How do your customers or visitors perceive a new food or drink experience before it even happens? Knowing the answer to that could be the difference between increased sales, or increased competition. So how do you know?
No matter whether you serve customers at your business or visitors to your destination, people decide to buy or visit based on the perceived promise of the proposed food or drink experience. Before someone visits your business or destination, they have a “Pre-Trip/Purchase” perception. This is based on conversations they have with friend and family, what they see in the media and so on. It has probably even happened to you: You did some research on a business or destination and when you arrived or after you purchased it, the reality was very different from the perception, was it not?
The next phase is the “On-Site/Mid-Purchase” perception. This is how your customers or visitors are experiencing your product while they are there. Everything from the staff helping them to the signage and a lot more can affect their impression (good or bad) of the product or destination you promoted.
Finally, once we return home, we have a “Post-Trip/Purchase” perception. This typically occurs when photos are shown or stories are told with trusted friends, family members and colleagues. We take the feedback from those we trust, and their perceptions can then affect our overall, final perception and the stories we tell well into the future. For example, if you loved a city and then showed pictures of it to your friends when you got home and they were not terribly impressed, you might actually change your opinion about the city, even if you originally liked it.
Here’s another way to look at it. Has this ever happened to you? A friend of yours raves about a new restaurant that opened down the street. She was adamant that you have to try it because she had such a wonderful experience. Then you go and you just don’t have the same experience. It’s the same with wineries/breweries, food/drink factories, hotels, food tours, food events and so on. Remember, these are experiences to foodies – for us it’s not just about a meal, it’s about the memory. Everyone has a different idea about what to expect. Those expectations are confirmed, exceeded or shattered during the experience. And finally, when the visitor/customer returns home, their perception can change again. It’s OK if you’re confused – there are a lot of moving parts.
The reason for a mismatch of opinion like the one above is due to the phenomenon of PsychoCulinary Profiling, which was uncovered in research performed by the World Food Travel Association in 2010-2011. The Association discovered that there are 13 major kinds of behavioral profiles that a foodie could exhibit. So in the example above, perhaps your friend had a “gourmet” PsychoCulinary profile and yours was “authentic”. You both had very different perceptions of the experience, not just before it happened, but during and after it happened as well. Not all foodies are the same.
The benefit of knowing in advance how your visitors perceive your business destination is that you can more finely tune your messaging and positioning to exactly the right audience. Skilled marketers know that highly targeted messaging is the most effective. Why send “gourmet” messaging if your business or destination really isn’t “gourmet”? Nothing to be ashamed of, but you can’t promote something you’re really not. The wrong messaging can turn foodies against you with the negative word-of-mouth machine, something you definitely don’t want. Lead with your strengths, and the right foodies will find your business or destination if it is promoted accurately. Then you’ll have raving fans and hopefully, exponential growth and profit will ensue.
Learn about visitor perception at more on Tuesday, November 3 when World Food Travel Association Executive Director Erik Wolf will deliver a keynote speech about food and drink tourism.