Monitoring and analyzing consumer trends can give you a huge advantage over the competition…if you understand how those trends relate to your sector and your business. Understanding the way the next generation of customers shops, the services they value, and how they do business in general can help you tailor your marketing strategies to give you the edge you need to be at the top of your game in the 21st century.
But do consumer trends really affect the service industry? Does the way people shop today change their need for HVAC repair and maintenance? Does it matter when they call for electrical or plumbing services? Absolutely. While the need for these services has not changed, the way people find service providers most definitely has. Not only that, but consumers use entirely different methods for finding and hiring service providers than they did just a few years ago.
If you work in the service industry, simply knowing and understanding how your customers are changing and how their expectations have changed can give you a major lead on your competition. So, how are your customers evolving? What do they expect from you? How can you adjust your marketing and business strategies to accommodate consumer trends and set you up for success in the future?
Know the Difference Between Trends and Fads
First of all, every time you go online or turn on the TV, you’re going to see reports, articles, and blog posts about the “latest” and “greatest” trends in your market. Most of these “trends”, though, are actually just fads that will come and go faster than you can implement a new marketing strategy. However, you can learn a few things from these fads and use them to gauge actual consumer trends.
For example, if you follow any lifestyle or service industry news sites, you’ve probably seen numerous articles about the latest “it” dish that “every” restaurant is serving or the “newest” bathroom fixtures that “all” of Hollywood’s most popular celebrities are installing in their bathrooms. Instead of saying, “Well, I obviously need to add that exact product to my line,” take the opportunity to look a little bit deeper at the underlying trends that these fad products and/or services represent.
Across industries, today’s consumers want the most convenient services, but they also want to feel unique and catered-to. The next generation of consumers cares about building relationships with the brands they use. They’re more health-conscious and eco-friendly than previous generations, too. Knowing these things, you can tailor your business and marketing strategies to fit with your customers’ needs and wants to ensure your success in the years to come.
Now, before you visit any other consumer trends, you should know that today’s shoppers and consumers want it all, and they want it now. The days of, “We’ll send someone out sometime next week,” are gone. While you may not be able to accommodate every customer’s needs within minutes at any time of the day or night, you have to understand that we live in an age of instant gratification.
Today’s consumers do their shopping online on their phones. They pay Amazon $100 per year or more to get free two-day shipping and discounted next-day deliveries. They make appointments online while they’re on the go, and they expect prompt responses when they make queries.
To survive and thrive in this newer, faster economy, you need to stay connected with your customers and give them more options to connect with you. Giving them the ability to make service appointments online at any time of the day or night is a great way to improve your business in the 21st century, but it’s really only the beginning. Live chat and texting with support staff and/or technicians is the way of the future for the service industry.
Trust Is Essential
Next, let’s talk about trust. Just a few years ago, a lot of customers in need of plumbing repairs or maintenance would look in the phonebook and call the first plumber they saw. Others would ask a friend or family member for a reference, and a lot of customers would be influenced by brand recognition, too.
If they didn’t have any references from people they knew, they would be more likely to go with a company they recognized from TV commercials or billboard ads than they would a no-name company they’d never heard of before. As a result, a lot of service providers spent a lot of money on catchy ads and commercials, all to get their names out there. Today, though, more and more consumers are basing their choice of brands and service providers on online reviews and on the relationships they have with those brands and providers.
Instead of choosing an electrician because they recognize the company’s brand name or because they saw a cute commercial on TV, consumers are taking to the Internet to find out more. They want to know about what others have to say about you, and they often make their choices based on which service providers have the most positive reviews.
To get those great reviews, you need to start with a marketing strategy that includes a great deal of customer care before, during, and after the sale. Not only do you want to get new customers’ attention and convert that attention to sales, but you also want to focus on retaining more customers, as well. That means following up after you’ve provided a service, asking your customers for feedback, and giving them incentives to write reviews and recommend your services to friends, family, and coworkers.
Eco-Friendly Products and Services
Does your company provide eco-friendly solutions for your customers’ problems? Can you save them money on their utilities bills and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time? This is another ongoing consumer trend that businesses in the service industry absolutely must pay attention to. Today’s consumers care about the world they’ll leave behind for their kids. They bring their own bags to the grocery store. They invest in hybrid cars, and they pay attention to energy and water consumption.
Homeowners are interested in more efficient insulation, windows, and water heaters. They want air conditioners that will keep their homes cool without wasting a lot of energy, and “smart” thermostats are gaining more and more popularity by the day.
Your customers want to save money and save the environment at the same time – how can you help them do that? Do you carry and install energy-efficient HVAC systems? Do you offer plumbing solutions that save water? Show your customers that you can make their lives easier and diminish their carbon footprints, and you’ll see significant boosts in your sales numbers.
How to Identify Consumer Trends for Your Business
Of course, in addition to these large, market-wide consumer trends, there are also smaller trends that you should pay attention to, as well. Many of these are not as universal, and you’ll have to identify them yourself for your business.
For example, you may notice that more people call for service on Mondays than Thursdays or that you get more engagement on your business’ social media platforms during the week than you do over the weekend. These are very specific consumer trends. If you do a bit of reading about marketing in your industry, you’ll notice that some of them are true for all plumbers, electricians, or contractors. Others will be more specific to your business and/or your area.
Let’s say, for instance, that you get more calls for service over the weekends than you do Monday through Wednesday. This is more than likely an industry-wide trend, as most people work during the week and can’t be home to let your crew in while they’re stuck at the office.
On the other hand, consumers in different areas and different markets are going to respond with varying degrees of interest to different marketing strategies. If you’re marketing your pre-summer air conditioning system tune-up in the United States, for example, you should aim for January through April. If you’re marketing the same service to your customers in Australia, you’ll get much better results with a campaign from July through November. That’s a fairly extreme example, but it does a good job of illustrating the point. Depending on where you are, where your customers are, and the services you provide, you’re going to notice some specific consumer trends that don’t necessarily apply across your entire industry.
To identify these trends, you’ll need to use market research, the analytics tools available for your social media platforms, sales numbers from previous years, and consumer feedback. With these resources, you can analyze your business’ success with various marketing strategies and adjust them to accommodate your customers’ needs and consumer trends in your area, your industry, and across the whole market.
By paying attention to consumer trends, service industry businesses can evolve and profit from the changing ways that people shop today. Don’t get left behind – let your customers show you how to adjust your marketing and business models to make more profits in the years to come.