They say it takes 6 weeks to form a new habit. The unprecedented measures to contain this virus, the uncertainty, the potential financial instability for so many, and the months now spent in our homes, have undoubtedly altered many people’s habits and behaviours – some of which will stick for good. Snacking, for example, has increased. Sales of pyjamas and ‘lounge wear’ are through the roof!
“When all this is over”, an overused phrase if ever there was one, what can we expect from the post-pandemic consumer?
Introducing the hyper connected consumer
A wider reach of people are doing a broader remit of activities for longer periods of time online – learning, shopping, consuming, communicating, socialising... What does this mean for future behaviour? People have downloaded new apps and seen new ways to experience and utilise the online world. If you thought embracing new technologies and having a digital presence was important before, that importance has now exploded.
What does this mean for hospitality?
Hospitality is currently re-inventing itself to do something which goes against its very nature. Where the best operators always tried to maximise every touch point with their guests, many have had to do exactly the opposite (when they have been allowed to open) and limit contact as much as possible. Over the last 12 months, there is no doubt that technology has begun to form an important and increasingly significant part of this new post-pandemic customer journey.
Re-assured by the tech
Tech driven Covid-prevention measures feature high on customers' wish lists. Currently 1-in-3 UK adults say they will not be visiting pubs or restaurants in the foreseeable future due to Covid-19 related safety risks. There’s a huge proportion of customers who are chomping at the bit to get back into venues but there are also many who are nervous, and technology will play a critical part in making customers feel safe enough to return.
Consumers are more ‘information hungry’ than ever as they remain alert to the potential risks from Covid-19 and technology and digital channels can play a role in improving communication and reassuring customers. Research carried out by KAM Media in the first lockdown found that 92% of hospitality customers would like to see clear communication of safety measures via operators’ websites and apps.
Increasing desire for technology in hospitality
Customers’ desire for technology-enhanced hospitality experiences isn’t new. Many customers, especially Generation Z, have been asking for this for a while. In fact, further research by KAM Media found that a phenomenal 1-in-2 consumers think that pubs and bars in particular are behind other leisure outlets and retail when it comes to their use of technology. Even before Covid-19 hit, 43% of 18-34 year olds had used an app to pay a bill in a pub or restaurant and 53% of all customers said they’d be happy to use their mobile phone to order food or drinks in a hospitality venue if it were available. Generally, before the pandemic, the option wasn’t widely available.
Reducing customer ‘stress points’ with technology
Research by KAM Media has identified key ‘stress points’ within a customer journey and many of these can be eased with the help of technology. Covid or not, these are issues in the customer journey which have been around for years. Technology can’t take away all our customers’ troubles, but it can certainly help minimise them.
The research revealed that the most frustrating touch point in a customer journey is having to wait for someone to take their order. The second most frustrating is having to wait for a table. And the third most stressful things about a hospitality visit is paying the bill. Nobody likes parting with their hard-earned money, even if it’s for an item they want or in return for an exceptional experience. Yet when eating out it’s the very last thing a customer will do and therefore often the last thing they remember. KAM research shows that even before Covid, 28% would like the ability to order and pay even before arriving at the venue. This rises to 44% of 18-34 year olds. That figure will be far higher now.
The research identified other consumer ‘stress points’; 21% of customers admitted to not ordering an item on a menu because they couldn’t pronounce it, 2-in-3 won’t ask the waiting staff even if they have a question mainly due to apathy or embarrassment, the list goes on. The research found that a high proportion of customers want to look at the menu before they arrive in a venue, they want to choose what they will have, many will also change their mind when they get there, they don’t want to ask staff any questions, they get frustrated when they can’t get staff to take their order, they dislike the process of paying their bill and many do like to use technology…..all signs that point to apps as being a clear solution when it comes to enhancing the customer experience.
The value of the data generated
Obviously, technology is not just about directly improving customer experience either. It provides an important new way of getting to know customers so much better (and not just the regulars.) By capturing and analysing invaluable data on who is visiting, what they’re buying, when they’re visiting, what they’re spending and so on, operators have unearthed new opportunities worth millions to their businesses.
If there is anything positive to come out of the last 12 months for hospitality, it is this acceleration of the use of technology to optimise the customer experience. The one-tap, one-swipe generation is the future. The less friction that operators can provide between a customer and a fantastic, stress-free experience, the greater the opportunity for a happy, loyal, regular customer.
MD, KAM Media