COVID-19: Tech adoption’s unexpected cheering section

Posted 09/14/20 Team Vaco

When COVID-19 first began to spread across the country, businesses previously resistant to flexible work schedules and remote work arrangements found themselves scrambling to enable a mass transition to a work from home (WFH) environment. As millions of workers were hastily setting up home offices on dining room tables, living room sofas, in guest bedrooms, and in suddenly-vacant Airbnbs, technology quickly became a hot topic of conversation. 

From Zoom backgrounds to Teams etiquette to online everything, COVID-19 has become an unexpected cheerleader for tech adoption.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed technology and IT. It’s also shifted the way we view (and use) tech. Here are a few ways Americans are adapting to our tech-driven world:

  • Even the staunchest tech holdouts are moving online
  • Online shopping is soaring
  • Digital payment methods are getting a boost
  • Telehealth is on the rise

Even the staunchest tech holdouts are moving online

As more and more of our daily lives take place online, businesses and consumers are relying on technology for everything WFH-related, banking, document signing, virtual happy hours, remote school, telehealth, ecommerce, entertainment, and so much more. 

Folks who once preferred face-to-face chats around the water cooler have ditched their tech-related skepticism and find themselves living on Hangouts, figuring out which computer angle works best, softening harsh LED lighting, and making sure that the books on bookshelf are sufficiently impressive. 

When the virus disrupted in-person interactions, technology came to the rescue, reinforcing how important internet access is to our economic and emotional wellbeing. But believe it or not, about one-third of US households lack broadband internet! So what are households without high-speed internet access doing? They’re finally biting the bullet and having broadband installed or, when that’s not an option, they’re investing in hotspots from cellular carriers to carry them through. 

Not only are tech hold-outs moving online, but more and more Americans recognize technology as an essential service. Pew Research found that “Amid this increased reliance, about nine-in-ten U.S. adults (93%) say that a major interruption to their internet or cell phone service during the outbreak would be a problem in their daily life, including 49% who foresee an outage being a very big problem for them and 28% who believe it would be a moderately big problem.” 

Online shopping is soaring

It’s no secret that for the past few years, ecommerce has been steadily on the rise … but the virus has sent it through the roof. Back in March, Nielsen reported that “Globally, online shopping adoption has gained traction thanks to improvements in infrastructure (speed and cost), participation, transparency and trust. The pathway for adoption is a familiar story around the world … COVID-19 may be a part of driving faster change.” 

It looks like Neilsen’s retail analysts were onto something: although online sales grew more slowly in July than in June, the Adobe Digital Economy Index found that ecommerce sales are still up 55% year over year for the first seven months of 2020, resulting in $434.5 billion in online spending. Adobe’s researchers expect 2020 online sales to surpass the total online sales in 2019 by early October.

And it’s not just retail giants like Amazon getting a boost: just one year ago, Gallup survey found that 81% of  shoppers never shopped online for groceries and sales were topping out at just over $1 million. By June, grocery sales in the United States hit $7.2 million. The York Times also notes that “Curbside pickup, delivery’s sibling, has also exploded. Stores are converting parking lots to better handle traffic from shoppers who drive by to pick up orders.”

Digital payment methods are getting a boost

Just as online shopping is on the rise, so is the adoption of digital payment methods — by vendors and customers alike. And it’s not hard to figure out why … fear of handling paper money, strict social distancing mandates, and the accompanying rise of online shipping and contactless pick-up, have changed the way we shop and how we pay. 

Early on in the pandemic, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged the use of touchless payment options and cash withdrawals from ATMs plunged 25% nationwide and about 27% of business owners reported an increase in contactless payments by late March. 

And it looks like the shift from cash-in-hand to digital wallets is here to stay. 

Findings from a survey of over 1,000 American consumers, support the belief that COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of banking, payments, and commerce. More than 45% of respondents say they have permanently changed how they interact with their bank since COVID-19, 45% of consumers have used a mobile wallet payment platform in the past 30 days, and there will be a measurable shift away from cash and checks.

Telehealth is on the rise

It stands to reason that if you don’t want to go to the grocery store, you probably aren’t terribly interested in heading to the doctor’s office, either. 

Experts at Pivot Point Consulting recently noted that “Pre-COVID-19, telehealth constituted a very small percentage of overall visit volume. A recent study, Telehealth and Appointment Volume during COVID-19 from WELL Data Insights estimates that through 2020, telehealth will remain at about 15% of overall visit volume.”

Pivot Point Consulting has identified five key factors that will influence the long-term trajectory of telehealth:

  1. Telehealth relaxations and waivers: The continuation of telehealth relaxations and waivers implemented in response to the public health emergency — including lifting geographic and site-of service restrictions, broadening allowed billing codes, and expanding coverage for services such as remote patient monitoring — will influence telehealth moving forward.
  2. Payer parity and normalizing: Most states now require private health plans to treat telehealth services the same as they do in-person visits (parity), but “parity” is varied. Addressing these inconsistencies can increase adoption and reduce the complexity and volume of rework for billing and coding staff when submitting claims.
  3. Consumer demand: Studies clearly show consumers appreciate the convenience and safety of telehealth. In a recent consumer survey, 76% of Americans now say they are interested in using telehealth going forward.
  4. Physician/provider adoption: Rapid acclimation to telehealth allowed providers to see patients, monitor high-risk patients, and support revenue short term. For many providers to fully embrace telehealth, a clear ROI and optimization of systems and workflows will be needed.
  5. Telehealth vendor capabilities: In many cases, the first wave of telehealth tool adoption was driven by two requirements: low cost and fast implementation. Vendors will need to mature their products, bolster support and services, and remain price-to-product competitive to support the value proposition of telehealth.

What does all this mean for your company?

From massive tech adoption to long-term telehealth … what does all of this mean for your business and your consumers? It means big changes in technology and the tech industry. Be sure to register now for our October 8 webinar,  “5 Ultimate Tech Industry Trends Driven by COVID-19.” 

Register now