Helen Rose, head of insight & Analytics at the7stars identifies three mindsets that are defining UK levels of engagement in the experience economy as we emerge from lockdown
“Get ready, ‘cause here I come” by the Temptations was my personal soundtrack the weekend before shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality reopened.
With people hitting the high streets, pub gardens, and booking tickets for summer events and experiences, there was a positive vibe in the spring sunshine.
But is this true of everyone, or perhaps just me? All too often in the marketing bubble the danger of planning on a sample of one is myopic and dangerous territory.
On Monday 12 April, as lockdown restrictions relaxed, high streets witnessed an immediate week-on-week rise in footfall of 174%, shopping centres 217%, and retail parks 9.8%.
However, UK footfall was still significantly down to comparable levels in 2019. Of course, social distancing guidelines remained in place, and pubs and restaurants were only able to accommodate limited capacity.
Beyond this though, it’s important to consider the full spectrum of consumer mindsets. And with that, how brands can best engage them.
Despite promising early signs of a rebound for the travel and experience industries for example, many people remain to be convinced.
To understand the shift in consumer mindsets towards travel and experiences in 2021, we conducted research with 1,000+ UK adults.
From this proprietary research we have identified three distinct mindsets among Brits right now that are defining the levels of engagement in the experience economy as it begins to take early steps to recovery.
Experience Enthusiasts: those who feel they ‘need’ a holiday or experience now
Making up 28% of the British population, Experience Enthusiasts will be the most lucrative of the groups for brands in the near future.
Desperate to make up for what they perceive as time lost over the past year, they are the most likely to take a trip for leisure as soon as it is possible.
They are assured by the vaccines’ rollout and efficacy, worry less about the impact of Covid-19 on their personal health, and fully intend to experience as normal a summer as possible in 2021.
Experience Enthusiasts deeply miss socialising and are looking for any opportunity to meet up with friends and family this summer, with nearly 93% already saying they are comfortable with visiting beer gardens and 95% comfortable with indoor dining.
The challenge for the industry is not of convincing them of the safety of travelling and engaging in experience events – it lies in persuading them that their experience will offer a summer like no other.
Some 82% of Enthusiasts also say they are comfortable being in an airport once they reopen – making it a matter of when, not if, they will book their next holiday abroad.
Experience Enthusiasts’ desire to fill their diary with new experiences means that the time for brands to convert them is right now.
Communication that leans into multi-sensory cues including rich visuals, provocative sounds and even tastes and smells that speak to the intensity of the experience on offer will heighten the anticipation for this group.
They are ready to act so reducing complexity and removing any barriers in the journey to purchase is vital to make it a no-brainer for the Experience Enthusiasts and make it easy to convert their good will into sales.
Pragmatic Participators: those who are open to booking but remain to be swayed
Pragmatic Participators comprise the largest sub-section of the UK population, with about 49% of Brits falling into this category.
Cautiously optimistic of a return to normality this summer, they are willing to take the plunge and book if provided with adequate information.
They see booking ahead as giving them something to look forward to but are doubtful after a year in which holidays were cancelled, re-arranged and, in some cases, cancelled again.
Thus, assuring them that their bookings are risk-free – with flexible amendments and cancellations – and that their money is ultimately safe, will be essential to Pragmatic Participators.
While the Experience Enthusiasts look like the obvious easy win, there is potentially more long-term value in experience brands targeting the Pragmatic Participators if they play it right.
Communications would need to begin in earnest and continue with regular frequency into the next stage of restrictions easing, as this group are likely to require some reassurance.
Multiple proof points such as cancellation or re-booking guarantees using trusted, information-rich channels such as eCRM and publisher content would help give the Pragmatic Participators the level of confidence they require to book.
Social Sceptics: those who are still nervous and reluctant to book
Representing just under one-quarter of the UK adult population (24%), Social Sceptics are the smallest of the three groups but will be the most challenging target for brands over the next year and beyond.
Social Sceptics are those who, for a variety of reasons, remain unconvinced about the safety of travel and are nervous about making bookings.
For this group, domestic and local trips will continue to be the norm in 2021, with smaller groups travelling mostly by car and intimate, self-service accommodation their preference.
Many are thinking ahead to 2022 for their experiences, presenting an opportunity to incentivise longer-term bookings while promoting the safety of domestic travel this year.
Even as bars and restaurants re-open and festivals and gigs open their doors once more, this group remains concerned about the potential for such events to accelerate the spread of Covid-19, particularly given that some of the UK’s earliest coronavirus outbreaks were linked to festivals and sporting events.
Furthermore, while many in this group have sufficient savings to travel, having spent less in 2020, they are not yet ready to splash the cash: with some 52% of Britons anticipating a recession, following the pandemic, many are hanging tightly onto their cash in case financial hardship comes calling.
Convincing Social Sceptics of the safety of traveling domestically – particularly once they have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine – should be a priority for brands this summer, while incentivising risk-free, longer-term international bookings.
As with the Pragmatic Participators, there is a long-term opportunity for brands who can engage with the Social Sceptics and win their commitment.
This group are likely to spend a great deal of time researching their international travel options meticulously to make sure they get it right, so communications should prioritise high-dwell time environments in trusted sources such as newspaper supplements and direct mail.
Reassurance focused messaging should be balanced with more emotive and aspirational messages, reminding them of the personal value in travel.
As we look ahead to the rest of 2021 and into 2022, the brands that win will be those that acknowledge the disparity in mindsets across the country but also recognise the nuances in how consumers are approaching travel and experiences.
Delivering unforgettable experiences for the enthusiasts, while courting pragmatists and convincing sceptics, will be crucial to ensuring the industries rebound in 2021 and flourish into 2022.
The full report from the7stars is available here.