Thoughtful digitization can help Romanian companies retain digital customers acquired during COVID-19

Up to 2.5 million Romanians plan to reduce their online activities after the pandemic ends, the 2021 McKinsey Digital Sentiment Survey shows. In the last 6 months, digital consumption in Romania has increased across the 11 industries studied, with 43% of the new digital joiners citing COVID-19 as the main reason. To maintain most of these recent digital adopters following the pandemic, companies will need to integrate the feedback received from customers, such as ensuring a smooth omnichannel experience.

Launched in 2020, the second edition of the McKinsey Digital Sentiment Survey was conducted on more than 20,000 European users (including approximately 1,200 Romanians), aged 18-85, analyzing their digital consumption over the last 6 months, while creating a view for the next six months. Eleven industries were included in the survey, and of them, grocery, insurance and utilities ranked highest in terms of digital channel customer satisfaction, while banking was considered the most innovative industry.

How has COVID-19 affected the digital consumption in Romania?

The survey found that while COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digitization throughout Europe, Romania has experienced a significant increase in the number of people using at least one digital channel (33% for Romania compared to 13% European average). This development was observed across multiple age groups, with most new digital users aged 45 to 54. The 18-24 age group shows the highest adoption for digital channels in education, while the 25-34 age group ranks first in apparel, the 35-44 age group for grocery and the 55-64 age group for healthcare. Young people (below 35) were the main driver in only two sectors (education, apparel), showing that the pandemic has shifted primarily older generations toward digital interactions across industries. The gender split for new adopters was roughly equal, with women accounting for most new users in areas such as grocery, apparel, healthcare, and education, while men explored areas such as insurance, entertainment, and the public sector.

On an industry level, the highest rate of digitization was observed in entertainment (88%), utilities (72%), and travel (69%), while the lowest share was found in healthcare (22%) and grocery (33%). Regarding user satisfaction with existing digital channels, grocery, insurance, and utilities were leaders, while the most innovative industries were banking first, followed closely by telecommunications carriers.

Moving forward: How can companies maintain a high digitization rate after the pandemic?

Looking beyond the events of the last year, the survey shows the digitization trend can be expected to partly reverse once the pandemic subdues. It is expected that up to 2.5 million Romanians will reduce their online activities after the pandemic and are likely to return to in-person interactions, despite a high satisfaction with digital services (75% of users are satisfied or very satisfied).

The survey reveals some key areas in which companies should focus to maintain most of their new digital customers:

  1. Privacy and security. Making privacy a top priority is the feature desired by most customers. Explaining how data is being used and reducing the need to share it with third-party apps, especially for advertising purposes, are some of the features likely to ensure that customers trust the digital channel. Companies should put extra focus not only on providing a secure experience for their customers, but also on advertising to them and transmitting the feeling that their personal data is being handled safely (28% of users believe that their personal data is not handled safely).
  2. An omnichannel experience. While digitization has increased, only 3% of consumers surveyed said that they prefer not to use the physical channel in the future. In response, companies should design an ecosystem of complementary channels, with clearly defined roles for each one of them, derived from insights about customers and also from financial or brand objectives. Seamless integration across channels should be the norm, with 21% of consumers wanting the possibility to return online-acquired products in store and a great face-to-face customer experience, while 15% opted for an interactive product-testing experience.
  3. User-friendly interactions. Respondents cited “superior user experience” (easy-to-navigate sites and online payment methods) as a key driver of satisfaction. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of faster delivery and lower fees for it, as well as flexibility with home deliveries. On average, customers throughout Europe prefer home delivery, with in-store pick-up being the second most preferred method for receiving products.

Combining these methods into a coherent, superior digital presence can ensure that companies retain as many of the newly added digital customers as possible, while improving the digital brand perception throughout the existing customer-base.