How to Use Research to Help You Determine What is the Next Normal

What trends are being identified, and how to apply this to your business

Now that casinos are reopening in a different business environment due to COVID-19 concerns, one of the biggest challenges is that all the data we collected up to now may not be relevant. So how do we proceed from here? There is no historical data to fall back on; no business patterns that we can use as reference points.

The research that casinos have been doing – satisfaction surveys, brand surveys and even team member engagement surveys – aren’t designed to measure the changes that we’re seeing now and will continue to see. The only way that casinos can make informed decisions in this new landscape is by conducting different types of research to help us understand how to chart the best new path forward.

What changes in consumer behavior is research currently showing?

McKinsey & Company, a leading global research company, has released new data that is tracking consumer sentiments in 42 countries.

Six trends have emerged:

1. Consumers in most countries expect negative impacts for at least four more months.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: The next few months will be a critical time in measuring consumer perceptions, beliefs and behaviors. This is the time frame that could see significant changes.

2. Consumers are spending more on necessities and less on discretionary purchases.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: This trend is important to measure because it dictates what percent of wallet consumers will allocate to casino visits. This could also be changing significantly over the next few months.

3. Consumers are shifting to digital, as well as reduced contact channels to get goods and services.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: How are your guests rating your reduced contact efforts? Social distancing policies? How important is this to them? Is it affecting their visitation? These are the questions that Tribal casinos need to be asking their guests so that they can adjust their efforts, if needed.

4. Consumers are still feeling a pull toward the homebody choice—less travel, avoidance of crowded places like malls.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: This trend might be one that is more important to older players than to younger ones. Baby Boomers, the dominant spending and visitation segment in casinos prior to the pandemic, are now the most at-risk segment. Maintaining communication with different segments is more important than ever since the risk factors are higher with older people.

5. Consumers want extra assurances to resume day-to-day activities.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: This is where communications need to reassure guests that you are committed to their health, safety and wellbeing when they visit your property. Explain how you are doing this. And, of course, you need to measure how well you’re doing. You may think that you’re doing a fantastic job in communicating this messaging. Your guests may not think you’re doing enough—they have to have trust that their well being is paramount at your property.

6. Consumers want ongoing emphasis on cleaning and safety.

POTENTIAL IMPACT FOR CASINOS: Your property has new sanitation procedures post-COVID. How do your guests rate your efforts? Do you need to be more visible? Do more?

What type of research should you be doing?

Put your past research templates for satisfaction surveys, branding surveys, and employee engagement surveys on hold for now. Since events, perceptions, behavior and fears are changing so rapidly, it’s important that your surveys follow these guidelines:

  • Include employee as well as guest pulse surveys.
  • Be able to track comfort and satisfaction levels as you continue to introduce and modify new processes.

Make sure your surveys:

  • Are easy to adapt and post new questions.
  • Are easy for respondents to understand and complete.
  • Are quick to roll out as things change.
  • Give management the data they need to understand and make needed adjustments.

Using Business Intelligence Moving Forward

As casinos and businesses worldwide try to find the best way to achieve success in the coming months of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that we get the best data possible. We have to be asking our guests what they think. We have to be looking at our data to see what is happening with our customer base—spending, visitation, geographic, and demographic changes in our business. Many businesses will not survive the changes that the pandemic is causing. Many businesses will suffer financially. The businesses that will fare the best are those that have the best business intelligence moving forward; the only way to get that is by adapting new research tools to measure the changing business environment.

Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D.

Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D.