A recent webinar hosted by Ryan Gmerek, YouGov’s US Sales Director, delved into the way that COVID-19 has changed financial habits in America. Using syndicated BrandIndex and Profiles data as well as deep-dive custom research, the session explored changing attitudes and behavours in the US over the course of the pandemic.
So what did the webinar reveal?
COVID-19 and consumer sentiment
The session started by revealing that one in five Americans (22%) say they have saved more money over the course of the pandemic – while the same proportion reveal that they have dipped into their savings (19%). Some 15% borrowed more money.
Digging deeper, two in five say they have cut down on non-essential spending over the past six months (41%), with three in five saying they plan to cut down on their non-essential spending in future (61%). Among these Americans, those aged 45-54 are most likely to have cut down – with almost half limiting their non-essential spending. Two-thirds of this group say they plan to cut down more in future (67%).
Adoption of digital channels
The next section explored the role of digital channels in financial services. Nearly three in five Americans say they believe that it’s safe to manage finances online (57%). For reference, at the lowest end of the scale, 44% of Chinese consumers agree that it’s safe compared to three-quarters of Britons at the upper end (74%).
The session highlighted that the proportion of people uncomfortable with online banking is progressively decreasing. Between 2018 and 2021, it fell from over a third of the US public (35%) to three in ten (30%).
What’s more, American attitudes towards digitalization may be evolving from careful reticence to outright enthusiasm: over half go as far as to say that they will use digital service channels “wherever possible” (56%). A third of US consumers say that, when it comes to purchasing products, they do so entirely or mostly online (32%), while just under three in ten say they buy products entirely or mostly offline (28%). One in nine are evenly split (11%).
The webinar proceeded to focus on the American investment landscape. It revealed that 12% of US consumers consider investment to be a top three priority for the next 12 months – but it also indicated that nearly a quarter of those who say they plan to make investing a top priority do not currently own stocks (23%). This raised the question – especially in light of the recent Gamestop stock trading frenzy – of whether or not we are likely to see an influx of first-time investors in the next year or so.
Brand measures pre-COVID to now
The session used YouGov BrandIndex data to reveal some of the top-performing financial services brands over the course of the pandemic. In terms of Current Customer scores (which measure whether a consumer has recently used a particular financial services Brand) the clear winner was Venmo – improving on its Q1 2020 score of 11.5 to reach a final score of 15.4 (+3.9). PayPal came in second with a score of 43.4 (an improvement of +2.2 on its previous score of 41.2).
In terms of Index score – a measure of brand health that takes an average of Impression, Reputation, Quality, Value, and Recommend scores – the tables were dominated by two credit reporting giants: Equifax and Experian. The former climbed out of the negative zone to reach a score of 2.2 (+3.2.), while the latter’s rose to 4.6 (+2.6). Payment providers such as Visa (+1.5) and Venmo (+1.5) came next, with Discover rounding out the top five (+1.3).
Facing the financial future
The webinar ended by focusing on what Americans are planning to prioritise in the next 12 months. It revealed that two in five are planning to make meeting regular financial commitments a focus for the year ahead (42%), with saving up for unexpected hardship (39%), and paying off debts (39%) coming next.
Three in ten intend to make protecting their families from financial emergency a top priority (31%).