Over 85 percent of 2,000 global consumers surveyed by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, in partnership with Pitney Bowes, reveal that a blend of both digital and physical channel experiences is the preferred way of interfacing with brands, as revealed in a new study, dubbed Critical Channels of Choice. Yet, only 13 percent of consumers believe that brands are fully meeting this expectation and delivering across both physical and digital channels.
Bucking the assumption that younger generations are digital-only, 87 percent of Millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born after 1997) say they prefer an omnichannel choice of communications. Across all generations, key omnichannel touchpoints are an expectation, not an option. These include access to email, phone, web, in-person engagements, video, social media and printed mail. The overwhelming majority of consumers – 91 percent – suggest that omnichannel experiences are either important or critical, with 29 percent suggesting that companies should be “where I want, when I want, ready to share and communicate how I expect.”
Among the key generational shifts identified by the study:
- When it comes to channels consumers can’t live without, all but Gen Z reached for their phones. For Gen Z, they simply cannot part with social, which they are likely accessing on their phone.
- Social emerges as a key channel of discovery and influence for Millennials and Gen Z, while Gen X (born between 1965-1980), Boomers (born between 1946-1964) and the Silent Generation (born between 1928-1945) rely on websites to discover new products, and they admit that web is also the biggest influence on buying decisions.
- Think ONLY Gen Z is an open book? Think again. Across all generations, the majority of consumers are comfortable sharing some data with brands, especially consumers in Europe who have been well-educated about data and its uses and benefits. In exchange, consumers expect to understand what is collected and how it is used. Specifically, Millennials are slightly more inclined to share more data in exchange for better personalization.
- Everyone gets frustrated when asked to re-start conversations with a brand after they shift to a new channel. But Boomers hold a grudge, as 78 percent – the highest across all ages – say that this frustration has led them to question why they do business with the brand at all.
“It is easy to assume that a single generation will embrace or reject a single channel as we see individual adoption rates soar or plummet year over year,” noted Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing with the CMO Council.
“But we also live in an age where we are seeing incredible creativity being applied across both digital and physical channels – where digitally native brands like Google, Casper and Harry’s Shave Club are looking to disrupt consumer behavior and consideration patterns with beautiful printed pieces pulled from a mail box and extend the reach and impact of email, mobile and in-store experiences. We can’t afford to ignore or discount physical experiences by assuming digital is the only channel of engagement. Consumers are not focused on channel. They are focused on their own needs, requirements and preferences. The call to action is to meet them in their moments and not in ours,” she adds.
One example of how channels are evolving to increase influence and disrupt behaviors can be seen in consumer reaction and reliance on video. Consumers indicate that control, personalization and the ability to “build-their-own-adventure” were all ways to their hearts and wallets. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said they want to engage with videos that reflected specific products and services they own or are interested in. Another 43 percent stated they would like video to be more interactive, allowing them to decide what information they can view and when.
“It’s incredible to note how even the newest and most exciting of digital channels continue to evolve as consumer preference fully embraces the omnichannel opportunity,” noted Jeff Winter, VP of Marketing & Communications, Pitney Bowes. “Whether by traditional means of communication, or more modern means like video and chatbot, one constant remains: everyone wants to be treated as an individual and it is up to us to deliver on that promise. The amount of data and emerging technologies available today make this an attainable goal for our industry. But it’s those brands who embrace these capabilities that will stand out as leaders in the future.”