If you’re wondering how consumers will respond after COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, you’re not alone. That question is very much on the minds of business owners, economists, and policy makers.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland recently surveyed consumers nationwide about whether they expect to return to pre-pandemic spending levels in three areas that were hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions: hospitality services, public transportation, and attending crowded events – all of which have a high degree of interpersonal contact.
What the data show
Consumer preferences vary as we look to emerge from the pandemic economy. Here are some key findings of the Federal Reserve survey:
- Most consumers expect to return to pre-pandemic activity levels in these three areas.
- A notable exception is older Americans, age 60 and over, who say they will continue to avoid these activities.
- Higher-income Americans are more likely to resume and even increase spending post-pandemic. Lower-income Americans are more cautious and concerned about their financial security. This is consistent with other research indicating that the pandemic increased an income-based divide in the United States.
What it means for veterinary practices
The study shows there's no one-size business approach that will work for all veterinary practices in the post-pandemic economy, nor for all clients. While the economic recovery continues to show general signs of strength, the rebound isn’t evenly distributed. Higher-income clients may continue to increase spending and embrace economic normalcy, while lower-income families are likely to be more financially conservative.
What can you do?
It’s important for veterinary practices to have proactive conversations with clients about the cost of veterinary care, and to offer a spectrum of care when possible, as well as payment plans and financing tools.
It also means that some clients might prefer to continue using curbside care, drop-off appointments, and telehealth well past the time when others eagerly resume in-person visits. Some clients may remain uneasy about close interpersonal contact, while others may simply appreciate the convenience. For both, these alternatives can continue to add value.
Speak with clients individually to understand where they may be in terms of desire to be around people, and their financial resources. Then think about the demographics of your client base, and consider doing a small, proactive survey to ask clients about preferences for curbside and other approaches to care, as well as their concerns about affordability.
These AVMA resources can help you understand client preferences and craft a business plan that’s customized to drive value for your individual practice: