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Understanding Generational Consumer Behaviors And Preferences Can Help Businesses Reopen Successfully

June 2, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_593517713 Woman Hanging Open Sign by the Glass Window

After nearly three months of quarantines around the country, many businesses are reopened or planning to reopen. A recent survey, Impact of COVID-19 on National, Brick-and-Mortar Brands: A Study of Consumer Behavior, Preferences,and Expectations Amid COVID-19 by software company Momentfeed, surveyed 1,000 people to better understand how generations of consumers may react to business openings and what possible steps brick-and-mortar stores can take to effectively appeal to different consumer groups. 

The good news: 91% of those surveyed said they “will return to restaurants, shops, gyms, banks, theaters, spas and other offline businesses.” However, there will be preferences and lasting changes that all brands need to consider before and during the early stages of reopening.

All Generations Agree That Local Communities Should Be Supported

As it became clear that coronavirus would require many businesses to close temporarily, concerns quickly grew about the impact that closings would have on main street retail and restaurants. Results from the MomentFeed survey indicate that a uniting factor across generations is the need to extend support to local and community-based brick-and-mortar businesses, despite the fact that 34% of consumers have moved more of their shopping online. 

“There may be subtle differences in how multi-location brands market to the different generations they serve, but the premise of their campaigns should center around support for local communities,” said Nick Hedges, CEO of MomentFeed. “Proximity to nearby customers, and the convenience that brings, has always been the competitive advantage of brick-and-mortar businesses. Now is the time to put your proximity advantage to work for your brand, showcasing how local stores are connecting with the communities they serve.”

Although Cabin Fever Impacts All Generations, Gen Z Is The Most Restless 

Even back in March, people under quarantines had “cabin fever,” with Gen Z and Millennials feeling the most cooped up and ready to “get back to their routine.” However, restlessness did not outweigh consumer concerns about coronavirus. When opening, brick-and-mortar businesses should be mindful that consumers are still concerned about contracting COVID-19 and may need extra encouragement to enter stores. Initially, consumers may want a mix of online and in-person options for their shopping. Businesses that amplified their digital presences during the quarantine may have earned new customers during coronavirus that can be effectively targeted when brick-and-mortar locations open. 

It’s likely that preferences for multi-channel shopping solutions will remain in place for some time, if not always. Gen Z, in particular, has been known to favor online businesses with brick-and-mortar options, and those desires are likely to apply in the “new normal.” The MomentFeed survey recommends, “Brick-and-mortar businesses would be wise to slowly transition to the ‘new normal,’ keeping some online options in place. Don’t just expect to flip a switch back to the way things were prior to COVID-19.”

Gen Z And Baby Boomers Are The Most Likely To Do Business Across All Industries

When asked about what businesses they were most likely to return to most often after they feel the danger of coronavirus has subsided, the generations most ready and willing to visit the brick-and-mortar locations of all industries were Gen Z and Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers, in particular, dominated in multiple categories. Gen X and Millennials were more reluctant across every industry, with Millennials the most hesitant to return to brick-and-mortar stores.

Brands Can Entice Consumers Back With Promotions And Accurate Information

The results of the survey and the preferences of consumers offered some salient kick-off points for brick-and-mortar stores in the process of reopening. They include:

Develop Generational Marketing Strategies. While Gen X might prefer online shopping options, Gen Z is more likely to respond to positive, upbeat advertising. Personalized marketing strategies, tailored to the desires of audiences, can allow businesses to reach a mix of consumers with messages that resonate.

Use Online Outlets To Provide Up-To-Date And Accurate Information. Only 61% of those surveyed felt they could trust online information about store hours and operating procedures. “As we get back to a ‘new normal,’ any misinformation around store hours and operations could hurt your search optimization ranking, erode consumer trust and cost you significant business,” according to the MomentFeed report. An effectively optimized website should be a priority as brands look across their assets when planning to reopen.

Get Creative With Promotions. Although all generations plan to resume shopping at brick-and-mortar locations eventually, tightened purse strings may mean shoppers are looking for deals and discounts. According to the survey, “62% of Millennials and 61% of Gen X say brands that offer ways to save will earn more of their business.” Brands that are able to use promotions and coupons to effectively engage with consumers will be more likely to acquire new customers and retain existing customers as brick-and-mortar stores start letting people back in.

As businesses reopen, understanding the mindsets of shoppers and their changing consumer behaviors will offer opportunities for more brick-and-mortar companies to have their messages resonate, their services support consumer desires and their businesses thrive in the “new normal.” 

Are You Looking For New Ways To Reach Audiences With Evolving Consumer Behaviors?

Digital Media Solutions® (DMS) helps brands flourish by capitalizing on consumer intent and engagement, deploying sophisticated martech with big data intelligence to connect brands with consumers at the moments they’re most ready to take action, using messages proven to resonate.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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