When we set out to collect data on the state of business texting, we never imagined that within 30 days, businesses everywhere would be forced to digitize overnight. COVID-19 demanded changes to most of our social interactions—digital payments replaced in-person credit card swiping, phone and video conferencing replaced in-person meetings, and the demand for communicating via text became necessary, not just convenient.
And while all of our data was gathered before COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders and social distancing, we’ve seen nothing but an increase in the demand for digital communication. As of April 2020, Podium’s customer base has reported a 125% increase in inbound customers because they use texting to communicate to prospects. Business texting is the requirement for our new future.
To fully understand the bar marketers are asked to meet, and the world we’re shifting to tomorrow, we need to understand the state of business texting. Let’s walk through what we found.
The information in this report is based on data gathered in a survey of 1,000 respondents. The breakdown of responses came as follows: 362 (companies with 1 – 250 employees, or small business), 278 (companies with 251 – 1,000 employees, or mid-market), and 360 (companies with over 1,000 employees, or enterprise). All survey respondents work in marketing or, in the case of the small business respondents, are the owners of the business. All marketing roles are “manager” or above. All data was collected in February of 2020.
Note for reading charts and tables: percentages may not add up to 100% due to the rounding nature of the data. Some questions allowed multiple responses. Unless otherwise noted, all data contains 1,000 responses.
Key Findings & Insights
Many businesses are still relying heavily on marketing tools of the past—email and phone calls. Half of marketers in all business sizes, from small businesses to enterprises, report that they have introduced text messaging to their toolset to meet the demands of today’s customers, though they still rely heavily on email and phone calls.
Marketers who have been with their companies for over ten years are more likely to stick with what they see as the tried and true methods that don’t include text messaging. As younger people move up and older generations retire, we expect to see a shift in thinking.
Customers are still reporting, more than ever, that speedy response times, 24-hour communication, and tools used to communicate are important. Four out of five marketers agree.
On a final note, marketers that reported they don’t currently use text messaging in their business believe they could likely benefit from implementation in two ways: it would provide an easier way for customers to communicate with them and it would allow brands to resolve questions and concerns quickly and efficiently.
The data from this report has been divided into three segments: Business Communication Channels, What Customers Want, and Messaging and Messaging Software.
Business Communication Channels
How do businesses communicate with prospects and leads? Business communication channels have expanded beyond traditional methods of email, phone calls, and direct mail. With so many communication tools, it’s interesting to note that only 48% of marketers report that they are very effective at communicating with their clients.
How effective are you at communicating with clients?
Companies currently connect with their prospects and customers through email and phone calls. Many rely on their website’s contact us form while others expect customers to reach out in web chat platforms. Over half of marketers agree that their communication channels are old-fashioned and they haven’t progressed from phone and email. Four out of five marketers connect with their customers via email and only 48% have a text messaging platform in place today.
How do you connect with leads or prospects?
Business communication channels break down further by business size. For small businesses, the top three channels include email, phone calls, and text messaging. Those top communication channels:
What communication platforms do your prospects and customers prefer?
When asked about what their customers would prefer, most marketers still believe email is the preferred method of communication with phone calls trailing in as a close second. And company size doesn’t change the answer—small businesses, mid-market, and enterprises all believe email is the most popular platform despite the fact that 90% of customers prefer to engage with a business through texting or another messaging app.
Customers prefer to engage with a business through texting or another messaging app. But businesses still believe customers prefer email and phone calls to text messaging. Businesses think their customers prefer the following communication methods:
With so many communication platforms available, most marketers agree it’s difficult to standardize messaging or regulate content across all channels simultaneously. More than 50% say that switching back and forth between different communication platforms is time-consuming and hinders their productivity. This plays into the hesitancy to add additional channels when ramp time, standardization, and resources are in short supply.
It’s difficult to regulate or standardize across multiple communication channels.
Switching back and forth between multiple communication channels hinders your productivity.
There are also issues with the number of communication tools. Marketers don’t have enough resources to manage all of their lead and customer-facing communication channels. It’s nearly impossible to manage with too many disconnected channels. The disruption results in missed leads and messages that fall through the cracks because it’s difficult to keep up with multiple platforms.
And how does this translate to the customer? Not well. Marketers agree that their leads and customers have too many points of contact with their brand. Each interaction becomes less and less personal. Nearly 40% of marketers say they don’t have the capacity to respond to messages quickly and it reflects poorly on their brand.
It’s worse for mid-market and enterprise businesses. More than 50% say they have too many communication paths with their customers and leads and their lack of capacity to respond to messages quickly is higher than the overall 37%—rising to almost 50% in the mid-market responses and 43% for enterprise.
What customers want.
We know, from outside research, that convenience is an expectation for customers in today’s world. Nearly 80% of U.S. consumers say that convenience is one of the most important elements of a positive customer experience. And marketers are keyed into that fact. Four out of five marketers report that customers want to pick the communication method that works best for them. And communicating outside of business hours is just as important.
Text messaging is growing in importance as customers would prefer to text instead of speak on the phone. While all marketers agree that these points are important, mid-market and enterprise businesses are more likely to report that text messaging is important.
66% of marketers say that text messaging is increasingly important.
Speedy response times are important to customers and nearly 100% of marketers agree. And consumers still prefer real people to bots or an automated menu when they have to make a phone call.
96% of marketers say receiving a fast response is important to both prospects and customers.
Speaking to a real person is more important than an automated menu or bot.
Regardless of company size, the most important factors in customer communication from a brand are: speedy response times and speaking to a real person.
Messaging and messaging software.
With customer expectations high for speedy response times and speaking with a human, it’s clear that text messaging is the tool businesses need to lean into in order to keep up. Nearly 60% of marketers believe texting will replace email and phone calls as the most preferred method of communication between customers and brands. And the number of marketers that believe texting is a fad or only appeals to younger generations, is falling.
57% of marketers report that text messaging will soon replace email and phone calls as the most preferred method of communication between customers and brands.
We know that the open rate for email hovers around 20% and the open rate for text messages is an incredible 98%.3 It’s clear that texting is the preference of the consumer.
Among the businesses that already use text messaging as a communication channel for prospects and customers, half use their phone or tablet to send messages to customers while a growing number use a text messaging platform. Enterprise and mid-market businesses are more likely than small businesses to use a text messaging software platform to answer questions and ease concerns faster. It’s easier to manage responses and the visibility of previous messages adds context—improving the conversation overall.
How likely are you to use a text messaging platform?
What is the primary benefit of using a text messaging platform?
What is the primary benefit of using a text messaging platform?
How do businesses use text messaging?
Among the businesses that currently use a text messaging platform, nearly half use it to send reminders to customers or patients while others use it to communicate about a purchase, collect customer feedback, or answer questions. Over one-third use it for lead generation or sales and a growing number are using text messaging to collect payments and ask for reviews.
Enterprise businesses are more likely to use text messaging to send reminders while small businesses, proving incredibly flexible, are more likely to communicate about a purchase.
Businesses that don’t currently use text messaging are weighing out the benefits of moving over to this growing platform. But they see the value. When asked about the main value of text messaging, the top three answers include:
- Provide an easier way for customers to communicate with them
- Resolve questions or concerns faster and easier
- Faster responses from prospects and customers
Sending reminders is the main way most businesses believe they can utilize text messaging:
Respondents agree that customers want a fast response when they communicate with a business. With three in five marketers reporting that text messaging will soon replace email and phone calls as the most preferred method of communication, it’s time to make a shift so your business can adapt to the needs of your customer.
Mid-market and enterprise businesses report a lack of resources to make the shift to text messaging without additional help for tools currently implemented for lead and customer-facing communication.
But the trend will continue to grow and businesses that want to remain competitive, or even make the first move in their industry, will need to implement text messaging into their prospect and customer communication plans. There’s no time to waste.
If your business does not have a text messaging platform in place, it’s time to implement the right tool. We recommend these changes:
Use a text messaging platform to start communicating with your current client list. Offer reminders, upsells, discounts on future purchases, and ask for feedback. You’re more likely to continue a conversation with your customer via text.
Offer a text option to your prospects. Whether it’s an option to move webchat conversations from the Internet to their mobile device or an opportunity to connect directly with a real human in your organization for questions or concerns, you will be meeting the prospect where they want to be—on their phone. Offer text messaging to your prospects in advertising, social media, signage, and your Google My Business page.
Test your email and text messaging lists for open rates and engagement. Compare the two and find what platforms perform better for specific messages. Baseline your open rates against the averages—20% for email and 98% for texting.
Press send with Podium.
Podium offers a suite of messaging tools for local businesses. From getting found online to winning repeat business, Podium powers every step. It’s the simplest way to connect to consumers by pressing send–talking to customers, collecting reviews, and gathering insights in real-time through text.
- Press send to attract more leads with frictionless communication
- Press send to retain customers by staying connected to them throughout the customer journey
- Press send to save time by making work more efficient for you and your team
Learn more about how you can add convenience to your business with Podium: Watch a demo here.