Tracking the Unanticipated in Real Time
The past year and a half has been an unprecedented case study in the mass adoption of new technologies in healthcare and finance. Though the trend toward online services in many industries was already clear and forward-thinking brands were poised to roll out innovations that had been in the works for years, the pandemic dramatically altered the timeline as consumer demand skyrocketed out of necessity. It also widened the adoptee demographic to include almost everyone–across age, gender, economic, racial, and other segments–rather than the narrower early adopter segments predicted earlier. Even those organizations who were well prepared for the online transition saw a huge change in their day-to-day business, while healthcare and financial brands who hadn’t invested in digitalization scrambled to catch up.
As a research-based agency, it’s been a fascinating time to track consumer and brand trends that changed–and continue to change–so rapidly. While demand for online services shows no sign of slowing post-pandemic, the coming months will reveal how many of those who might not have adopted online services in the past will continue using them now that the learning curve is behind them.
Well before the pandemic, Zehnder was actively helping healthcare and financial clients roll out full online services. However, as COVID-19 hit and those resources went from being optional to imperative, even once-hesitant customers became active users. For instance, though a segment of their clients had embraced digital banking tools for several years, fully half of Chase's new digitally active customers since March 2020 are over age 50–an unanticipated development. Populations who already used some online services with their banks and doctors were joined by those who might never have shown interest, or who might have found change intimidating and unnecessary.
Healthcare technology for innovations like virtual visits, remote monitoring, wearables, mental health apps, and digital diagnostics already existed, but were put into active practice and adopted virtually overnight. Immediately after the pandemic, roughly 70% of healthcare organizations said they planned to increase or continue to increase access to telehealth services. Regardless of whether reimbursements for telehealth visits change in the post-pandemic landscape, it’s likely many consumers will consider telehealth options a strong selling point in choosing a provider. The rapid rise of online pharmacies and medication companies pre-pandemic was already a testament to consumer demand for convenience and ease of use–two of the same factors listed by consumers as primary reasons for choosing virtual visits over in-person appointments even after COVID. In a Doctor.com study, 55% of respondents said they would use telemedicine to see a new doctor, and 74% said they would use it to continue seeing their current doctor.
Innovative technologies are improving patient access to their providers, but they’re also enabling competitors to move into new geographical regions. Savvy health system leaders understand the imperative to retain patients by using these innovations to increase patient engagement and to advance the quality of care. Besides virtual visits for primary care, wellness and lifestyle classes have become ubiquitous, with everything from virtual weight loss, cooking, meditation, nutrition, therapy, disease management, and on-demand skilled nursing care for seniors available online and via smartphone apps.
As we continue to conduct similar real-time research and analytics in the financial sector, we believe this preference will continue to increase demand in this industry as well–for personalization, automation and real-time payments, in particular, as consumers who’ve gotten used to going cashless choose to stay that way. Over the next year, we expect to see increased demand for both personal attention and digital convenience. Consumers will most likely decide who to bank with based on how easy it is for them to manage their entire financial lives digitally from one place. Banks that have made that experience seamless, insightful and simple will retain their clients and add new ones, seeing loyal customers engage more frequently with their products and services.
In this second half of 2021, as in-person services become available again, many consumers are staying right where they are: online. Learning together, as a society, has made it both faster and easier to adjust en masse. What’s also clear is that there’s no longer an either/or in digital vs. personalized interaction. Now that consumers have experienced the merger of the two, they’re likely to choose companies and institutions that do both exceptionally well.
To learn how you can bring digitalization to your brand, contact Jennifer Boneno, VP of Client Development, firstname.lastname@example.org