Last time, we reported on a December webinar that laid out what investors are thinking for 2021. This week: what’s top of mind for consumers.
Senior Food and Drink Contributor for Forbes.com Alicia Kelso hosted the panel discussion, which invited Nicole Miller Regan, managing director and head of the consumer equity research practice at Piper Sandler; Joel Davis, Chief Strategy Officer of Revenue Management Solutions; and Andrew Reid, founder and CEO of consumer research firm Rival Technologies, to give their top tips for managing consumer expectations and keeping on top of trends and attitudes.
1. Stay nimble. Stay quick.
The ability to operate nimbly is critical for survival, just as it was pre-COVID. Davis urges restaurants to create new ways to be efficient, advising brands to really examine their decision-making process and the data used within it.
“Brands need to use the data coming out of their registers and stores, along with what they’re hearing from customers,” he says. Those with a culture of making fast decisions based on the data in front of them will come out very strong. Those that fail to see shifts in the marketplace, and fail to capitalize on those shifts, will lose.
2. Rethink the guest experience
Reid believes restaurants have to rethink their experience, starting with their offer and creative positioning down to restaurant cleanliness. He recommends starting with the messaging hierarchy—that is, “What are you communicating to your customers?”
“What’s at the top of that hierarchy isn’t what it used to be,” he said. Reid believes this will require some heavy lifting. “This is not for the weak,” he said. “It is definitely for those that are strong and willing to be creative.”
Understanding what’s foremost in consumers’ minds is the best place to start. “Now, it’s cleanliness. Suddenly, you have a new set of standards to live up to,” said Reid. He added that the idea of community outreach and empathy is also important — brands that embrace a sense that ‘we’re all in this together’ will make a significant impact.
3. Gather feedback in the moment
In today’s world, sending a survey to a customer two days after their visit won’t cut it, says Reid. Brands need to care not only about collecting data but also the quality of the data they’re collecting. Is there an opportunity to get feedback in the moment? That’s when you want to talk to people, he says. Find ways right then and there to get that feedback, and when you do get it, take it seriously.
4. Make it personal, and let your customer feel heard
Collectively, we are all going through intensely personal times. If your brand can amplify the consumer’s sense of personalization, says Reid, they will feel that the brand they care about cares about them. Maintaining a connection in the community and nurturing the sense that we’re all in this together will be a leading indicator of the brands that are going to win, he says.