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Published March 30th 2021

The Big Consumer Financial Trends for 2021

Finances were top of mind for everyone in 2020. Uncertain times led to a fluctuating global economy and tense customers. What can we expect to see in 2021?

It was hard to avoid tough financial discussions in 2020. Globally, people were worried about their financial well-being amidst general uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. 

Consumers talked about everything from budgeting to contactless payment. In this piece we'll draw on recent research on consumer behavior to share the biggest trends in finserv for 2021. Let’s dive in!

Trend #1: Online financial experts are focusing on budgeting and loans

In our most recent report on the financial services sector, we used Social Panels to capture spending conversation from people who described themselves as financial experts online to find out what they think 2021 has in store for consumer spending. 

Turns out, budgeting was the biggest topic of conversation from self-described financial experts, with 14k mentions in the nine month period studied. These mentions focused on helping people adjust their financial plans because of the pandemic.

In the same vein, loans were the second largest topic (5k mentions) within spending conversations from financial experts. These mentions focused on grace periods, mortgage holidays, and student loans. Again, the pandemic was a key theme.

Trend #2: Insurance brands and positive public image

Odds are when you think of the word ‘insurance’ you don’t get giddy inside. Yet in 2020 insurance brands were a key source of positive sentiment for the financial industry. 

Of all the sub-sectors in our 2021 Customer Experience Report’s financial services group, insurance brands got the highest percentage of positive mentions. Within this conversation, we found people talking about their policies, offering advice, and discussing insurance commercials.

Meanwhile, for our 2021 Financial Services report mentioned above, we found 15m mentions of health insurance between January 1 2020 and December 31 2020, which is disproportionately high compared to volumes over the previous years we studied. Considering 2020 was defined by a pandemic, an increase in conversation about issues relating to health insurance is not too surprising

The year of the pet also prompted more people to discuss pet insurance. We found a 154% increase in people talking about this type of insurance in 2020 compared to the average number of people discussing it in 2017, 2018, and 2019, driven by more people buying pets during lockdowns.  

Trend #3: Customer service is front-of-mind for consumers

Poor customer service and waiting on hold for too long were key elements in negative conversation, according to our 2021 Customer Experience Report (mentioned above).

This may be a result of an influx of people having to turn to digital or over-the-phone means of communicating with their bank as opposed to going into a branch when restrictions were tight in 2020.

As tensions continue to run high around finances in 2021, financial service businesses should pay closer attention to where key customer pain points keep appearing. Addressing these issues can create much-needed competitive advantages. 

Trend #4: Covid as a catalyst for contactless payment

Covid-19 didn’t just fast-track the number of people shopping online, it also expedited long-awaited predictions from experts about changing consumer payment methods.

We found that both the number of people discussing contactless, and the number of people discussing mobile wallet services (like Apple Pay) increased 181% and 65% in 2020, respectively, when compared with the average number of people discussing them in 2017, 2018, and 2019. We also found that when consumers were talking about how they paid online they were increasingly vocal on credit options.

Contactless shopping experiences go beyond just payment options. Due to the lack of in-store shopping, retailers started experimenting with new technologies to help consumers try on clothing and accessories without having to be there in person. 

Innovators in the retail industry have made every effort to reduce potential physical contact, making online shopping experience as close to the in-store experience as possible. From trying on glasses at home to enjoying a virtual makeover, will these virtual options lead to long-term uptake? Google Trends data suggests it has, with a sustained increase in searches for ‘virtual try on’ since the pandemic was declared.

Trend #5: The consumer savings story is mixed

In 2020 we also found 50% more mentions of “saving challenges” or regimented plans (like the $1 a day challenge) compared to 2019, as people worked to create a financial safety net prompted by the pandemic.

This was also reflected when we looked at the number of articles created and shared about savings challenges, using BuzzSumo, our content analysis platform. 906k people engaged with or shared content about savings challenges during the peak of the trend in March 2020, emphasizing the sudden need consumers felt to build a financial safety net.

That said, while there is still more content being created about savings challenges, engagement has gone back down to pre-pandemic levels. The trend towards saving may be wearing off. January is a popular month for searching for ways to improve your savings practices, but 2021 saw the least January worldwide Google searches for ‘how to save money’ in five years.

Trend #6: Effects of Covid-19 will continue to drive financial decisions

 It’s no secret that Covid-19 will have a knock-on effect for years to come. In 2021 many people will still be dealing with the financial trouble they were placed in as a result of the pandemic. This will be felt across the economy as people spend less freely.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the first Bank of England Clearing House Automated Payment (CHAPS) data in January. The purpose was to illustrate how much people in Britain have been spending on their credit and debit cards in the UK, across 100 retailers.

While staple purchases remained relatively steady, social spending dropped by 83% after the first lockdown, with bars and restaurants facing the brunt of lockdown measures and safety wariness.

As the world begins to slowly reopen in 2021, we will hopefully see spending trending upwards and conversation around financial hardships starting to trend downwards. 

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Spending, Saving, Investing: Consumer Trends Around Financial Services in 2022

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