Where did your customers go on vacation this summer? It may seem like an odd question, but the answers help any business understand how liberal and conservative customers make purchase decisions. Vacation choices are product choices reflecting the values and worldview of your customers and market.
There are apparent differences in vacation choices between the two groups, but they are overwhelmingly united in motivation. According to research from industry publication Travel Weekly, both groups want to relax. 90% of liberal and 94% of conservative customers ranked relaxation as the primary reason for vacationing. This should come as no surprise, given that the shared values of liberal and conservative customers include competition, productivity, and achievement.
How the two groups choose to relax is another matter. Their choices often reflect their respective worldviews and values when making buying decisions. Worldview and values act as an intuitive filter for considering a product or vacation, bringing a choice into focus, or eliminating it. Hundreds of research studies in social psychology and social anthropology prove these values and purchase tendencies, yet these insights need to be better integrated into business for customer insight.
For example, liberal customers are more prone to seek new experiences, whereas conservative customers are more prone to seek the familiar. This is a distinction that multiple studies bear out, and you see it reflected in vacation choices. According to MRI-Simmons, liberal customers have a 20% higher rate of having a passport for international travel. Both groups travel, but one favors immersion in different countries (liberal customers), while the other prefers more familiar territory (conservative customers).
These differences aren’t exclusive – there’s overlap, but the trends are clear and shape product evaluation. For example, you might ask if your product offers a fundamentally new experience or if it enhances what is already familiar? The answer will most likely indicate the worldview of the customers you attract today.
The research from Travel Weekly also states that liberal customers gravitate toward experiencing different cultures, experiencing new cuisines, exploring self-discovery, and meeting new people. So, vacation preferences align well with research related to liberal customers tending to seek new experiences. But another attribute in that statement is equally interesting: the tendency of liberal customers to explore self-discovery.
Introspection and self-discovery are markedly more liberal traits than conservative ones. Looking inside oneself to discover a unique truth parallels the more urban liberal modern tendency to seek new insights while rejecting tradition.
Conservative customers don’t feel as strong a need for introspection because they are more satisfied with the present and see less need for change. Liberal customers are more prone to look inward in a similar fashion that more abstract modern art looks inward to reveal something elemental, something universal. Abstract contemporary art skews liberal, which is proven in several studies.
Research into vacation destination choices from Travel Weekly also shows that liberal customers tend to vacation more at beaches, while conservative customers tend to favor mountains. Beaches are more open spaces, possibly attracting a more freeform mindset that liberal customers possess. Their thought styles are proven to be more wide-ranging and integrative, while conservative customers tend to think more linearly and incrementally. Both thought styles are considered effective - they’re just different.
Mountains also invoke a type of power, hierarchy, and order that isn’t found at beaches. Again, these are not exclusive distinctions - just trends that inform how a market thinks and makes purchase decisions.
You can even see these predispositions in the companies that advertise vacation travel. Those based in San Francisco or New York, such as Airbnb, invariably show beaches or exotic locations in their advertising. Even Airbnb’s platform appears to emphasize beaches. For the more liberal management team at Airbnb, showing beaches and exotic locations seems natural because that is their desire - and they project that onto their market.
Yet this natural inclination to show these locations in advertising creates a stronger fit for just half the country, and Airbnb is a national brand. Given that both groups travel and have equal spending power (when the cost of living is factored in), Airbnb could segment its audience along worldview lines and serve ideas and content that will more naturally fit both worldviews. This segmentation is easily applied using simple geographic definitions. The result will be stronger overall business efficiencies in attracting new customers and generating repeat bookings.
You can apply this same kind of thinking to your own business. You might ask yourself what predispositions your management team has for projecting one worldview or the other - and then consider who is buying your product or service. It’s entirely possible that you can make some simple adjustments to how you present your business to make customer acquisition more efficient and increase customer value.
As I’ve mentioned in past articles, aligning your business to the worldview of the people who buy from you is a relatively simple way to improve business performance. It’s a matter of adjusting the inputs to creating your website, marketing, product design, and other assets that touch your customers. You put your predispositions and values aside and focus on the predispositions and values of your market.
This takes realizing that your customers may have a different worldview than your own. For some, this represents personal conflict. I’ve spoken to a few businesspeople from large and small companies who resist alignment out of personal conflict. Knowing customers have different values from the internal team or company culture can cause friction and is often a topic that is avoided rather than evaluated as a source of growth.
For businesses that can embrace worldview alignment, there is almost always a business opportunity and the opportunity to learn more about both groups. Even if your company and customers skew liberal, there are probably values and attributes you can tap into that make the alignment even stronger. The result is a market that sees your business fitting even better. The same argument can be made for a conservative business with conservative customers.
Maybe it’s time for an offsite meeting to discuss worldview alignment at your company. Perhaps you can take a vote to see if your team prefers a beach resort or a mountain lodge.