3 consumer trends to track this summer: How vaccinations + relaxed mask mandates will impact your business

Paul Tiedt | Jun 16, 2021 Paul Tiedt 06/16/21

Consumers are gearing up for a more “normal”-looking summer—one that involves traveling, getting food from restaurants, and shopping in-store. However, while people are feeling more comfortable resuming pre-COVID activities, elevated health + safety expectations are here to stay.

To help you understand what consumers are expecting from a safe customer experience, we turned to SurveyMini®—SMG’s location-based mobile research app—and identified these 3 trends.


1. Plans for
summer travel are on—and c-stores should prepare for an uptick in traffic

Our research shows consumers are 2.4x more likely to be planning travel this summer compared to 2020, and c-stores should expect to see an increase in road trip activity over the next few months.

Convenience is once again the number one factor driving c-store visits this year. And though cleanliness has declined as a motivator compared to 2020, 60% of consumers still expect hand sanitizer to be available and for frequently touched surfaces (specifically door handles, restrooms, and the front counter) to be cleaned.

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2. Despite the plan to travel more, consumers still prefer to-go food over dining in restaurants

Many travelers will opt to not eat inside a restaurant this summer, with only 40% of respondents saying they were comfortable dining in compared to visiting a drive-thru (80%), carrying out (53%), and picking up curbside (50%).

With most consumers still preferring to dine off-premise, restaurants must continue to prioritize their digital touchpoints and ensure a seamless experience. Ninety-one percent of consumers report ordering through a fast-food app is the same as, or better than, ordering in-person. And almost half of respondents said they were highly likely to order food through an app within the year.

Though app preference and intent to use remains high, order accuracy continues to be a problem—with inaccurate orders being the top issue reported by those who ordered through an app.

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It’s also important to note that regardless of dine-type, consumers’ health + safety expectations remain the same—citing these measures in order of importance:

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3. Self-checkout usage
continues to accelerate with grocery + retail consumers

Customers have come to expect contactless options with their in-store visits, causing a rise in popularity for the self-service checkout. Our latest research shows this trend has no signs of slowing down with 88% of consumers saying they’ve used self-checkout in the past 3 months and only 8% saying they are less likely to use self-checkout now vs. pre-pandemic.

But the self-checkout process has room for improvement. Four in 5 consumers say they’ve experienced an issue when using self-checkout, citing slow shoppers and lack of assistance as the most common issues. To alleviate problem occurrence, brands should train staff to recognize problems and assist with scanning + bagging whenever possible.

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Future-proof your experience management (XM) program + emerge a stronger brand

As you continue to navigate the changing competitive landscape brought on by the pandemic, your brand must also prepare for the long-term psychological impact that will shape consumer + employee behaviors and expectations this summer and beyond.

A future-focused customer experience + employee experience strategy will make it easier to collect feedback, surface insights, and identify the right actions needed to earn loyalty and drive bottom-line results. To guide these efforts and keep your progress on track, download your copy:

Paul Tiedt | SVP, Research

Customer Experience Update