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You already know it's your job to understand your customers and meet them where they are, in both good and trying times. Let's dig into what the latter looks like, because your customers' current interests are probably very different from what they were even a month ago.

For some useful intel, it's worth checking out Yelp's Local Economy Coronavirus Impact Report, released Friday. The report illustrates how consumer behavior across the U.S. has shifted since mid-February, based on internal Yelp metrics like pageviews and review posts. Its findings are stark, showing unsurprisingly sharp declines in interest for the kind of businesses where people gather--such as restaurants, nightlife establishments, yoga studios, martial arts gyms, and bowling alleys, among others. It also shows increases in some industries: food delivery, pharmacy, and exercise equipment, to name a few.

If you dig into the data for each industry, you'll see more nuance in those conclusions. For example, according to the report, not all restaurants are losing customers. French restaurants, cafés, and gelato shops are doing poorly--but interest is comparatively growing at outposts like pizzerias and fast food restaurants.

Translation: It's not necessarily that people aren't buying. Rather, they're buying lower-cost items and prioritizing fast transactions, presumably so they can spend less time interacting with other people. Non-essential or otherwise luxurious goods and services are out. Touchless experiences that leave consumers feeling confident about their health and safety are in.

This doesn't mean you can't still surprise and delight your customers, by the way. Last week, one of my local bars announced that it would start delivering premade drinks at discounted prices across my New York City neighborhood. I ordered a liter of old-fashioneds for $25--and when I opened the bag, I found that it also contained a free roll of toilet paper, some Flamin' Hot Cheetos, and a bumper sticker featuring the bar's logo and pithy tag line.

Find creative ways to get people through the door--metaphorically, anyway. And find ways to keep your customers smiling during tough times. Hopefully, you'll gin up enough business to keep the lights on, and the loyalty you build will pay off once spending habits return to normal.

I'll certainly drink to that.

Published on: Mar 23, 2020