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Despite an explosion of new channels, email and text are still the preferred channels for consumers when talking to businesses, according to research from cloud communications platform provider Twilio. This article is copyright 2019 The Best Customer Guide.

In partnership with Lawless Research, Twilio surveyed 2,500 consumers in the US, UK, Germany, and Australia about their communications preferences and experiences. 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.

Over the past decade, the number of ways consumers communicate with one another has dramatically increased. With a slew of new channels rising in popularity, businesses are presented with the challenge of figuring out how to interact with their customers on all these new mediums. According to Twilio's research, 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.

Key findings from the report included:

  • Email is king, but text if it's urgent
    A consumer's channel preference is largely influenced by the urgency of the message. The majority of consumers consider change of plans, delivery or arrival notifications, and appointment reminders as urgent messages. Some 83% of global consumers say 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 out of consumers curate their home screens, less than half of consumers say they put corporate mobile apps on their home screen.
  • Communicate correctly and reap the rewards
    Businesses that communicate using the right frequency and channels enjoy higher consumer goodwill. Three quarters (75%) of consumers have rewarded businesses that communicate in the way they prefer (i.e. visiting the website, making a purchase, having a positive impression). And 7 out of 10 consumers have penalized a business when the communication experience wasn't 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%).
  • 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 that messages are received vs. 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.
  • Meet consumers on the right channel, with the right message
    Businesses earn consumer trust and loyalty by delivering relevant content via consumers' preferred channels at the right time. Some 94% of consumers reported that they are annoyed by the current communications they receive from businesses. Annoyances included: Content is not relevant (56%); Don't remember opting in (41%); Being contacted in the wrong communication channel (33%). Afternoons are the preferred contact time for consumers and only 13% of consumers prefer to be contacted in the evening.

Best Practices
Between the influx of channels and ever-changing consumer preferences, businesses can be challenged to keep up and meet the customers expectations. However, with a focused and deliberate approach, businesses can reap the rewards of effective communication. For example:

  1. Don't treat every customer the same
    While generations have specific preferences, we are in the time of uber personalization so getting communications right on behalf of the consumer should be the goal. Let customers identify what communications they want and when they want them in order to build a lasting relationship.
  2. Embrace different channels for different purposes
    Consumers have different reasons for using different channels and want businesses to be able to adapt. It's no longer enough to know channel preferences of your customers; you now need to map the power of each channel to the type of communication you are sending them.
  3. Consider the urgency of the message when selecting the channel you send it through
    Be clear about what communications are urgent and don't abuse channels that customers prioritize for immediate needs.
  4. Embrace an omnichannel approach and make it easy for customers to customize where they want to be reached
    Consumers prefer experiences where they can control the frequency and channel when they hear from you. 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.
  5. 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 personalisation.

"Every day we hear from brands who want to improve their customer experience yet are overwhelmed by the increasingly complex communications landscape," said Sara Varni, chief marketing officer at Twilio. "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."