Wednesday, July 11, 2012
It’s amazing to think that just a little over two decades ago, consumers had only two options to communicate across long distances—telephone and mail. In today’s mobile, post-PC world, consumers have countless ways to communicate with each other—and they have similar options when it comes to communication with brands. The question is how do consumers determine the proper channel for their communication needs. The decision appears to boil down to six factors:
Is this a marketing message?
Consumers are much more selective about the channels through which they will allow marketing messages than they are with personal or professional communications. Consumers— while they may be huge FANS—don’t necessarily want to be friends with brands. They still draw hard and fast lines about when and where marketing communications are appropriate.
Do I need to send or receive this message right away?
Consumers often select a communication channel based on how quickly a message must be sent or received. SMS (text messaging), telephone, and instant messaging through social networks tend to be the channels consumers use most often when time is of the essence. If your message is imperative (from the consumers’ perspective) and you have permission, these “urgent” channels will perform best. If not, you should consider moving communications to less urgent channels such as email or direct mail.
Will I need to reference this message later?
The ability to easily archive and access messages at a later time influences consumer channel preferences. While smartphones and tablets replicate much of the desktop messaging experience, many consumers purposely “park” messages to take later action from their computers (which may have faster internet access, larger screens, full keyboards, etc.). Email remains a powerful channel for its ability to bridge the three-device environment of smartphone, tablet, and PC.
Do I want the world to know about this message?
Privacy remains a hot button and source of confusion for many consumers. Where privacy is crucial, consumers gravitate toward channels with an established track record of protecting conversations (text messaging, telephone, and email). Where privacy is not a concern, consumers happily embrace social channels such as Facebook and Twitter that provide them with the public opportunity to share, vent, or engage. This isn’t to say that consumers don’t send direct messages through Facebook and Twitter, just that they proceed with greater caution as these channels are best known for their more public communications.
Do I need to convey a level of professionalism with this message?
When a task such as job hunting calls for a degree of formality, consumers favor more established channels. Across all age groups we surveyed, job seekers indicated a clear preference for contact through the company’s website first, followed by sending an email or making a phone call. Consumers tend to view marketing messages as formal communications; thus, when given a choice, they tend to prefer to receive them through more formal channels.
How did the conversation originate?
This final factor is the one that can trump all the others. If the consumer initiates communication with your brand, then the channel they choose may be deemed appropriate for response. Be advised, however—the nature of the conversation (if not laws regulating your industry) may necessitate that you move it from a public space (Twitter, for instance) to a private one (Twitter direct message or email) especially if the subject matter is of a sensitive nature.
Learn more about consumer's channel preferences in our 2012 SUBSCRIBERS, FANS, and FOLLOWERS report, Channel Preference Survey. Download here.