COVID Choices: Research and Online System for Main Street Decision Making

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Kevin ClarkJordan LouviereRichard Carson

Abstract: During the spring of 2020 ChoiceFlows Inc. (Choiceflows) researchers document an approach for small and medium-sized businesses to make informed decisions about equitable and resilient reopening after COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and restrictions. The client is 501(c)(3) chartered Restart Partners in Washington State and their client, the State of Washington Department of Commerce. After several revisions, an agreement is signed on December 30, 2020 to make the approach real with development and deployment in 2021 using Cares Act Grant money from the U.S. Federal Government. The result is Smart WA – and can be freely accessed online here: Smart WA is the result of unique primary research conducted by Choiceflows involving citizens and residents of Washington State, and many days of secondary research finding publicly available data sources and bringing them together in one place to provide both comprehensive and easier to use data to make informed decisions. The research behind Smart WA is the first study to comprehensively examine how specific COVID-19 transmission reduction actions influence planned visits to different types of businesses. Data on Smart WA is organized by Human Health, Economic Health, and Community Experience metrics – and displayed as composite scores. The entire online system is powered by machine learning, a Choiceflows business partner, and is updated from all data sources daily.The advent of the COVID pandemic disrupts a wide range of businesses that directly serve the public and causes a dramatic fall in visits to these establishments. Businesses face a wide range of options in how to respond ranging from the pre-pandemic status quo and doing nothing to prevent the spread of the virus to shutting down businesses due to a lack of customers.Recognizing this, Smart WA has a “what-if” game-like section that allows a business to model the choices that they can make for reopening, and what they can expect from customers based on real data from people in the state. The relevant question from a small business perspective is: If we take an action or actions that influence COVID-19 transmission and make it known to our customers, how will that influence those customers to visit? The research supporting this function was conducted in four waves of surveys designed and administered during 2021, making it one of the most comprehensive research programs of its type during COVID with snapshots of customer preferences being collected over several month intervals.We document the development of this COVID Choices research using the Choiceflows pioneered Volumetric Choice Experiment (VCE) method and design and in parallel the online system. This provides a platform for projecting how the insights and methods from this work can be used for other issues facing small and medium size businesses to aid in and speed decision making and choice. This includes and dashboards for policymakers and main street for allocating resources for commerce, including economic development, ongoing community health, and supporting quality of life indicators.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, choice, choice modeling, volumetric choice experiment, VCE, SMB, small business, health, community health, quality of life

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001361

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