Marketing | SFBJ | Tourism

Cash in on pent-up demand

By Peggy Nordeen
Reprinted from South Florida Business Journal.

Businesses that are surviving the pandemic should ask the question: What will my customers want or need after this crisis subsides?

While industry associations may have research on recent changes in customer or client behavior and preference, the best source to answer this question is your own customer base. And, while your main question may relate to your current offerings, others can explore barriers and potential incentives that could help influence how you communicate with your customers in the near term.

As an example, we reached out to marketers in a variety of industries. We asked what they missed the most since Covid-19 restrictions were instated, and what they would want to do once everything has reopened.

We also wanted to know what had changed, in terms of their buying habits and preferences.

Of those who responded, nearly 70% were working from home, 20% on-site and the rest retired or furloughed. Overall, we gained some interesting insights about what may guide their future plans and purchases.

‘We gotta get out of this place’

Venturing out of state is the first thing these marketers want to do as the pandemic subsides. Most hoteliers have been reporting a majority of visitors from within a 100-mile radius, but our survey shows that a large portion of respondents want to get out of state. More than half want to travel to Europe or the Caribbean.

Among respondents, there was no crisis in confidence in flying or staying in hotels. These were the travel arrangements of choice. When asked how they would travel, less than 20% chose their own personal vehicle or a vacation rental property.

The respondents said they would feel most comfortable in places and communities that stressed mask wearing and following safety standards. While this may not be a surprise, it stresses the importance of community and industry safety standards for inspiring travelers to venture out.

‘And they’re always glad you came’

Restaurants and bars that are poised to reopen should plan for a resurgence of business. Keeping in touch with customers and takeout or delivery services helped many business owners squeeze by in these tough times.

However, our survey showed that the majority of respondents are missing happy hour, dining indoors and places that offer food they can’t make at home. Dining by the water, dinner parties with friends, coffee shop breakfasts, private clubs and business luncheons were among the types of gatherings desired soon.

‘You’ll be back, soon you’ll see’

Other places and event experiences that our respondents are putting on their post-pandemic wish lists are going to concerts or performing arts events. The arts have suffered a great deal during the pandemic, with fewer actual programs and a reliance on government funding, foundation and benefactor donations to host virtual art events. These organizations are on the comeback lists of more than half of our respondents. Spa visits, cruises and sporting events also ranked high.

‘I feel a change in the air’

Some experiences during the pandemic have opened our respondents’ eyes about their hectic lives. And, some businesses have found ways to make their customers’ lives less hectic by streamlining delivery of their products and services. The success of streaming movies, grocery delivery, subscription services and substituting hotel room keys with app-based keys show the benefit of such service improvements.

Knowing what your customers want and need after the pandemic may or may not change your product/service mix, but it can help you message or deliver in ways that encourage customers to come back quickly and build long-lasting relationships — definitely a competitive advantage.

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