A year into the global COVID-19 crisis and questions about post-pandemic life are emerging. Many are wondering: what shifts in consumer attitudes will stick?
While the future beheld by the crystal ball on our post-pandemic life is still cloudy, some of the longer term impacts are coming into focus. For more about broader trends, keep reading.
Renewed Focus on Personal Finances
Credit bureau Experian noted in April that its recent consumer survey showed Americans feeling better about their finances. Their optimism – buoyed by the confidence that came with more closely managing finances during 2020 – has resulted in higher credit scores. Experian said the average FICO Score hit a record high of 710 last year, a seven-point increase from 2019.
Experian noted consumers plan to stay diligent. Almost half of those surveyed said they’d use the recent stimulus payment to pay bills, while 44 percent plan to put the money into savings. Experian added that nearly two out of three people plan to find new ways to save money in upcoming months, and 36 percent will work to improve or maintain their credit score.
Their advice for the rest of the year? Don’t forget to re-stock your emergency savings account.
Seniors More Tech-Savvy
Aging advocacy group AARP recently reported that with limited social interaction during the pandemic, older adults increased their use of technology to stay connected. The AARP 2021 Tech Trends Report showed older U.S. adults are texting, emailing, and using phones more now than before the pandemic. Additionally, their use of videoconferencing has skyrocketed. As of 2019, about half had never used video chat. By 2020, 70 percent had, with one in three older adults using it weekly.
Annual tech spending also increased exponentially in the age 50 plus group – from $394 to $1,144. Use in the age group for activities like ordering groceries rose from six percent to 24 percent; from 28 percent to 40 percent for telehealth visits, ordering prescriptions, or making appointments; and use for financial transactions increased 37 percent to 53 percent.
The AARP’s report indicates another type of digital divide, this time for older adults. They noted about 15 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 50 (38 million people) have no high-speed internet access, and cost is the biggest issue.
QR Code Comeback
Easy-to-scan QR (Quick Response) codes made a big comeback during the pandemic. In 2020, the nearly three decades old QR technology found a place just about everywhere, from doctor’s offices to workplaces. An April study by Ivanti Research released found 57 percent of respondents noticed an increase in QR code usage last year, and 83 percent said they used a QR code to make a payment for the first time ever.
With broader acceptance, Ivanti cautions consumers to be aware of what a QR code can do once it’s scanned. They note to be aware that QR codes can give away physical locations, carry malicious URLs, or download an application.
Energy Efficiency Listings
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes a growing number of consumers are seeking homes with features that are good for the environment. A March 2021 NAR survey reports that the increased focus on wellness and sustainability created by the pandemic is taking shape with homebuyers through investments that make good environmental – and fiscal – sense.
Over half of NAR respondents said their clients were interested in sustainability, with 32 percent saying they’d been directly involved with buying or selling a property that had green or eco-friendly features in the past 12 months.
A majority of Realtors – 82 percent – said properties with solar panels were available in their market. Another 40 percent said solar panels increased the perceived property value of a home. Additionally, almost a quarter said high-performance homes – defined as using a science based approach to overall efficiency and durability – increased the dollar value offered versus similar homes.