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Do Consumers Prefer Digital Communications?

By: LaToya Irby

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As technology advances, so do the number of ways we can communicate with each other. Rather than waiting a few days for a letter to arrive in the mail or walking to the mailbox to pick up the mail, we can send an email or text message that a person can read and respond to in a matter of seconds.

Instant messaging through social media or other third-party messaging apps (like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) allows us to communicate with each other in real time.

The benefits of digital communication go beyond person-to-person communications.

How Consumers React to Digital Communication From Businesses

Consumers increasingly use email, text, and social media to communicate with co-workers and businesses, in addition to family and friends.

People prefer to receive communications from companies through email over other communication methods, according to a 2017 study by Egg Strategy. The study, which was commissioned by SendGrid, revealed that the majority of people - 85% - believe their usage of email will either remain the same or increase in the next five years.

There’s still a small segment of people who don’t prioritize email. For this minority, text messaging and social media are the preferred communication methods.

The use of smartphones plays a role in the growing preference for digital communications. The majority of Americans - 81% according to Pew Research Center - owns a smartphone, which allows them to connect to email, social networks, and text messaging at almost any time, day or night. Pew Research found that almost 3 in 10 adults is connected to the internet all the time.

Consumers’ growing preference for digital communication means that businesses may need to rely less on traditional forms of communication in favor of the digital communications.

Digital Communications Present Pros & Cons for Businesses

There’s a lot of upside for email and text message communications for businesses.

For starters, email is cheaper. Not only does email eliminate postal costs, businesses also save on printing and envelopes. The human resources that were dedicated to sending and receiving mail can be directed to other tasks. Bulk text messaging is not as inexpensive as email, but is becoming more cost effective over time.

Digital communications also allows companies can also reach more people in less time at a fraction of the cost. This is especially beneficial with sales and marketing messages where reaching a greater number of consumers improves effectiveness of a campaign.

Since so many people keep their smartphones with them and connected to the internet at all times, digital communications reach consumers wherever they are - work, home, vacation. This is particularly useful for delivering timely communications.

There’s also some downside to digital communications.

You’re competing with dozens of other senders and there’s no guarantee consumers will receive or read your email. With consumers receiving dozens of emails each day, they have to decide which emails deserve their attention and which will remain unread until there’s more time.

With digital communications, particularly email, there’s the risk that the email might get caught in spam. On top of that, there’s no guarantee the recipient will receive your message. Many people have multiple email accounts, including separate ones for “junk mail,” or email they plan to not open.

And even when an email does wind up in a consumer’s inbox, the message has to be just right to get a consumer’s attention as consumers start to expect more personalization from the company’s who contact them.

Consumers growing preference for digital communications presents an opportunity for businesses to reach their audience. Before integrating email and text messaging into your communication strategy, it’s important to make sure you’re complying with relevant laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and CAN-SPAM Act.