This year has certainly brought its ups and downs in the franchise world, as many franchise owners took 2021 as a time to recover and build up from the major financial dip the economy experienced in 2020. With 2022 around the corner, and favorable franchise projections on the horizon, now is a great time for franchisees to conduct a thorough assessment of their business plan to identify areas of opportunity.
To ensure 2022 is filled with success and growth, here are the best practices franchisees can implement to accommodate changing customer behaviors.
Maintain seamless brand presence across platforms
With an expected 3% rise in consumer spending in 2022, after an 8.1% rise in 2021, it is safe to say that the majority of the public is ready to gain a sense of “normalcy” back, especially when it comes to shopping and engaging with various services. This is especially great news for franchise locations that may have had to close during the beginning of the pandemic or who have modified certain offerings.
Regarding shopping behaviors, expect to see an increased reliance on technology. Depending on your franchise, customers may be able to purchase items or book services online, in addition to in-store. If this is the case, an omnichannel approach is something that should be implemented in 2022. Omnichannel essentially means providing customers with a seamless experience no matter where or how they engage with your brand.
One of the many upsides of being a franchise owner is the established online brand presence. Franchisees do not necessarily have to be concerned with all the digital aspects of the business, such as hosting a website, as that is typically covered by the franchisor. However, it is still incredibly important for franchisees to understand what those digital aspects are, as it directly connects to the element that franchisees do have some control over – the physical location.
For customers to have a seamless experience across platforms, there should be a digital and physical connection. Since 73% of customers use multiple channels throughout their purchase journey, while almost half of prospective customers research online before going to a physical store, franchisees may want to ensure that the experience a customer has on the brand’s website, app, and social media matches the expectations they will have within a franchise location. Maintaining this consistency is key, and customers will expect it when they venture offline and spend more time at physical locations.
Adapt to where your customers are now
As a business owner, it is always a best practice to reflect on the previous year as you approach the next. However, this year it is even more important to look back at what worked and what didn’t, largely because of how many changes had to be implemented. For many franchisees, these changes and modifications have never been done before the pandemic, which likely had an impact on customer shopping behaviors and expectations.
Going into 2022, where possibly some of these changes do not need to be implemented anymore as pandemic restrictions have eased, it is a good idea to adapt to what your customers’ needs are now. For instance, one of the larger elements noticeable in consumer behavior is their increased value on convenience. 83% of consumers indicate that convenience is more important to them now than it was five years ago, which helps illustrate just how important it is to tune in to what your customers require when engaging with your services.
One of the best ways to do so is by looking at what you learned about your customers throughout the pandemic. Was there something that worked well among your client base, such as curbside pickup or contactless payment, that they now expect going forward? How do their changing lifestyles impact the services you offer and vice versa? These kinds of insights are essential going into 2022, especially to maintain customer loyalty and relationships you have developed.
It is worth noting that when increased amounts of prospective customers enter your location, many may put safety at the forefront of their expectations. Around the US, you will find various degrees of restrictions, so it is important to tune in to how your customers respond to your pandemic efforts. Even if this is largely the role of the franchisor, franchise owners still need to be able to bring customers within their store, and maintaining comfort is a large part of that.
In a recent study, 80% of customers are ready to enter physical locations if safety precautions are in place. Meanwhile, 28% say that a lack of protective measures (social distancing, cleanliness, etc.) would lead to a poor overall experience. Visibly showing and telling (as well as reminding) customers what steps have been implemented for their health and safety, such as cleaning protocols or mask policies, remains an important best practice entering 2022, especially when that reassurance can be beneficial for many.
Customer personalization and a positive experience
Providing customers with a positive experience is always a best practice. However, going into 2022, as consumer expectations change, finding ways to ensure there is an optimized experience is important. Customers want to feel valued so much so that 79% will consider purchasing from a brand that shows they care about them. One way to implement this is through personalization.
Throughout the pandemic, e-commerce soared, and one of the biggest elements of shopping for products or services online is the personalized aspect. Consumers can make an account, get personalized offers, receive targeted advertisements, reorder past purchases, and so on. Translating that into a franchise location can sometimes be a bit difficult. However, as more consumers want to get back out there to physical locations, this provides franchisees with the perfect opportunity to build relationships once again with customers at a higher degree than may have been possible throughout the pandemic.
When franchisees engage with customers, it is important to make the entire experience as personalized as possible, especially since 40% of customers will boost their spending amount when done so. This will vary depending on your franchise business, but this can include building a rapport with customers, showcasing optimal customer service, remaining available to answer questions, recommending certain services to customers depending on their past visits, etc. Creating that optimized, individual experience is key.
As we approach 2022, franchisees need to prepare for the new changes ahead as an influx of customers are likely to engage more in-person at physical franchise locations than they did for the last two years, and implementing a plan based on 2021’s successes is a great place to start.