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Trust is key to keeping the digital customer happy

Consumers were forced into using digital channels during the coronavirus lockdowns, but some digital users now plan to return to the physical world

Although there is a lot of evidence showing a huge boost in e-commerce during the pandemic, as the economy reopens, those organisations that experienced the biggest growth in their digit channels may be in for a shock. The McKinsey survey of global consumer sentiment, conducted in April 2021, reported that although total digital adoption remains above pre-pandemic levels, many industries and regions may see a modest negative net change in post-pandemic digital use compared with 2020.

The new report from McKinsey Digital, based on a survey of 29,000 people across 24 countries, looked at how buying habits and use of digital channels have changed and whether they are returning to the high street or sticking with e-commerce and digital channels.

For the UK, McKinsey reported that just over seven million accessed new digital services in the past six months. However, more than nine million overall expect to move back to physical stores after the pandemic.

After the 2020 shift to digital channels during the pandemic, McKinsey reported that digital adoption has reduced slightly across European countries. Some people are returning to physical channels, while the “new normal” may bring challenges for countries and industries that were “forced” to switch to digital, said McKinsey.

The study identified a new breed of digital consumer – people who engaged with at least one new digital channel in the six months preceding the survey. “On average, these consumers, at 42 years of age, were about three years younger and roughly 3% wealthier than other digital users,” said the authors of the McKinsey study. “These new digital consumers also make use of digital channels more frequently than their peers, while spending an average of about 4% more.”

The survey also found  that the pandemic has done little to increase digital adoption among lower-income populations. Among the people earning less than 50% of the average national income, the proportion of existing and new digital users both came in at 29% of respondents. The figures for location showed that the majority of both new (76%) and existing (74%) digital users live in urban locations. The rest are from rural locations.

According to McKinsey, since the turn of the year, there has been a noticeable shift across European markets in people reducing their digital habits. It said 65 million Europeans expect to decrease their online activity as the pandemic ends. The survey reported that trust is the most common concern for consumers, with 44% of Europeans saying they don’t trust digital services.

The authors of the study said personal data security is top of mind for consumers of the education, entertainment and telecommunications industries, along with the public sector. However, in some sectors, security of personal data is not the primary reason for distrust.

“When it comes to grocery, insurance, travel and utilities, on the other hand, consumers were most concerned with being reimbursed for returned purchases, overcharges or undelivered services,” the study’s authors wrote.

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