How To Adapt To Shifting Consumer Behavior

PR manager at Exquisite flight charter. He leads media relations and content creation for the LA-based private jet company.

Many forces can influence consumer behavior, but lately I can’t think of a bigger one than the pandemic. This reality, coupled with timing and opportunity, allowed many industries to thrive, particularly in the early stages of Covid-19. External factors influence consumer behavior, especially those related to economic changes. But long gone are the days when just knowing who your target audience was proved to be enough – the key is to understand their motivations in certain situations, or in other words, their consumer behavior.

To illustrate, one of the industries affected by a sudden shift in consumer behavior was my own private aviation. The change was fueled by the pandemic due to health concerns flying commercial airlines and as a result of the closed international borders. Therefore, you had to travel, but only one segment in the entire industry could provide a solution. For many months in early 2020, private airlines made it possible for entire families stranded abroad to return home while also carrying cargo for humanitarian missions and aeromedical flights. Private aviation has not been discontinued.

Fast forward to 2021 and early 2022, and the industry saw record-breaking demand in all major markets. Such was the demand for private flights that availability became an issue for many charter operators, a problem that has been accompanied by a delay in bringing new jets to market due to reduced deliveries by manufacturers. What happened? Did private aviation become popular thanks to reduced prices? Not even close – in fact, prices went up significantly.

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Consumer behavior had changed. No longer seen as just a luxury, private aviation had shown itself to be a reliable and safe tool that allowed passengers to take control of their travel experience.

With this shift came a new set of expectations behind an increasing number of first-time flyers. While this initially seems like a great opportunity for private jet providers, it also came with a great responsibility to meet those expectations and continue to provide the same type of service that frequent flyers have come to expect.

The preceding paragraphs follow my opening remarks on how external developments can influence consumer behaviour. Now I have to add that it is the company’s responsibility to understand the change and have a strategy to seize this opportunity. In my company, we decided to increase communication with our customers while educating our new customers about the characteristics and facts of our industry. Managing expectations is paramount in any industry.

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The value of listening

Increasing communication is a rather forgotten attribute in the modern business world. Listening and collecting your thoughts before engaging are critical skills in today’s dynamic, social media-based economy. In fact, social media makes for a great one-stop-shop listening tool — you can keep up to date on specific topics and trends, while also tracking what some competitors are doing. It shouldn’t be the only source of monitoring, however, as it’s only a small piece of the consumer behavior puzzle.

Every company is the main reservoir of insights. From a private aviation perspective, changes in booking trends, seasonal shifts in new destinations, or willingness to charter larger aircraft to fit a large group on a flight are enough data points to draw fact-based conclusions. This is the main piece of the puzzle – the information that is available to you under the hood.

Put this together with things like social media, trade publications, changes in policy making that may affect your consumer and inflation, and you have all the ingredients to anticipate a possible change in consumer behavior, or at least be an early adopter about how You can better meet the expectations of your target group.

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Just like an evolving map of stakeholders, consumer expectations are constantly changing. Being able to identify a potential gap and close it quickly is key to adopting a proactive attitude, accepting that no business ecosystem is stagnant and that customers will not simply return out of habit.

In this sense, the ecosystem in which a company or organization operates determines what resources can be used to understand consumer or stakeholder behavior. Perhaps social media isn’t moving the needle for a commodity-based institution, and so focusing on the opinion of key players, policymakers, and shareholders influencing this industry will suffice to assess future moves on this matter. The same is true when comparing a business-to-business (B2B) versus a business-to-consumer (B2C) oriented company – using a tailored approach to understand consumer perceptions and expectations is paramount.

Today, in the private aviation industry in particular, there are a multitude of new service providers, yet experienced players who understand what type of aircraft their customers want and which is the main executive terminal near New York that their passengers regularly request (Teterboro Airport , btw) will have a front line for continued success if they connect the dots correctly.

But beware, reader: the day you feel comfortable and seem like you understand the externalities surrounding your business is exactly the day you will begin to move away from your customers’ expectations and at the same time increase the expectation gap. As business trainer Kate Zabriskie said, “The customer’s perception is your reality.”

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