This pandemic has forced a lot of changes on our lives and the lives of our customers. People are changing the way they shop, how they consume media, what they do in their spare time, where and how they spend their money. Experts say that it takes about 21 days to create a new habit. As we enter our ninth month under this pandemic, that makes for a lot of new habits.
What this suggests to us, is that many of these behavioural changes that we are seeing are not going to just disappear when this is over. Many of us will have developed long-term, and in some cases permanent, habits. That means we need to adapt to these new behaviours not just to survive the pandemic, but to serve our customers well into the future.
Let’s explore some of these behavioural changes and what they mean for the bowling industry.
There are two growing trends that our industry needs to pay attention to: health & safety and the move to a touchless experience/online consumerism. These trends can be seen forming throughout all the generational cohorts and should be your top focus as you plan for 2021.
Health & safety trends see people thinking about the cleanliness of a business, about the size, space and number of other people they’ll be exposed to. These are concerns that will be with us for a long time and that means businesses will have to rethink business models based on densely packed buildings.
The pandemic has also dramatically sped up the move to online shopping. Combine this with the health and safety concerns over “stranger danger” and you have a shift to consumers looking for touchless experiences.
Let’s have a look at how these trends may impact bowling customers.
- Mom’s & families are looking for experiences instead of tangible goods
- According to National Retail Federation, families are increasing their spending on experiences, especially within the millennial parent cohort. Of course, health and safety work together with this trend. They want to spend their time and money in safe places that they perceive minimize any risk.
- Boomers are adapting to online purchases.
- Boomers make up a large portion of our league bowlers, they are also grandparents who may be bringing grand kids bowling, and may be some of our more loyal and long-term customers. But they are getting used to online interactions being the norm and will look for that from all businesses.
“Pre-COVID, boomers typically made less than half of their purchases online, but two-thirds now say accelerated adoption of technology like buy online, pick up in-store and curbside pickup has improved their shopping experience”—Katie Jorden, Research Manager, NRF.
- Millennials and Gen Z are moving towards cashless experiences.
- Outside of credit and debit cards, Millennials are creating a rise in payment apps such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet. In fact, in 2020, about 23% of Millennials are using these payments methods, as opposed to 18% in 2015.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE BOWLING INDUSTRY?
With more consumers moving online, centres also needs to consider their online presence and services. Optimize your online presence to let customers know they are in good hands when visiting you and create a more touchless experience for them.
Pro Tips for Your Online Presence:
- Create a social media plan for 2021.
- Are you on social platforms? Facebook and Instagram should be your top focus. With 79% and 53%, respectively, of Canadians using these platforms daily, these are the best places to connect with your audience.
- Show how you’re adhering to provincial and federal guidelines.
- Use pictures and videos to show the steps you are taking, your directional signage, and all your staff “masked-up”.
- Promote safe kid birthday parties and family outings.
- Using social media, you can show just how safe it is for parents looking for alternatives to their kids’ birthdays in the coming year.
- Ask for Facebook & Google Reviews.
- Facebook reviews are an easy and free way to have social proof of the added level of care you deliver. It’s one thing for you to say you’re doing a great job, it’s entirely different when a customer says it. Provide table talkers and signage asking for a review on how well your Centre has done to keep everyone safe. You can even create QR codes that link directly to your review sites to make it easy.
- 72% of consumers say they trust local businesses more when they find positive reviews on Google. So, if you have not already claimed your business on Google, it is time to do that now. It is another free solution to increase your online presence and to gain more trust from guests.
Pro Tips for A Touchless Experience:
- Add an online reservation software to your budget.
- If you don’t already have an online reservation software, like Meriq, this should be your top priority moving into 2021. Not only are you helping to foster the touchless experience, but it also allows you to have more capacity control, depending on your provincial guidelines.
- If you already have this in place, try positioning online reservations as a “touchless option” in your marketing. Collect shoe sizes and have shoes and balls waiting for them on the lane so all a guest has to do is check-in and head straight to their lane with minimal contact.
- Do away with printed menus
- Instead of creating menus that have to be printed, try creating a digital version and providing a QR code guests can scan to view the menu online. This eliminates needless touching and cleaning of menus, reducing your costs, and signals to your guests that you take their safety seriously.
We’ve also seen some centres that have Brunswick Sync testing the latest upgrade that allows for touchless lane-side ordering right on the Sync tablet, minimizing contact.
Online Ordering is also offered through Sync for takeout orders, which have been a staple to keep some businesses during shutdowns.
A NEW BUSINESS MODEL
One of the biggest challenges we may have to face as an industry is the potential shift away from crowds. Until we have a vaccine that has been proven to be effective – not in tests, but in real life – many people are going to avoid crowds, and some will do so for years to come.
For many industries, ours included, this means figuring out a new business model that doesn’t rely on packing the house to generate a profit. How we do it is difficult, but it bears consideration. Some things we may need to look at include:
- Loyalty programs
- Membership sales
- Pricing structure
- New partnerships
- More ancillary offerings
Not an easy task to be sure, but a great opportunity if we can figure it out.
Although this year has been challenging for all of us, we have the opportunity to redefine our industry together. And, at Striker Bowling Solutions, we’re here to support you as you plan and adapt.
As you begin to plan for 2021, be sure to contact us. We are here to help you in any way we can.