Buyer Behavior in a New World Order: The Seven Cues of Buyer Confidence

Photo by Pylz Works on Unsplash

Though the cinema industry, like many others, is well into its recovery era, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are still very real. Perhaps more than ever before, audiences have an increased awareness of germs and viruses—an awareness that, though people may be more comfortable touching surfaces and going maskless than they were a year ago, is still very much heightened compared with pre-2020.

The landscape is different now. For those who work in concessions—whether at a cinema, sports arena, or restaurant—it’s essential to remember that in the minds of many patrons, the risk they are taking in coming to your facility is stillgreater than it used to be. Their confidence must be re-earned every time they order a popcorn, get a soda refill, or even check out food and beverage options online before a movie. That confidence is based on their perception of your cinema—which is often formed not through conscious thought, but through an instinctual impression of what you provide and how you provide it. As you think about the ways your cinema can earn your customers’ trust, here are seven key questions to keep in mind about the products, services, and experiences you offer.

Is It Clean?

As soon as the pandemic shut down the global exhibition industry, cinemas went on the hunt for products and techniques to ensure safety and sanitation—and vendors, even ones whose typical work put them in a completely different part of the industry, rushed to help. Among the latter group is popcorn machine manufacturers C. Cretors & Company, which came out with a U.V. sanitizing chamber in early 2021.

Is It Safe?

In 2022, customers equate safety with the question “Do I have to touch it?” With cinemas and other industries upping their investment in mobile ordering technologies, the answer is increasingly “no.” Santikos Entertainment cut down on in-person contact in their concessions areas by being an early cinema adopter of Apex Order Pickup Solutions, which lets customers pick up their food from a smart locker opened by a code sent to their phone.

Is It Fresh?

“Fresh” means fresh ingredients, of course—no one wants stale popcorn. But “fresh” can also mean a fresh approach, whether it’s introducing new menu items or integrating an innovative architectural concept into your concession stand. Freshness takes the commercial and makes it personal, communicating to customers that thought, caring, and preparation went into whatever product is being sold.

Is It Affordable?

Affordability is a moving target that changes based on each person’s individual circumstances—it’s not just a matter of whacking a few dollars off the price and hoping enough people bite to offset the discount. Avoid the impulse to put things on sale just for the sake of it, says Kim Cook-Sorano, director of food and beverage at Galaxy Theatres: “We’ve been trained by businesses that if it’s not on sale, it’s not a good deal. … For us, in our business, affordability means that we’re taking care of our guests.” Look beyond the price point to auxiliary benefits like free refills or the ability to earn loyalty card points as a way to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.

Does It Have Value?

Assessing value is all about balancing an item’s cost with its quality. Various factors come into play here, from supply chain issues (no doubt familiar to our readers) to rising costs to changes in customer taste. Take this time to reassess the value that each product brings you. Do you need to sell three sizes of soda, or can you downsize to two? Are there automation solutions that will streamline your business and save money? What menu items can you potentially cut?

Is There Variety?

… But be wary of cutting too many items. What demographics do you serve, and what do you have on the menu to pique their interest? Know your audience. Popcorn and soda are a given—experiment with nontraditional food items to see if you hit upon something that attracts those guests who normally bypass the concession stand.

Is It Fun?

Because, after all, fun is what going to the movies is all about! Give people the opportunity to treat themselves and make their moviegoing experience an even more special memory. Don’t ignore non-food items, like the movie-themed cup toppers, popcorn tubs, and collectible cups sold by Golden Link.

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