How Services That Come to Your Door Are Coping Amid the Coronavirus

'These are certainly not times for business as usual'

delivery person and dog
Dog walking companies are urging customers who may be working from home that their pets still need to stick to their routine.
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In recent days, businesses across every industry from major retailers to cruise lines and entire sports leagues have ceased operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

But while closing down comes with a whole set of problems for businesses, remaining open presents another. Especially if the core of your business involves visiting people’s homes.

Three industries in particular—food and grocery delivery, mail and package delivery, and dog walking—are attempting to find a balance between meeting demand while keeping both customers and employees healthy. It’s not an easy feat given today’s level of uncertainty and anxiety.

“In this state, people are more likely to imagine negative possibilities rather than harmless ones,” warned Collette Eccleston, senior vice president at marketing consultancy LRW.

She argued the best path forward for companies still operating in this climate is to communicate their intentions and be as transparent as possible. “Notifying consumers of actions being taken and the reasons for specific actions will go a long way,” Eccleston advised.

Food delivery is more crucial than ever

In line with Eccleston’s advice, food delivery services—like many companies across the country—are sending messages to customers related to the coronavirus. Several have begun offering a no-contact option, which creates a safe social distance between customers and delivery drivers while allowing orders to keep flowing.

Online grocery platform FreshDirect, for instance, has sent an alert to customers notifying them that “out of an abundance of caution, our delivery personnel will bring your order up to your door, but cannot enter your home at this time.” FreshDirect is also no longer collecting bags, advising customers to either reuse or recycle them.

In an email to customers, Tony Xu, CEO and co-founder of DoorDash, wrote that beyond monitoring the situation, his restaurant delivery service was “taking active measures to make sure the food that gets delivered to your home is safe and secure” by distributing hand sanitizer and gloves to delivery personnel in affected areas. Xu also stated that if customers prefer a no-contact delivery, they can request it in their delivery instructions. Otherwise, Xu noted in his letter, DoorDash was working on enhanced drop-off options in its app to make no-contact deliveries easier to enable.

Likewise, Postmates recently introduced a drop-off option, which allows customers to request that their order be left on their doorstep or in their building’s lobby.

“Community health and safety is paramount at Postmates, and we continue to issue in-app, precautionary [Centers for Disease Control] guidance with those carrying out deliveries so that they are aware of the latest preventative measures,” according to a statement Postmates provided to Adweek. “We’ve taken a number of steps to ensure our platform is safe.”

Instacart, which has seen a sharp increase in new customers since the beginning of March, has rolled out a ‘Leave at My Door Delivery’ feature. Originally, the feature was designed for customers who might not be home when their delivery arrives and limited to a subset of customers, but an increase in demand led Instacart to make it available to everyone on its platform.

Last week, more than 25% of all orders on Instacart used the Leave at My Door Delivery option, according to the company.

Uber Eats and Seamless have also instituted contact-free delivery for their services.

Packages are still being sent

With more people at home and more stores closed, Amazon is seeing a surge in people placing orders. Someone, however, still has to deliver all those boxes.

The United States Postal Service is still running, and the agency is sharing CDC guidance with its employees through stand-up meetings, news articles, messages on bulletin boards, videos and an intranet site, according to its website. Although the Postal Service has experienced “minor operational impacts,” and notes that consumers might see delays in mail sent to and from China and some parts of Europe, it has assured the public that the CDC, World Health Organization and Surgeon General have all determined that, as of now, no evidence exists showing that COVID-19 is spread through the mail.

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