Whether by force or choice, consumers have started to adapt to and expect omnichannel engagement channels in every service.

In a survey of 5,000 consumers from 14 countries, 47% of consumer respondents worldwide indicated increased use of digital channels to engage with businesses and service providers over the past 12–18 months, with 87% expecting to maintain or increase this level in the next 6–12 months.

The research highlights changes over the past two years that reinforce the need for businesses and service providers to transform their customer engagement strategies to become more agile and adapt to permanent changes caused by the COVID-19.

Here in Asia, 52% of consumers in the survey had significantly increased their use of digital channels to engage with businesses and service providers since the outbreak of COVID-19 (retail & ecommerce). For education, this was 51%; plus 49% in banking & finance, 46% in healthcare services; 43% in media, gaming & online dating; and 31% in transportation & travel. In the next six to 12 months, 44% of Asia respondents indicated they would continue to increase their digital engagement with retail and ecommerce service providers, followed by education and banking & financial services (42%), healthcare (38%), media, gaming & online dating (36%) and transportation & travel (34%).

Other findings

Emerging communications channels that saw an increase in preference included messaging via social messaging apps and chatbots. Consumer preference for messaging apps had doubled since the outbreak of the pandemic. Additionally:

  • Consumers in the survey used and preferred WhatsApp both to call and text more than any other messaging channel, beating even SMS and Facebook Messenger. WhatsApp was 160% more popular than SMS, and 27% of respondents users preferred to use WhatsApp to communicate with a service provider, making it the preferred messaging app in Asia, followed by SMS (22%), WeChat (16%) and Line (14%).
  • Consumers who embraced new and emerging channels of communication during the pandemic indicated little inclination return to old habits. The usage of digital channels(video, chatbots, non-SMS messaging apps, etc.) has grown considerably, while more traditional channels (mobile voice calls, email) have held steady.
  • 46% of consumers in the survey were very likely to stop buying from a business or using its services if their calls repeatedly went unanswered with no other channels available for help.
  • Three in five consumers in the survey were video chatting with a business or service provider more now than they were 18 months ago, and four in five expected their video chats with friends and family to stay the same (55%) or increase even further (35%) during the next six months.
  • Consumers in the survey were using video chat to connect with healthcare services 50% more today than they were during the outbreak of novel coronavirus in 2020.
  • 37% of surveyed consumers preferred video chat when learning and studying remotely with a tutor.
  • 38 percent of respondents preferred video calls when collaborating with their team or customers on an important project. Digital engagement while working increased for at least half of respondents in each region. APAC saw a 65% increase since the start of the pandemic.

Said Joy Corso, Chief Marketing Officer, Vonage, the firm that commissioned the yearly survey: “Digital channels have rapidly emerged alongside traditional methods of communication, with sharp and sustained growth in video, chatbots, app-based messaging and calling, while email and traditional voice calls remain relatively status quo. This underscores the need to connect with and engage with customers in multiple ways, in their preferred modality. We are in an age where customers expect ultra-fast, seamless and dynamic communications and engagement.”