It’s been one full year since COVID-19 first swept the globe. In that time, many of us have adopted new habits that will likely stick around: carrying hand sanitizer, coughing into our elbows (or so we hope).

But for home service businesses, some COVID-driven trends are definitely here to stay.

New data shows that the use of online work requests, online payments, and other contactless technologies have increased during COVID-19, with no signs of slowing even as restrictions ease up.

Meanwhile, increased consumer spending and expectations means more demand, more work, and new organizational challenges for home service providers.

The data — collected from tens of thousands of U.S. businesses — shows not only how home service businesses have recovered since March 2020, but also how they’ve adapted in order to stay ahead.

Scroll down for our top findings. 

1. Home Service Revenue Growth Stays Strong, Surpasses all Other Categories in Q1 ?

In terms of revenue, 2021 is off to a great start for the home service category.

The chart below shows home service revenue compared to other major categories, including grocery and general merchandise stores.

Since June 2020, home service revenue growth has been surpassing many major categories. As of January 2021, it has seen the best year-over-year growth of them all.

Year-over-year Revenue Growth, All Business Categories

Home-Service-Economic-Report-2020-Q1-Category Revenue Comparison - YOY Change

As we’ve seen over the last two quarters, home services are a healthy and winning market to be a part of, even when compared to some of the most traditionally stable industries.

A large part of this revenue growth is fueled by increased consumer spending and residential housing sales.

House sales grew to record levels in the second half of 2020, and new housing construction has remained steady. More home purchases means increased demand for home service providers, and more opportunities for them to answer the call, expand their service list, and grow their client base.

We expect this revenue growth trend to continue throughout Q2 as we enter the busy season for many home service industries.

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2. Pandemic restrictions have eased, but digital adoption continues to grow ?

Even with COVID-19 restrictions relaxing across the U.S., consumers are still choosing contactless and online services.

When stay-at-home orders forced us to limit in-person contact, online booking, text messages, and client portals became the only way to do business safely.

Restrictions are now loosening up, but the trend isn’t dying down. In the last three months alone, online work requests have spiked to a record 104% growth compared to the same time last year.

Online appointment confirmations, referred to in the chart as communications, have also grown 103%.

Year-over-year Growth in Online Work Requests and Communications

Home Service Economic Report - 2021 Q1- YoY Growth in Work Requests and Communications - Work Requests Related

Likewise, visit-related client communications (such as appointment reminders and on-my-way text messages) have grown 47% compared to the same time last year, even as the growth of actual service visits declined or grew more slowly.

Year-over-year Growth in Visits and Customer Communications

Home Service Economic Report - 2021 Q1- YoY Growth in Visits and Communications - Visits Related

Even without COVID-19 in the picture, booking work and doing work online just makes sense. Why play phone-tag when clients can receive appointment confirmations, approve quotes, and even see who’s coming to their properties all from one place?

Consumers now expect a more seamless, technology-enabled experience, and will choose service providers who can offer it.

3. Online Payments Increase, with Cleaning Businesses Leading the Change ?

Online payments have followed a similar trend to other contactless service options.

From January to May 2020, online payments for home services grew significantly, as customers and businesses looked for ways to do business without handling cash or cheques.

But again, even as COVID-19 restrictions are easing, the online payments are growing.

Year-over-year Revenue Growth vs. Growth of Online Payments

Home Service Economic Report - 2021 Q1- YoY Growth in Aggregate Revenue and Online Payments

The convenience of being able to pay 24/7, store credit cards on file for future use, and lower processing fees has made online payments a more attractive option for consumers and businesses alike.

This is another trend we don’t see going anywhere, even once the pandemic is truly behind us.

Cleaning businesses, which were among the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been the fastest adopters of online payments, according to our data.

This is likely driven by lower invoice amounts (compared to contracting, for example), and more regular clients looking for an easy way to make recurring payments.

Future Outlook

Over the last 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how we live and work.

Some of those changes won’t last — concerts and holidays are already on the horizon.

But how we do business, book work, and get paid has shifted towards contactless, online convenience. And it’s unlikely to go back.

Another meaningful trend to keep an eye on is increased consumer spending, particularly in new homes and home services.

This means more demand, more work, and new organizational challenges for home service providers to stay organized, attract and hire talent, and avoid entrepreneur burnout.

We’ll continue to monitor and update the data as the year progresses.

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