The outbreak of COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic on the global economy are making consumers worldwide nervous about their finances. Studies show those fears are heightened right now, but anxiety about managing finances isn’t a new feeling for US consumers, according to a Facebook IQ survey conducted before COVID-19 began to spread widely in the United States.
We’re all happy to assume that in order to grow a successful mobile game (or app) you need:
The survey found that people want financial information that can help them confidently manage their money and reach their financial goals. They’re looking for reliable, trustworthy financial information delivered in different ways—especially now with digital playing such an important role in daily lives. This need for clear and reliable information presents a valuable opportunity for financial services institutions to engage consumers and build relationships. Particularly during this time of social distancing, digital platforms can be effective in connecting brands and consumers and delivering valuable information to consumers where they are.
Brands can create and deliver a wide range of information through different avenues, such as online groups, messaging or live question-and-answer forums that allow consumers to digitally interact one-on-one live with experts. Thanks to digital platforms, those one-on-one interactions no longer have to take place face to face.
To help marketers understand the financial behaviors and education needs of US adults, Facebook IQ commissioned Audience Theory and Ipsos to survey 1,000 general population consumers, both those who have bank accounts and those who don’t, ages 18 and over. The survey took place in November and December 2019, and its data reveals consumers’ goals and fears, where they turn for advice and how brands can engage to win their business—information that is just as relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic as it was before and will be after.
Many people continue to have concerns about reaching their financial goals
Today’s US consumers tend to have the same financial goals as previous generations: They want to stay on budget, be able to cover large expenses such as education and child care, put away some money for emergencies and big purchases and save for retirement.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic put an added strain on the economy and many people’s personal income, the survey found Americans were concerned about the potential to reach those goals: Only 35% of US respondents said they were certain their financial goals are attainable.
When the survey was conducted, respondents said their anxiety was driven by a range of factors, including concerns about economic and political instability, the rising cost of living and growing debt fueled by expenses such as health care. Add other factors, such as worries over needing to potentially restart a career, working past retirement age and a sense of vulnerability when dealing with financial institutions, and it’s easy to see why people are fearful about their financial futures.
Consumers’ fears were also driven by how they view their financial situation: Some 61% expressed concern with their ability to weather a large, unexpected expense, and 59% expressed concern with their ability to provide for themselves and their family—a worry especially prevalent among women1 and younger adults.2
Of course, with different ages come different expectations and fears. Consumers ages 18–34 were more likely to say they weren’t confident about their ability to manage their personal finances, and they were more likely to express worry about being able to provide for themselves and their families. Younger consumers were also more concerned about being unable to buy a home, pay for education and afford child care.
“At the moment, I’m in debt for my student loans,” said a 23-year-old man. Adults 35 and older, meanwhile, were more likely to say they were worried about lagging in retirement savings and being confronted with a sudden medical emergency that would eat into their savings.
“I don’t save enough,” said one respondent, a 45-year-old woman. “I’m getting more into saving for retirement, but life goes by fast. It’s a long-term goal because I have a lot of credit stuff to clean up first.”
What would put an end to these fears? Attaining financial health. For the majority of respondents, across generations, that entails having financial stability, being prepared for a financial emergency, being self-sufficient and having personal comfort/freedom.
How do consumers measure financial health?
Financial institutions have an opportunity to provide a path to financial health—and consumers will listen
What types of financial information do consumers want? Each generation has its own unique interests that reflect where its members are in life.
Credit score management is the financial topic members of Gen Z said they were most interested in learning about. Millennials want to know about taxes and financing large purchases. Gen Xers are interested in retirement advice and information, as are baby boomers, who also said they want more information about fraud ID protection.
This doesn’t mean interest in topics is only confined to specific generations. In fact, people of all ages said they want to learn more about nearly all topics, with younger consumers especially likely to express broad financial curiosity. This means financial service providers can reach a sizable audience by covering a wide range of topics.
What topics were generations most interested in?
In terms of how consumers want to receive financial information, they said they’re open to many forms. Being able to interact one-on-one with a person and ask questions in real time is especially valued, with respondents showing above-average interest in live Q&A sessions with experts and live video calls.
In an increasingly digital world, financial institutions can meet people where they are: online groups and messaging apps
Some 47% of respondents ages 18–34 said their friends and family are the sources they trust the most for financial information.
These younger consumers said they would be comfortable using online groups and messaging apps for finding financial advice and information, particularly if others in their social circle are using these channels.
US consumers ages 18–34 are 1.3 times more likely to use Facebook for financial content if their friends and family do so. Younger consumers are also especially curious about Facebook groups that provide financial content, with 58% of people ages 18–34 expressing interest, compared with 46% of people ages 35 and older.
Overall, 42% of respondents said they’re interested in private groups to exchange and share financial information and advice. These are especially popular among women, with 51% expressing interest (compared to 32% of men). Groups run by like-minded peers, such as friends and family, are also a popular option for connecting with information.
Receiving financial education via messaging also resonates with consumers, particularly with younger audiences: 61% of US consumers ages 18–34 said they are comfortable receiving financial information over chat or a messaging app, and 58% say they’re comfortable receiving financial advice this way.
How comfortable were US consumers with receiving financial information and advice over chat or messaging apps?
Financial institutions that also use these methods to engage with audiences may find they’re able to attract more consumers to their conversations.
What it means for marketers
Show an understanding of consumers’ financial fears.
People often have similar broad financial worries—such as being able to save money and provide for themselves and their families. By demonstrating they understand these nuances and are an ally looking out for consumers’ best interests, financial institutions can build affinity with consumers.
Create avenues for people to connect live with experts digitally.
There is a lot of interest for nearly all types of financial topics, especially among younger audiences. By creating a wide range of insights, particularly through methods that allow for live interactions online, financial service providers can attract consumers to their conversations. Financial institutions should continually test these new creative formats to ensure they’re deploying the best methods for reaching audiences.
One-on-one doesn’t have to mean face-to-face.
US consumers, especially younger ones, already turn to their friends and family for financial advice. This creates an opportunity for financial services firms to use digital channels, such as messenger, online groups and Facebook, to connect with audiences. Particularly during this time of social distancing, brands have an opportunity to leverage digital platforms that connect brands and consumers to deliver valuable information to consumers right where they are.