Rachael Nevins: Companies need to embrace the big changes in consumer expectations

The year 2020 marks an important milestone in many businesses’ long-term corporate plans.

Rachael Nevins

It would be no surprise if some were looking nervously at the progress of their digital transformation strategies, and particularly at the way they communicate with customers. How many are really where they should be in their customer communication management?

As new roadmaps and corporate visions are developed for the next five years, the time has come for businesses of all sectors and sizes to embrace the change in consumer expectations and the possibilities of new technology to create more effective conversations.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

The rapid rise of digital channels has been well documented and long anticipated. In 2011, research and advisory company Gartner predicted that, by 2020, customers will manage 85 per cent of their relationship with brands without interacting with a human. Well, that time has come, and with most consumers today interacting with brands through a range of channels – from tried-and-tested SMS and email to advanced apps and chatbots – many would agree those predictions have come to fruition.

Having the supply of technology is one thing, but this backed up by the sheer consumer demand for online creates real commercial opportunity for businesses.

In terms of email, however, three quarters (77 per cent) of people prefer to receive promotional messages via email than by direct mail, SMS or phone.

This is all low-hanging fruit for businesses and makes a clear case when it comes to channel choice, but many are still yet to take the initiative.

When these highly effective channels are used as part of an intelligent multi-channel campaign, businesses start to build lasting relationships with customers.

With such compelling evidence, it might seem obvious that any consumer-facing business should switch to email and SMS as part of their digital transformation roadmap and reap the benefits.

The reality isn’t quite so clear cut. As well as adopting digital, savvy businesses are exploiting the benefits of traditional routes like print as part of a thoughtfully considered customer communication management strategy.

Interestingly, seven out of ten of consumers say that receiving direct mail makes them feel valued, and more than a third (38 per cent) make a purchase as a result of receiving it, a report by JICMAIL revealed. In a digital world, print has demonstrable power.

People also feel print is more appropriate for sensitive information, with more than half (51 per cent) preferring to receive this type of communication by post. Brands deal with a lot of confidential data and being responsible with this is a key way to build trust.

In some contexts, consumers are also showing signs of fatigue with digital communication. Three-quarters (74 per cent) of consumers say they feel overwhelmed by the frequency of emails they receive. Irritating your customers is a sure way to erode the relationship.

The evidence for each customer communications channel may present businesses with a dilemma – digital transformation is vital, but traditional channels still hold sway. How does this all balance out? The answer is establishing clear objectives and an effective strategy for the customer communications campaign.

Working with a trusted integrated communications consultancy allows businesses to determine the best strategy, channel mix and messages. In short, it enables them to deliver on their customer communications goals and meet the corporate requirements for their digital transformation for the next five years and beyond. 2020 may have been the future for a long time, but the future is now.