After months of uncertainty, many Americans are cautiously optimistic about saying farewell to COVID-19. Mask mandates have either expired or are set to expire soon, and vaccines are available to anyone ages 12 and older who wants one. Slowly, the country is starting to awaken, and with it, sample companies are assessing where we go from here.
For 15 months, the online sample industry adapted its business strategy to the pandemic reality. Traditional in-person focus groups shifted online, and online surveys were the gold standard. While the country was shut down last year, the need for sample soared as marketers scrambled to stay connected to consumers dealing with unprecedented challenges. These challenges inevitably changed their behavior, preferences, and spending habits.
Now that the worse seems to be over, some of the hardest hit industries are preparing to ramp up. But they need accurate consumer insights to do it. Marketers not plugged in run the risk of missing the mark and damaging their brands, presenting sample providers with an opportunity to provide a critical service.
That is especially true for some of the hardest hit industries where getting it right could be the difference between a comeback and a catastrophe.
The bottom fell out of the travel and tourism industry last year. It is just now starting to see glimmers of hope. Cruises are preparing to set sail, and international travel to beloved destinations may resume this summer for Americans. Yet, the industry is roaring back without clear visibility into consumer demand. It is unclear how consumers will react and how they will spend.
Sample providers have an opportunity to provide insight into consumers’ willingness to travel, how and when that travel happens, and how much they will spend on the trip. This is particularly important for multicultural consumers hardest hit by the pandemic. Restoring their faith in travel safety is essential to bookings. Developing COVID-19 related screeners enables clients to understand consumers' current perception of travel to design solutions to overcome objections.
Retail, CPG, and consumer services are poised to reach pre-COVID capacity in the coming months as the U.S. re-opens and spending normalizes. However, the challenge for retail is similar to that of the travel industry, discovering new consumer behavioral patterns. Before the pandemic, Gen Z, for example, preferred to shop in-store. But shuttered brick-and-mortar stores pushed those sales online, prompting a significant uptick in e-commerce sales. Will we see sales shift back to in-person? Is this a good opportunity for direct-to-consumer brands to make a big push for sales? Understanding consumer consumption habits is vital to the industry and the systems needed to support it.
The consumers you knew in 2019 are vastly different from the consumers you see today. They have endured the stress of a once-in-a-lifetime event and adjusted their behaviors to cope. It is unrealistic to think they will emerge on the other side unscathed. Some will be out of the habit of spending, while others will splurge. Our job as sample providers is to assist our clients with understanding where their customer falls on the spectrum. And we can only do that by asking them how COVID-19 has impacted who they are today.