In this episode, Pamela Clark-Dickson shares fresh data from Omdia’s recent consumer survey – and delves into key insights on what consumer trends and tech innovations brands can leverage to modernize customer communications and build conversational commerce experiences.
Pamela, welcome to the show. We did a bit of an intro in the beginning of the show, but I'm sure our audience would want to hear directly from you. So could you just tell us who you are and what you do.
Thank you, Jean. It's a pleasure for me to be here on the show. So, yes, I'm Pamela Clark-Dickson. I'm the practice leader of the communications and social research stream at Omdia within the consumer and entertainment services research pillar. Omdia is a global business to business research and consulting firm. We aim to provide actionable insights to our clients.
Let's just start right from there. Now, what are you lately watching more closely as we are kicking off this new decade 2020?
I'm watching at the moment and I think what a lot of industry analysts are watching, there are a few things.
First of all, 5G is obviously uppermost on a lot of analysts minds and so it's going to be interesting to see what happens there with regards to consumers and how they use communication services or what sorts of communication services telcos will provide for them, whether there'll be any difference. At the moment, it does seem to be no real difference that the focus tends to be more on enterprise related services and on more content oriented services like cloud-based gaming and so forth.
The expansion of commerce on communications apps is another trend that I'm closely watching at the moment. There have been, we know that in China, in South Korea and in Japan, the use of commerce on communications apps is well-used. So, but we're starting to see, or we have seen just in the recent past, Facebook enabling commerce, various commerce related capabilities on its Instagram and we'll see that rolling out I think a bit more with Facebook Pay coming to all of the apps as well. That was something that Facebook launched towards the end of last year. So it'll be interesting to see how much consumers will use that kind of service on the Facebook suite of apps.
And then finally, I guess another key area that I'm watching and have been watching for a while and want to continue looking into is this provision of a richer communications experience into customer care. Whether that's app based, as I just mentioned or via the telco service of rich communication services. So those are the three sort of broad trends that I guess I'm watching as we go forward into the 2020s.
That sounds like a lot that is happening actually. But before we get into sort of unpacking those, and I'm actually curious because you’ve been in the industry over a decade now and watching these things shaping up and moving forward, if you were to just look back and see some of the trends that you thought will really take the market forward faster…some of them that came true as well as some that did not. Are there any interesting tidbits you want to share on that?
Sure. So I guess if I look at, I mentioned RCS there at the end and that's something that's been around for a while and we've seen lots of comment saying that RCS is going to be here this year and then this year and then this year and it's just not really taken off as quickly as I think the telco industry would have liked or even as quickly as Google would have liked, I think. And so we're starting to see Google and its impatience leading into things like Google guests where it's rolling out RCS independently of the telcos in some markets with a view I think to roping telcos back in when telcos in those markets launch RCS services. So that I guess is...it's kind of an easy one to pick for a prediction that has been a kind of a continual prediction but hasn't really delivered as yet.
I guess the other thing is, and this is sort of a broader industry trend I suppose, and we are starting to see that happen towards the end of the last decade where we're starting to see much more in the area of artificial intelligence and robotics. Maybe not so much robotics. It's certainly pushed forward a bit further than it did.
But, AI in particular, we're seeing that as another growth area, but it's ... I think it probably happened a bit slower than I was expecting it. I think you realize that there are a lot of different parts that need to be actually established as the foundation for these technologies. And thankfully towards the end of the decade, a lot more of these moving parts are in place.
Well that's exactly why I come to somebody like you to get the real pulse at things that are happening. Because us being in the industry, we tend to get excited…but this comes in a mixed bag though where if you don't watch for it, then you miss those opportunities that you could have made the difference.
So now I'm anxious to hear about the recent studies that you've been working on. Do you want to share some of the highlights?
Sure. Yes. So I'd like to just share with you some detail from our digital consumer insights survey. We run these as a series of surveys every year within Omdia. And so the particular survey that I work on is based around communications, media and commerce. And I just wanted to highlight some of the findings from this particular survey with regards to customer care.
So some of the things that I mean it hasn't really surprised me, but that maybe it surprises those with less of a knowledge of the industry or less of the knowledge of the communication side of the industry about how important a basic communication service like SMS still is as a communications channel. We still, according to our survey, it's probably.one of the top three or four communications channels that consumers still use to interact with their service providers.
And when I'm talking about communications channels, I'm looking at SMS, voice, email, web browsers, both with and without sort of agent interactions. So out of all of those, SMS is still right up there as a communications channel for the moment.
But it's important to acknowledge that chat apps are being used increasingly. The growth in them is increasing, not as high as some of the other channels that it is starting to increase year on year. So for example, if I look at the difference between 2018 and 2019 in terms of how consumers typically access customer care functions from their service providers, chat apps increased from about 9% to just over 14% in 2019. So from 9% in 2018 but then if you look at some of the communications channels, the more traditional ones, SMS unfortunately is actually declining but not as quickly. So it went from just over 23% to about 22% so it doesn't sound huge, but I think the overall trend is there, but we're still seeing a growth in email. So, and it's still one of the more popular channels that consumers use. So from just under 38% to just over. All brands I think need to still consider when they're looking at how they communicate with their customers and how their customers want to communicate with them.
But it does depend on the market in terms of, for example, if we look at chat apps in particular, so in some markets you have a very clear dominant chat app or communications apps that consumers are using. So WhatsApp for example, in Brazil and South Africa, obviously We Chat in China, but then it's fragmented in other markets. So you might have this almost even sort of use of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp in markets like Australia or the UK. I guess another thing is that video calling is a very popular service on communications apps, even more so than voice calling. And so as I'm talking to you here today, it's a video call as well and that's coming more into the business communications market. But I think that's more than likely going to make its way into customer care as well if not already and become more common. So just a few of the findings I guess from the customer care segment about how digital consumer insights survey.
I always get so intrigued by the geographical difference…market by market how these things change. Do you see any differences in other aspects meaning whether age difference or special vertical industries, are there any differences you see?
Well we haven't really segmented by vertical industry as such, but with age it is pretty much the younger demographic. I think you could say that for example, they tend to use video calling. And we do have that segmentation in our surveys as well. So if I look at for example, I'm just going to try and do this now on the phone while I'm on the call with you. So for example, it's video calls, probably about 76% of consumers under the age of 24 are using video calls on apps.
Whereas for consumers sort of over that age bracket, say over 25, if I look at that it's a bit lower at 61. I mean it's still pretty high but we do see some of that segmentation coming in and obviously the older the age group, the higher ups that you go, say for over 35 year olds that goes down to about half. So 53.4% would use video calling on their mobile phones via an app. So there are specific differences depending on what feature it is and the age group.
But this is where I'm going to ask you to provide your insights if not exact data. Because as a consumer, I consider myself as someone who is rather impatient. And I often find myself picking a brand based on how they quickly or not answering my questions and things in that nature. And it's a split second decision. And sometimes I kind of have this buyer's remorse later, but still at that moment of making that decision, I do really care who's going to get me the answer as quickly as I want it. And how do you see this happening on the consumer side and perhaps what some of these communications channels that you described are working for or against?
Well yeah I think that that is very much the case because I think as a society we are more geared towards that kind of instant gratification and we want that instant response from the companies that we are dealing with or buying things from or interacting in some other way. And a lot of the technologies and channels that are coming well that have been on the market for a while now, particularly through social media and communications apps are enabling that kind of instant communication.
So rather than sending an SMS and I mean, you know that it gets delivered very quickly but you might not get a response very quickly. That two way interaction with SMS was slightly more clunky and probably is still quite clunky today. We've seen chat apps really over taking there in terms of how responsive a business can be to a consumer inquiry. Say for example through Facebook, if you have Facebook you can send and you're interacting with a business on Facebook and they're using Messenger as their communications channel, you get an indication first of all of how long on average it takes them to respond, which is tremendously useful and I think it helps manage consumers expectations. And I think consumers don't mind if it takes a while, as long as they know, roughly when they can expect a response.
But then secondly, there is that capability for the business to respond very quickly. If you've got a number of people there on the back end that are responsible for manning the Messenger, a number of admins who can manage the messenger experience, that interaction between the business and the consumer can actually be quite quick. And it's easy. It's easy for consumers if they're on Facebook, if they have messenger. And this is just an example because obviously there are other communications apps and services out there that would be providing similar experiences, but it's easy for a consumer as well. So, that's one element of it. I think another element is in terms of when, you're talking about how a consumer is selecting brands.
Another thing that I think might be interesting just to mention is that the impact of social media influences now and particularly on Instagram for example. And I think these influencers are having a great deal of impact on how consumers are selecting the brands that they buy and that they interact with now. I know I'm using Facebook properties as an example here, but they are probably doing the most and the most visible in this space, but they're now enabling brands on Instagram to be able to monetize that because they're putting the commerce pieces in place as well.
So it's all of these things that I think are starting to come together as part of the selection process. You've got the logistical side of things and then the emotional side of things. How, once they've made a choice, then how do they get access to that product or service and then the actual act of making the choice set that itself, how do they make that choice?
It's really interesting to see how evolving the whole ... what communications actually does for brand engagement. Because it used to be, I think it was straightforward for customer service, how you would communicate with them is pretty much one way like email, except when you get call them and get somebody on the phone.
Now it sounds like we’re adding different things like logistics, there's this need to, basic need to know. It's about providing the data and all these things are coming together. Do you see any indication that consumers are aware of these things and demanding it or is this something just technology is enabling it?
Oh gosh, that is a good question. I think it might be a bit of both. As technology does tend to go through that series of stages in the adoption process, doesn't it? We see one company starting out with a feature or a service in the market and then it either lives or dies by virtue of whether ... the customers of that company that have introduced the technology actually use it.
And so I think the technologies…consumers, when you think about it, we do tend to be a bit lazy I guess, we'll probably do the least amount possible if we can in terms of getting access to a product or a service. And so, if the brand that provides that to us can make it easy for us to access and actually eliminate any barriers, then we'll probably go with that.
Assuming obviously there has to be other elements that come into play, like the value of the brand or the value of the product or the service that has to come into it as well. But the actual fulfillment process, I think anything that makes life easier for a consumer that is the kind of technology that is going to make a difference to their lives and that will be the technology that they'll want to keep on using to interact with their brand or their service provider.
I'm curious, when you're looking at and comparing all these different chat apps, are there any apps that are doing better in terms of providing features for commerce…to make it easier to have a conversation between companies and consumers?
Sure. I think that there are probably three or four. So, obviously we have seen WeChat, LINE, KaKao Talk, all making it super easy for their consumers to access a network of merchants and services through their platforms. And they've been doing that for a while now. What we're now starting to see is that Facebook is enabling a similar kind of capability on its platforms. And as I was mentioning to you before, the fact that businesses can have pages on Facebook, which they can then link with say a Facebook Messenger capability and soon there'll be Facebook Pay as well.
So we're seeing that democratization, I guess you could say, or access to a business via a social media platform or via communications platform that may not have been there before necessarily. And I think that's probably one of the most striking things about the development of the communications app and social media space recently.
Part 2 of the interview with Pamela Clark-Dickson will be released in two weeks, following this release of Part 1.