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Searches for "digital account" increased tenfold in Brazil, says Google

New survey shows that digital accounts and delivery apps might change the Brazilian consumer behavior for good

Visiting bank branches to pay bills or to have a little chat with your account manager is not exactly on-trend right now, given the social distancing measures. But, what about in a post-pandemic context? For André Barrence, Head of Google for Startups Latin America, this is most unlikely. “Behaviors like this could easily be replaced by accessing banking services in a digital format,” he told me in an interview with LABS.

Google conducted a survey on the Brazilian innovation ecosystem during the period of March and April, launching results at the occasion of Brazil at Silicon Valley’s online conference this last Wednesday, June 3. By examining the search volume of Brazilian users in these past weeks, the big tech was able to classify the changes in consumer habits based on three main interests: online shopping considered essential; increasing interest in activities to do at home, as well as a rise in demand for financial services. 

Interest over time on searches for “Internet Banking” and “Digital Account”. Source: Google Trends/ Reproduction from “Startup Landscape in the New Normal”, Google for Startups

“‘Digital account’ had an aggressive peak led by the government’s financial aid. Still, it remains within a positive trend that we believe it will bring a change in behavior,” says Barrence. The search volume for “digital account” in April has jumped tenfold on a year over year comparison. “Internet banking”, a term that according to Barrence was decreasing before the pandemic, won interest back. “It’s good evidence that they [digital account and internet banking searches] are bringing behavior change,” he adds.

Chasing the rising interest in such terms, come the fintechs. Although on average, these startups maintained growth that they had been showing before the beginning of social distancing, numbers draw attention. The digital wallet PicPay (555%); along with the platform for negotiating debts Acordocerto (284%); and the AI financial assistant Olivia (87%) ranked on the top three positions as the most sought by Brazilians in the period.

Last-mile delivery services have also stood out. The category “online shopping considered essential” pointed at a rising interest in delivery, as the term “delivery restaurant” grew by 72% in searches. While it may come as no surprise that this behavior is now trending, Google found that most popular brands in these segments – such as iFood and Rappi – continued to rise, but smaller startups also showed significant growth, such as beverage delivery apps Zé Delivery and Empório da Cerveja.

Popular apps iFood and Rappi presented sustainable growth during the period. Source: Google internal data and CB Insights/ Reproduction from “Startup Landscape in the New Normal”, Google for Startups

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For Barrence, delivery and financial services growth are being leveraged by the sum of convenience and safety. “If we have in the next months a situation of not having a vaccine, measures that are not so severe, but still, with social distancing advising, they tend to favor these consolidations of behavior that we noticed on here.”

Queries related to remote work were also featured. While the search for furniture to work at home has increased by more than 90%, there was a 47% increase in searches for startups focused on retail and marketplaces from different niches, such as MadeiraMadeira (70%) and Mobly (52%). 

“Transforming this interest into a real market, conversion opportunity and customers is the next step. Several of these companies and startups know that it is not enough to grow interest, they have to convert interest into paying users, and more than that, turn them into returning customers,” Google’s expert stresses.”

“Education startups and digital content platforms, for instance, have the possibility to make recurrence models for periods even larger than companies that transact services or products in a unique way or that are always doing transactions, by creating a model that will retain the customer for longer, from a first purchase and in a simpler way,” the Head of Google for Startups Latin America says. “Retaining and sustaining paying users, for me, is the main challenge.” Photo: Google for Startups/ Courtesy

But while some players – whether startups or big companies – had been able to meet the new consumer habits, Google found out some gaps. “Within education, for example, a specific category that is language teaching showed expressive growth, significant interest, but at the same time, we didn’t identify any startup that had filled this category to the point of highlighting in the study,” Barrence pointed out. For him, this is opening room for possibilities. “There are some opportunities within this and other categories that deserve the attention of entrepreneurs.”

Digital transformation will speed up not only startups 

If the increasing interest in such segments pushes startups forward, it also drives the digital transformation of those who were not born digital. “In both cases, we realize that the development of all this will favor the acceleration of an increasingly digital and low-touch economy,” the expert defends. “Those who are already positioned as digital, like startups, have a great chance of establishing themselves, acquiring brand recognition and holding a top of mind place regarding their products and services in front of this group of users who are looking for digital services.”

But the trend of digital acceleration for bigger companies did not remain behind. From the highlighted companies offering last-mile delivery services in the study, two are cases of corporate innovation. “Zé Delivery, which has increased tenfold in search interest and Empório da Cerveja [77%] are innovation initiatives that came out of Ambev. These examples show the importance that digital transformation will have in several sectors,” Barrence adds.