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Evolution of the Buyer

By Joe Galvin,
Vistage Chief Research Officer

People are not just working differently now. They’re buying differently. In the last two years, consumers’ preferences, priorities and processes for spending have all changed as a result of the pandemic.

These changes to buyer behavior are impacting businesses across nearly all industries. A recent Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey found that 78% of CEOs reported that buyer behavior had changed. The survey, which captured responses from 1,620 CEOs, found that buyers have become more independent and digitally driven while becoming less able and willing to meet with sellers face-to-face. Consequently, their expectations and requirements for digital buying experiences have increased.

Companies are under pressure to adapt, especially in terms of how they serve and market to their customers. Two Vistage members, Mike Atkinson and E. Scot Davis, explain how they’ve pivoted to keep pace.

Using Education To Make Specialty Coffee Accessible
Mike Atkinson | CEO, Seattle Coffee Gear
Mike Atkinson, photo courtesy of Seattle Coffee Gear.

Before the pandemic, many people only bought specialty coffee — say, a shot of espresso or an oat-milk latte — from their local barista. But when coffee shops became less accessible in lockdown, it pushed consumers into a kind of “awakening,” says Mike Atkinson, CEO of Seattle Coffee Gear. “People realized they could make really great coffee at home.”

Since then, Seattle Coffee Gear has experienced a spike in demand for its products, which include espresso machines, high-end coffee makers and coffee accessories. But it has also seen an increased need for education, as many of its first-time customers don’t know what equipment to buy or how to use it. After all, many of the coffee machines have a high price tag (ranging from about $400-$4,000), along with complex and unfamiliar features.

“When you just look at an espresso machine online, it can be intimidating,” says Atkinson. “They have all kinds of levers and buttons. People think: ‘How long do I pull the shot for? Pressure profiling — what’s that?'”

Now, the exposure you can get on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to put your brand and product in front of people and get them to come to your site is just incredible. Our ROI is through the roof.

To make this process feel approachable, Seattle Coffee Gear has invested in creating content that educates consumers about the ins and outs of making specialty coffee. On its YouTube channel, for instance, it posts daily videos from its in-house coffee experts (no actors are ever used) with product reviews, recommendations and coffee-making techniques, such as how to make latte art. It also creates and shares informational content on its website, blog, podcast and other social media channels. This investment has paid off significantly, Atkinson says.

“In the past, our customer acquisition was largely driven by SEO and paid search,” he says. “Now, the exposure you can get on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to put your brand and product in front of people and get them to come to your site is just incredible. Our ROI is through the roof.”

Seattle Coffee Gear is also educating consumers in person. Although the company is primarily an online retailer, it has brick-and-mortar shops in Kirkland and Lynwood, Washington, and Palo Alto, California. The company plans to open five more locations in the next three years. These shops follow the Apple store model, offering a minimalist design, curated product line and the opportunity to test-drive equipment. “Instead of having iPhones and MacBooks on countertops, we have espresso machines powered up with water and beans so you can grind beans and pull shots,” Atkinson says.

Whether shopping in person or online, he hopes customers walk away with the same takeaway: “Wow, I don’t have to drive through Starbucks. I can make great espresso at home. And it’s fun.”

Providing Calm to Increase Patient Care
E. Scot Davis | CEO, Arkansas Urology

In 2020, E. Scot Davis wasn’t just worried about the rise in COVID-19 cases. He was worried about the decline in preventative care visits at Arkansas Urology, the medical practice he has led since 2013 as CEO.

Approximately 40% of Arkansas Urology’s 120,000 patients had stopped attending routine care visits because they were afraid of contracting the virus. This carried potentially serious consequences: It meant that doctors couldn’t screen their patients for medical problems that required prompt treatment, such as prostate cancer.

“If you catch prostate cancer early, it’s one of the most treatable forms of cancer,” explains Davis, a Vistage member since 2018. “But if you find it late, it’s often very difficult to treat.”

Adding fuel to the fire, hospitals across Arkansas were canceling surgical procedures for their urology patients to deal with a rapid influx of COVID-19 patients. That meant thousands of urology patients weren’t getting the treatments they urgently needed.

Davis knew he needed to act, and quickly. So he rallied his team of 350 staff members and 39 providers around a three-pronged solution.

Rallying around our staff and physicians, we created a three-pronged solution that focused on patient safety and health.

E. Scot Davis, photo courtesy of Arkansas Urology

First, Arkansas Urology introduced a hybrid model of care. It ramped up its telehealth services, increasing the frequency of virtual visits from 20 per month to 800 per month. It introduced drive-thru therapies, such as injections, to make it convenient and comfortable for patients to receive treatment. It also referred patients to local clinics for routine tests, such as bloodwork or radiological screenings.

Second, the practice reached out to directors at hospitals across the state, offering to take over patients on their caseload that they couldn’t manage. Since Arkansas Urology had its own outpatient surgery facility, it had the capacity to conduct surgical procedures that other places did not.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the practice launched a robust marketing campaign on its website and social media pages focusing on patient safety and health. Designed to ease patients’ worries, the campaign delivered practical information to help people understand new safety procedures and options available through the hybrid model of care.

“The key component in all of this was to bring a sense of calm and avoid creating panic,” says Davis. “We wanted patients who had chronic conditions to continue to come and see us. Certainly, for patients that were undergoing treatment for prostate cancer or kidney cancer, we wanted them to continue to feel safe.”

This year, Arkansas Urology has again shifted its model of care to accommodate what patients want: more in-person time with their doctors. While demand for telehealth visits has decreased, patient volume has grown 15% within two years.

When asked about the future of telehealth, Davis says, “There’s always going to be a place for it. But health care really comes from the relationship between a physician and a patient. Because what is medicine? It’s laying hands on a patient, something you can’t do through a phone call or videoconference.”

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