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Could our digital appetites become insatiable post Covid-19?

A recent study by Sungard AS has revealed the scale of the UK’s reliance on online services during the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers predicting their dependency on digital services will surge by 27% upon exiting lockdown measures.

As people shifted their entire personal and professional lives from workplaces, gyms and cinemas to living rooms, bedrooms and kitchen tables, the UK experienced a leap in use of online services, as the public flocked to video conferencing, gaming and streaming platforms to work, live and play.

The research by Sungard AS uncovers how such tools have had a huge impact on relationships and mental wellbeing under lockdown.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents stated the use of online conferencing services such as Zoom and FaceTime has led to closer relationships with friends and family, and a third (30%) admitted any issues with conferencing services being unavailable would have resulted in these relationships suffering.

This sentiment is particularly high amongst 18-24-year-olds (43%) compared with people aged 55+ (24%). Just over a third of respondents (35%) stated that their mental wellbeing would have suffered as a result of issues with personal internet connectivity. 

The findings also reveal how consumers have prioritised the availability of online services, with downtime playing a key role in behaviours towards and loyalty for brands.

Consumers would now be more upset about being unable to access entertainment streaming services and video conferencing software for 48 hours than online information on health services.

As a result of increased reliance on online services, consumers are increasingly impatient towards organisations that do not offer availability 24/7.

Brands that have spent years building customer loyalty, may find consumers looking elsewhere in the event of disruption.

Over a third of respondents (38%) stated they would immediately switch provider if they experienced unplanned downtime with no reason specified.

One in five (21%) would switch entertainment streaming provider if they were unable to access the service for 12 hours, rising to one in three (33%) if unavailable for 24 hours.

While reliance on video conferencing has grown throughout the pandemic, for professional or personal reasons, one in five (21%) consumers would now switch provider if they were unable to access the service for 12 hours, rising to 31% after 24 hours.

However, one area consumers are not prepared to negotiate on is security. Almost three quarters (72%) stated they would immediately switch provider if they were to experience a data breach. 

“This research identifies the personal impact that being unable to access online services has on people in the UK today,” commented Chris Huggett, SVP EMEA at Sungard Availability Services.

“Restrictions have been placed on every aspect of life and people are highly reliant on technology to help them cope.

“Lost business, reduction in spending and a lack of footfall have not only had a business impact on brands, it has tested consumer loyalty and expectations too.

“What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into a digital environment – whether that’s retail, entertainment, financial services – even healthcare to an extent. 

“Brands need to ensure the availability of their services so they can adapt and continue to serve customers under any circumstances. Companies also need to find innovative ways to keep their employees safe, embracing social distancing and following government guidelines.

“Having a resilient mindset, a plan in place, and the technological know-how to weather different storms will ensure companies of all sizes can be successful in moving forward – whatever the future may look like.” 

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