“Technology and globalisation are impacting how consumers expect to be served by brands,” said tech expert Bryan O’Rourke last month, in an IHRSA Convention panel session sponsored by Wexer.
O’Rourke pointed to a recent report by Accenture – Life Reimagined – which surveyed more than 25,000 consumers across 22 countries and included follow-up focus groups in five countries.
The topline finding: a full 50% of consumers say the pandemic has caused them to totally rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life.
This extends to their expectations of the brands they choose to do business with, too. Quite simply, this large group of consumers – which Accenture dubs the ‘Reimagined’ – will abandon brands that don’t support their new values and pay more to those that do.
And while 17% of all consumers claim to be unchanged by the pandemic in terms of their behaviours and the way they think about brands, 33% acknowledge things have evolved and that they will be making changes – they simply haven’t yet settled on what those changes will be, or how they will impact their day-to-day routines.
That’s a full 83% of the population who either already have reconsidered their priorities post-pandemic, or who fully expect to.
“The pandemic compelled consumers – en masse – to shift their expectations more rapidly and completely than we’ve seen at any other time in history,” say the Accenture authors. “Now, many of them are applying their new mindsets to where, what and how they buy.”
And they’re expecting brands to keep up: almost three-quarters of Reimagined consumers now expect brands to understand and even anticipate their needs.
The new consumer needs
So, what are the new consumer needs? Accenture found the five new, post-pandemic purchasing motivations to be:
- Ease and convenience
- Personalised service
- Trust and reputation
- Product origin
- Health and safety
Indeed, for the Reimagined, these five motivations together are more important even than price and quality combined.
Note, too, that the ‘Reimagined Consumers’ group is surprisingly heterogenous, spanning all ages, genders, locations, employment status, income levels and other demographics.
All of which means every business is now compelled to adapt. No brand is immune to the new reality.
A willingness to switch
Ease, convenience, personalisation… it all chimes loudly with everything we’ve been talking about at Wexer for years now, because these are all boxes that can be firmly ticked by digital technology.
As the Accenture report puts it, the consumer mindset is now: “Are you meeting me where I am, in the digital world, the physical world, and through a blend of the two? And are you able to deliver what I need, when I need it, across all channels?”
Indeed, half of all Reimagined customers are prepared to actively change brands if a competitor allows them to engage digitally. There is far more fluidity than ever before in terms of people’s willingness to switch brands if it means a more convenient service.
Whatever industry you’re in, if you aren’t offering a digital service and your competitor is, you’re going to be left behind.
In the fitness sector specifically, if you aren’t embracing the hybrid model, you will struggle to survive.
Be there when I need you
Then there’s the desire for personalisation. “Do you remember me? Are you making my experience with your brand as personal as it can be? Are you there for me when I need you?”
There are lessons here for both the digital and the physical touchpoints of a gym member’s journey. Digitally, of course, the ability to deliver 24/7 – being there absolutely whenever and wherever your customers want you – is clear, as is the opportunity to recognise each individual and personalise the experience based on their data.
But the desire for genuine care is also very strong, with one customer in Spain quoted as saying: “It is important for customer service now to be better than ever. We’re more sensitive” and one Brazilian respondent commenting: “I expect greater consumer care after the pandemic. Brands realised how much they need their consumers.”
That can, of course, be delivered digitally, but it’s also about the personal touch of in-club human interaction.
Are you helping me, or helping yourself?
Trust and reputation – the third most important of the new purchasing motivations – are also key, and a way in which health club operators can stand apart from the proliferation of unknown faces in the increasingly fragmented world of digital fitness provision. “Can I trust you to do the right thing for me and not just for your business? Can I trust you to be who you say you are and stand for the things you say you stand for?”
Our sector has long proclaimed itself to be a people business – one that’s built on helping people lead better, healthier, happier lives. The onus is now on us to really demonstrate this purpose at every touchpoint, ensuring the product and the experiences we deliver are utterly customer-centric, highly personalised and flexible enough to offer a convenient go-to whatever the day has in store.
And that, inevitably, means adding digital touchpoints to your member journey. We’re here to help.
Download the Accenture report here.
Read more expert insight from the recent IHRSA panel session here.
Find out how Wexer can help your business adapt to meet consumers’ post-pandemic needs: firstname.lastname@example.org