Despite an explosion of new channels, consumers still prefer email and text when communicating with businesses and the urgency of the message largely influences their channel preference, according to new research.
The San Francisco-based cloud communications platform provider Twilio surveyed 2,500 global consumers to understand how, when and where to reach consumers and how the context and urgency of those messages affects their preferred medium.
“Every day at Twilio, we hear from brands who want to improve their customer experience yet are overwhelmed by the increasingly complex communications landscape,” Sara Varni, chief marketing officer at Twilio, said. “There is a lot to be done to improve the current state of how companies engage with their customers and it starts with knowing which channels consumers prefer and how to personalize the medium to align with the context of the interaction.”
According to Twilio’s study, while most consumers are annoyed by communications from businesses, they will also reward businesses who listen to their preferences and communicate with them in the right way.
Among the key findings from Twilio’s report: when it comes to frequency, less is more and timing matters. Businesses earn consumer trust and loyalty by meeting them on the right channel and with the right frequency. For example, 94% of consumers reported annoyance with by the current business communications. The top annoyances include: communications too frequent (61%); content not relevant (56%); they do not remember opting in (41%); contacted in the wrong communication channel (33%). The research also learned consumers prefer contact in the afternoons (39%) and only 13% prefer evening contact.
The Twilio research also found email is king, but text if urgent. The urgency of the message influences the consumer’s channel preference. The majority of consumers consider change of plans, delivery or arrival notifications, and appointment reminders as urgent messages. Eighty-three percent of global consumers said they prefer email when receiving communications from businesses. However, texts are more than twice as popular as email when receiving urgent communications from businesses. Only 12% of consumers prefer a company’s mobile app for receiving communications from businesses. While 7 out of 10 consumers curate their home screens, less than half say that corporate mobile apps make it on their home screen.
Personalization is key, especially for younger generations. Understanding communication preferences among key demographics and generations is important for fostering meaningful and authentic connections between brands and their customers. More Gen Z and millennials want content personalization and a choice of the time of day when receiving messages versus older generations. Millennials prefer to receive promotions/sales messages more frequently than baby boomers. Gen Z and millennial consumers are more likely to reward businesses for meeting their preferences and also more likely to penalize companies for poor communication experiences.
Communicate correctly and reap the rewards. Businesses that communicate using the right frequency and channels enjoy higher consumer goodwill. Seventy-five percent of consumers have rewarded businesses that communicate in the way they prefer (i.e. visiting the website, making a purchase, having a positive impression). Seven in 10 consumers have penalized a business when the communication experience was not what they wanted (i.e. unsubscribed from notifications, stopped doing business). More than one third of all consumers surveyed have made a purchase from a business if the business communicated with them in their preferred way (34%). The most common reward for good communication is visiting a company’s website (42%).
Twilio suggested best practices include:
- Do not treat every customer the same. “Let customers identify what communications they want and when they want them in order to build a lasting relationship.”
- Embrace different channels for different purposes. Consumers have different reasons for using different channels and want businesses to adapt. “You now need to map the power of each channel to the type of communication you are sending them.”
- Consider the urgency of the message when selecting the channel. “Be clear about what communications are urgent and do not abuse channels customers prioritize for immediate needs.”
- Embrace an omnichannel approach and make it easy for customers to customize the communication preference. “If you reach customers in the right channel, at the right time, they are more likely to reward you by purchasing more or leaving a positive review.”
- Know the demographics of your audience and tailor your communication to match. “Research shows that younger generations are open to more channels and higher frequency of communication but want control and personalization.”
Twilio conducted the survey in partnership with Lawless Research in August 2019, in the U.S., UK, Germany, and Australia. Respondents all owned a smartphone or mobile phone and had been the recipient of communication from a business via a variety of channels including email, text message, messaging app, social media, phone, or a company’s mobile app.