confirmed fears about how long the virus was detectable on various surfaces: a week on the outside of surgical masks; somewhere between a few days and a week on stainless steel and plastic; two to four days on glass, paper money, wood and cloth.
The result that really rattled folks who were depending on e-commerce and home delivery to keep themselves and their families safe? In the lab, the coronavirus was detectable on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
But we don’t live in laboratory conditions. Researchers tested the lifespan of the virus in temperature- and humidity-controlled rooms — rooms in which no one was breaking out the isopropyl alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer. Outside of the lab, the likelihood of contracting coronavirus from cardboard packages is minimal, an assertion backed up by the CDC and numerous health experts. For one thing, unless consumers are ordering same-day delivery, at least a day has passed between sending and receiving the package. Secondly, as those packages make their way to e-commerce customers, they’re subjected to shifts in temperature and humidity — an unfriendly environment for viruses to thrive.
If customers are still concerned, they have a few simple options:
- Spray or wipe down the cardboard box with disinfectants such as bleach or Lysol, making sure to use enough that the surface is damp.
- Leave the package outside for a day or so.
- Bring the package inside with gloves and set it on a disposable surface like newspaper or paper towels for a day or so. Throw away the gloves and wash your hands after handling it.
E-commerce Retailers can Ease Customers’ Fears
Educating your customers starts with gathering information yourself. After you’ve read up on the latest COVID-19 health information, ask your supply-chain partners — from manufacturers to order fulfillment to delivery — what measures they’re taking to ensure the health and safety of their own workers, in addition to the safety of shipments.
Then, in the interest of transparency and positioning yourself as a trusted expert, fill in your customers. You might want to tell them about what steps you’re taking, such as:
- Staying vigilant: Let them know you’re keeping an eye on the situation, continuing to read the news and monitor recommendations from the CDC and WHO.
- Making changes: Have you changed the way you’re handling storage, packaging and delivery? OWD, for instance, is quarantining all inbound packages for 24 hours before processing returns and receives. We also are providing gloves for all employees if they choose to wear them while handling inbound packages once they’ve been released from the 24 hour quarantine. Let customers know what you’re doing to keep them safe.
- Shifting operations: Consumers want to support ethical companies. Update them about how you’re keeping your own workers safe, whether that’s providing more sanitizing supplies and protective gear, or canceling events, training sessions and other gatherings so more employees can stay home.
If you’d like to talk strategy on how you can ease your e-commerce customers’ fears, you can call us at 1-866-289-9010 or email us at sales (at) owd (dot) com.