Written by Natalie Schwab with Zipwhip
The coronavirus pandemic has limited face-to-face communication in a way most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes, with more local governments announcing shelter-in-place orders weekly. But social distancing hasn’t quashed our ability to connect with one another. Consumers are quickly adapting; whether it’s Zoom happy hours with friends or text threads with healthcare providers, we’re finding new and innovative uses for technology to keep us connected in the toughest of circumstances.
To find out how businesses and consumers are coping with the rapidly changing coronavirus situation, we surveyed 1,000 people across three states that have been hit hardest: New York, Washington and California.
Consumers are spending hours more on their mobile devices daily
It’s no surprise that in this time of limited personal interaction, consumers are turning to their cell phones for connection. Tools like text messaging, video chat and social media create a vital lifeline to the outside world in times of isolation. When asked how the coronavirus crisis has impacted their cell phone usage, 56% of people said they’re using their mobile devices more, with 46% spending an additional four or more hours every day.
So, what are consumers doing with that extra mobile time? In part, educating themselves on the coronavirus. The majority of survey respondents (55%) said that in the time of COVID-19 they prefer to consume news and receive alerts on their cell phone, followed by their laptop or computer (21%), television (20%), radio (3%) and print media (2%).
Our cell phones provide immediate access to whatever information we need, whenever we need it. And when it comes to connecting with friends, family and even the businesses we frequent, we turn again to our mobile devices.
Texting remains a vital tool for communication during COVID-19
As we learned in our 2020 State of Texting research, the majority of consumers prefer their texting app over other messaging apps including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. So we’re not surprised to see that consumers are sending more texts than usual during this crisis. Seventy-four percent of consumers said they’re communicating more with family and friends through text. In addition, our data shows consumers are using texting to communicate more with coworkers and healthcare providers and for urgent news and alerts.
Being that many are at home with easy access to their mobile devices, consumers are responding to texts faster, too. Sixty-two percent report responding faster to incoming texts since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Businesses are adapting to stay connected during the coronavirus crisis, too
Businesses are being hit hard by the measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants in many states have had to pivot to takeout and delivery services only, while industries like travel and entertainment are dealing with a high volume of phone calls to process cancelations and refunds. Seventy percent of consumers are reporting longer wait times than normal when trying to reach businesses by phone.
As a result, many businesses are finding new ways to serve their customers with text messaging. During a crisis, texting automation tools like SMS keywords and auto replies make it easy to get customers the information they need when a representative can’t answer the phone. And texting is effective for proactive outreach on a large scale, too. From rescheduling appointments to notifying clients of new online services, we’re hearing daily of new use cases for texting amidst COVID-19.
Texting isn’t just convenient for businesses; it’s how the majority of consumers want to be reached. Forty-eight percent said they prefer to receive alerts and important notices from businesses via text message, compared to 45% who said email and 7% who said phone calls.
Your customers’ email inboxes are likely overrun with coronavirus-related messages right now, making it difficult for them to decipher what’s important. If you need to reach your customers with a high-priority message such as impacted store hours or a limited-time promotion, a text will likely yield the best result. Whereas phone calls can be disruptive, especially to those who are juggling remote work and parenting right now, a text gives your customer the chance to read and respond when it’s most convenient for them.
In addition to wanting texts from businesses, consumers indicated a desire for local public agencies to adopt texting. During a crisis, 77% of people said they want to receive texts from local health officials, 59% want texts from police and fire departments, 57% want texts from government leaders and 48% want texts from relief agencies like the Red Cross.
Remote workers need efficient communication tools
In addition to using texting to serve customers, many businesses are relying on it to communicate with employees during this challenging time. In states that have enacted shelter-in-place orders, a business can only keep its office open if it’s deemed essential, which means thousands of employees are now working from home. This makes remote communication more important than ever. Tools like Zoom are being rapidly adopted to carry on productive meetings, while texting is being used for quick alerts and updates. Seventy-two percent of businesses say they’re using texting to communicate with employees and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition, we found that 64% of businesses currently have employees working and communicating with customers from home. It’s important for businesses to use tools that provide customer communication oversight, especially during sensitive times. Many texting tools offer admin controls that give managers insight into all customer conversations, allowing them to provide feedback and craft helpful best practices for crisis communications.
Today’s crisis underscores the value of mobile technology. More than ever, consumers are turning to their devices to connect with loved ones and colleagues, but also to engage with businesses in totally new ways—texting their doctors, participating in online fitness communities, sharing scriptures with their congregations and much more.
“This data shows that in a time of crisis, consumers want to simplify their communication channels and use what they know best, which is texting.” – John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip
If you think your business could benefit from texting, we’re offering a free trial of Zipwhip. Just scroll down and fill out our form to get started. For more information on how to use texting, including etiquette and text templates, download our free e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers.