Top 3 Digital Trends 2021 in Healthcare, Retail & Financial

Senior members of our Appnovation EMEA team discuss the biggest trends on the horizon in 2021 – and how your brand can adapt to the rapidly changing expectations.

The accelerated implementation and adoption of digital capabilities was the theme of 2020 across industries. Technology that was expected to take years to make an impact became mainstream in a matter of months. With 68% of consumers saying the pandemic has elevated their expectations of a brands’ digital abilities, businesses need to keep up the momentum, or risk obsolescence. Below are three trends we see dominating healthcare, retail, and financial.

Healthcare gets its overdue overhaul

The industry that was arguably strained the most in the past year might just be the one that sees the biggest improvement over pre-pandemic standards. As patients avoided healthcare facilities due to restrictions as well as fear, they relied on technology to get the care they needed. Virtual consultations, telediagnosis, and self-administered treatment became essential parts of the process.

A recent survey found that 60% of patients would prefer to continue meeting with providers and managing their care remotely, using the technology introduced to them during the pandemic. “In 2021, the entire healthcare system must build on the momentum of patients embracing virtual care,” says Richard Palmer, Strategy Lead, EMEA. “Home diagnosis kits, glucose monitoring devices, online prescriptions, distribution without ever setting foot in a pharmacy… combining these things is what will lead to true patient-first, holistic solutions.”

“The technology to not only improve care but increase convenience already exists, and now it needs to become widely available,” suggests Palmer. For example, patients with chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes can manage them by monitoring blood pressure or blood sugar levels from their homes, and electronically share the data with their providers in real-time. Patients win by feeling more empowered, getting faster response times, and, of course, trading the waiting room for their living room.

Retail gets (more) resilient

In 2020, we saw our favourite shops close, reopen, close, move to online sales, offer buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) options – and that was before spring was over. The resilience of the retail industry was something to behold, but their work is far from over if they want to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

COVID-19 elicited somewhat of a flight-or-flight response from retail outlets. While some were deemed essential and could carry on almost normally, others had to adapt to strict regulations and new customer expectations to remain open, operational, and relevant. 

“Something I think more retail brands should embrace is the subscription model,” recommends Amanda Glasgow, Experience Lead, EMEA. “They’re not new, but they offer more benefits to both customers and businesses than ever before.”

A stand-out benefit for customers is personalization, a hot topic in marketing departments regardless of industry. “Retail outlets should curate their offerings to suit the preferences of their shoppers,” continues Glasgow. “A local farm can sell weekly subscription boxes containing organic produce and homemade goods. A grocer can combine sustainable cleaning products like biodegradable washing powder, paraben-free shampoo, and chemical-free soap. These are hardly niche customer segments anymore, and it’s up to retailers to give them what they want, and make it available with a few clicks of a button.”

And what customers realized they wanted during the pandemic is here to stay. More than 65% of customers intend to stick with the new shopping behaviours they adopted in the past year.

Empowered financial decisions

The financial industry hasn’t felt a hit in the same way retail has, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe from changing customer expectations. Illustrating this point is the fact that consumers have a heightened awareness of their financial situation, largely due to the uncertainty surrounding things like employment, childcare, or if they really do need that WFH-inspired home renovation.

“If financial companies aren’t embracing digital as the primary way to engage with their customers, they’re already dead,” warns Andrew Dunbar, General Manager, EMEA. “People want complete control over their finances, and they’ll find the company that offers it in a way that suits them.”

Considering 52% of banking customers were branch-dependent prior to the pandemic, over half of all people who used a bank had to get used to digital, fast. “Humanity is very good at finding the path of least resistance,” adds Dunbar. “What’s driving this in the financial sector is ease-of-use and the empowerment of customers. How can they manage their money conveniently? How can they achieve the goals they’ve set? And as soon as they start down this path, they begin comparing and evaluating different services.”

Essentially, financial services companies are facing a harsh reality: they must transform their entire experience into one that provides automated, personalized, self-service options, or lose customers to a competitor that has.

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