Email In The Time Of A Pandemic: Channel Is Most Favored By Consumers

Email reigns supreme as a customer engagement channel. 

As consumers turn to digital as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, 91% rate email as a top communications channel, according to Critical Channels of Choice—How Covid Has Changed the Channels of Engagement, a study by the CMO Council. 

Next are websites (61%), telephone (59) in-person (49%) and text (43%). 

And when they have a critical need, 55% of consumers now view email as a channel they could not live without. That reflects a slight margin over the telephone, but it is a major shift, given that the phone was the overwhelming choice last year. 

Telephone slipped, in part, because brands delivered a poor experience using the phone, the study says.

In general, consumers see email as:

  • Convenient — 29%
  • Trackable — 22%
  • Reliable — 18%
  • Fast — 11%
  • Trusted — 8%
  • Personal — 7%



Email is also seen as a trusted channel when consumers need to communicate with a brand. They prefer it even when they don’t get an immediate answer because “there’s a social contract that a brand will respond in short order, even if it’s an automated response,” the study states. 

But email also brings challenges to brands, one of which is that consumers’ inboxes “are flooded with non-relevant marketing messages resulting in low open rates,” it continues.

Moreover, email is only one part of the multichannel environment that consumers find frustrating. 

For one thing, 87% of are irritated by having to reenter details in multiple channels — so much so that 73% question whether they should do business with that brand. Gen X is most irritated by having to repeat themselves, and Gen Z the least annoyed.

And in general, 65% say brands are not exceeding expectations with digital engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However,  21% of consumers now prefer to engage with brands only via digital, from discovery to conversion. That’s up from 10% last year, likely reflecting the impact of the pandemic on habits.

On the privacy front, 25% of the respondents would share their personal data to receive more personalized experiences and offers. In addition, 22% would do so to receive better service, 15% for faster service, 9% to be able to self-serve and 7% to receive more engaging experiences. 

The CMO Council surveyed more than 2,000 consumers in October. The survey covered six countries: the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. 





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