This week’s episode of Zipcast is very special as we will be discussing our newly published State of Texting Report. This comprehensive annual report will provide insight into the ever-changing texting industry. It investigates the constantly evolving trends in consumer communication preferences and business-texting usage. Ultimately, this report will serve as the industry benchmark and go-to resource for all things texting.
In this episode, Zipcast host Scott Heimes is joined by Natasha Gay, Zipwhip’s research and insight specialist who helped spearhead this first-of-its-kind report. They will talk through the results, sharing key insights, stand-out statistics and tangible takeaways for your business.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The biggest trends in customer communication preferences
- How other businesses are using texting
- What your business can do to adapt to these key findings
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Scott: Welcome to the zipcast where we talk about the latest trends and texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, Chief Marketing Officer at Zipwhip and thanks for tuning in.
Today, I’ll be talking with Natasha Gay. She’s the research and insight specialist at Zipwhip and she’s here to discuss the 2019 state of texting report. This is a comprehensive survey investigating how businesses and consumers use texting to communicate. Natasha will walk us through this fascinating data, sharing key insights and takeaways along the way. And if your business communicates with customers, I suggest you stick around.
Welcome to the zipcast, Natasha.
Natasha: Thank you Scott. Good to be here.
Scott: So tell us about what you do at Zipwhip.
Natasha: I am the research and insight specialist at Zipwhip. That means that I’m looking at our market trends and intelligence, how the industry is changing as well as the company, and then looking at our NPS score. How satisfied are our customers? Some more customer analytics on top of that and working with our analysts relationship.
Scott: Got it. And obviously you’re from outside of the United States. Tell us about where you’re from.
Natasha: Yeah, I’m from Perth, Australia and I came over in 2012.
Scott: Got It. Awesome. All right, so we are publishing a new thing called the 2019 state of texting report. It’s a big opportunity for us. We’re excited about it. Tell us what’s inside of it.
Natasha: Yeah, I’m really excited by this report. It’s the first of its kind. We have some major trends in the business texting industry. Key insights are going to include the 2019 trends as well as some predictions that we have, how consumers are using texting, both general and business texting and then how businesses are using texting and exactly what businesses are the ones that are texting the consumers.
Scott: Got It. And for you listeners out there, if you’re interested in checking out this report as we talk about it, go to zipwhip.com/sot19 to download or click the link in our show notes. Let’s get into it a little bit. How did the report come about and why did we do the survey?
Natasha: As we try to build content out, we’ve been finding that there’s just a general lack of recent industry stats. Also just a lack of knowledge on the business texting space, so we went ahead and we created the survey. It’s one of the largest of its kind. We’ve surveyed 2000 consumers and businesses making it one of the largest surveys in the industry.
Scott: Yeah, it really sets the foundation I think for business texting as we grow. Okay. So what would you say the key takeaways from the report are?
Natasha: We have a lot of great takeaways, but I think the key ones are in this top five. The first one, businesses as swiftly adopting text messaging as a communication tool. It’s the expected customer service level now. Second, the large majority of consumers are already being texted by a business, whether it’s an alert from your bank or texting with your veterinary as to how your dog’s doing after his surgery.
Thirdly, even as chatbots grow more sophisticated, consumers prefer talking to a real person. If I really need something I want to be able to have a proper conversation about it, even via text. Short code and programmatic APIs texting tools are leaving customers frustrated because they can’t reply back. If you send me a text message from a five to six digit phone number and I can’t reply back, we can’t have that customer service level and that communication.
And lastly, to avoid playing phone tag, consumers are often turning to texting. It’s the priority medium. It’s short, concise, and I know that you’re going to read it.
Scott: Anything that surprised you or that really stood out through the data?
Natasha: I think for us looking at the data, we were really excited to see a lot of our hypothesis were correct. Most of them maybe we could imagine. We have a really good understanding of the popularity and the adoption of business texting, but this study just proved that. It gave us some really interesting statistics.
It’s interesting to see how the scale of business texting is developing. The scale being from not texting at all, to some people seeing the value of business texting using short codes or other software to using a fully developed two-way business texting software like Zipwhip, and we have got some really interesting findings.
Scott: What kinds of businesses are seen to be using texting the most?
Natasha: We had a really nice spread of businesses. We had 25% of B2B businesses were using text messaging, 40% of B2C, which is business to consumer, and then we had 35% of companies who sell to businesses and consumers are using business texting. And that spread across different company sizes. 45% of small businesses are using business texting, which is really interesting. And then 35% of mid-market and enterprise businesses are using texting as well.
Scott: What were some of the industries that reported texting with customers the most?
Natasha: Yeah, real estate was a huge one. 73% of real estate companies are using text messaging, whether that be from their main office or from their agents. One thing to keep in mind with this study is that it’s reporting on long-code, short-code and personal text messaging. For a real estate agent, they’re using the personal cell phone or a cell phone that’s provided by the company.
Scott: And agriculture was number two, right?
Natasha: Yeah. Agriculture was 65%, so that can include landscaping, veterinary offices. It was a really interesting industry. They’ve come up so high as second and then we had entertainment and leisure ranking number three at 63.
Scott: A lot of sports teams and [crosstalk].
Natasha: A lot of sports teams, yeah, which we see now in Zipwhip customer base as well.
Scott: How about use cases? What are the most common use cases for texting for business?
Natasha: We had two really stand out use cases. Number one being scheduling and that was it 56%, and then customer service and support at 54. There is easy reminder text messages saying, “Hey, you have a dentist appointment tomorrow at 1:00 PM,” making sure people show up. And then customer service and support creating that relationship. It’s an instantaneous message, “I’m not leaving my computer behind because I have a chat bot open,” or anything like that, which was really interesting.
And then we also had sales and inquiries which was at 34% and marketing and promotions at 26%.
Scott: Got It. I’ve got a couple of results from the report here. I’d like to read through these and get your take on each one and your reaction. Let’s start with first 39% of companies currently use texting to communicate with customers. Is that surprising to you? Does that mean that we’re all getting texts from businesses or does that mean that there’s still a lot of room for growth in the industry itself?
Natasha: I think there’s still a lot of room for growth. We’re not at that 100% yet, but it was really nice to see that that number is increasing. We didn’t have previous statistics on how many businesses were. We had a feeling, but this is actually higher than we had anticipated, which is that was a bit surprising. It’s interesting to see the breakdown further in terms of who uses short code, long code, toll free numbers for their texting and that’s in the report.
Scott: Here’s another one. 76% of consumers have received a text message from a business before. Does this seem high to you or is it where you thought it’d track in?
Natasha: No, I think that’s about where it should track in. We get so many alerts via our text messages from our banks, pharmacies, and it just has to be one text and then we have been texted by business.
Scott: Yeah. A lot of automated texts though, right?
Scott: A lot of short codes and one Way API texts that come in through automated CRM tools and what have you.
Natasha: Yeah, exactly. A lot of one way automated alerts, which as we were talking about that scale sits in the middle. Business and texting is slowly developing, and we’ll eventually get to everyone having two way business texting so you can really communicate and do everything via text.
Scott: Yeah. Of the companies that do not text, 64% see the value of texting with businesses. If most companies see the value in business texting, why don’t you think more companies take advantage of it?
Natasha: I think it’s really interesting to look deeper into that stat. Of those that don’t text and see the value of them, 70% of those respondents didn’t have buying power for software or didn’t even recommend software. They’re the boots on the ground. They’re the people that are talking to the customers every day. They know what the customers want and what they really need to do their jobs properly to provide that top level of customer service, which I see as a huge point that directors and executives can look at that and talk to their people and really realize that they need texting.
Scott: Okay. Here’s another insight from the report. The average person sends 15 texts a day versus 12 emails a day. That’s roughly 25% more texts than emails, yet why are email inboxes so much more cluttered than our text inboxes?
Natasha: I think it speaks to the urgency and the priority of the medium. Emails are not so urgent anymore. We get emails from every company that we’ve signing up with through spam, email alerts, forums, notifications, but text messages, I only give my phone number out to the people that are really important to me, to their message.
When it comes down to it, I have so many emails marked as unread because I just get way too many of them, but when I go into my text message inbox, everything is read and generally everything is replied to if it needs a reply, because when I get a text message, I know that’s the most important thing on my phone.
Scott: It’s also a reflection, I think of the uniqueness of the text medium. It’s not hit a scenario where there’s a lot of spam flowing through it right now. The industry, including Zipwhip as a key player in it have done a lot of work to make sure that it doesn’t become a spammy medium.
Natasha: Exactly. Yeah. It’s a real pure medium at this stage. It’s exciting that we’re protecting that.
Scott: Here’s another quote related to email. 74% of consumers report having zero unread texts while only 17% report the same for email. Why does this matter to a business or a consumer?
Natasha: Really simply put, if I don’t see your email, I’m not going to get the information from it. And if it’s coming from a business, I’m not going to know about the sale or the alert or any information that you’re giving me. If I get a text message, I’m going to read it, I’m going to have that information and I will act on it. Whether that’s being responding to that text message or later going to the website, looking through the inventory.
For businesses, this is a huge thing that … And I think I will say Lauer puts it best. A quote from him, “You’ve probably given up your email box. He has 20,000 unread emails, but he’s texting inbox has zero. And that’s because texting is the highest priority medium.” And I completely agree that. So for a business perspective, if you want to get in front of your customers, texting is the way to go.
Scott: Yeah, just to reinforce that point, here’s another stat from the report. 75% of consumers will respond to a text message from a business within an hour while only 41% of consumers will respond to an email from a business within an hour. It’s just another point of, it’s higher priority, it’s short form and it’s designed for quick response.
Natasha: Exactly. And replying back to a text is so easy. I just open up my native texting app, click on the message and reply straightaway. If it’s my email, I probably have to scroll through because I’m flooded with emails. Then you have the more polite way of replying to an email. Texting you can still be formal, but it’s to the point, it’s concise and I can quickly do it as I’m walking down the hallway.
Scott: Chatbots are a hot topic these days. There’s a lot of investment going on around Artificial Intelligence and many of us out in the audience have experienced a chatbot on a website, for example.
Scott: Here’s a stat from the report related to chatbots. When consumers need something 74% prefer to talk to a real person rather than a chatbot. So what does this mean for a business in general?
Natasha: For a business, I think it’s really important to reflect on that, that when consumers really need something, they want to talk to a human who’s understanding of what’s going on they can have a conversation. A lot of the times when you go onto a website and you’re talking to a chatbot, maybe you’ll get one response, but it’s not that conversational flow. And with chatbots and AI, they are learning, but not at the speed that we’re having those conversations.
If they don’t have a pre-canned response, all of a sudden I don’t just don’t get a response at all. Talking to a human via text message, they can immediately respond exactly what I need.
Scott: Here’s another stat that’s related to installing new apps for communication. It said 61% of consumers would not install a new app to communicate with a business, which is a big deal really and it points to the universality of texting as a medium on cell phones today.
Natasha: Absolutely. I think it’s huge and I think it speaks to how ubiquitous text messaging is. It’s when you buy a new phone, text messaging is already there. I have 85 apps on my cell phone, I download them because apps are easier than websites sometimes or I just want to scroll through, but out of those 85, I only use 26 of those on a day to day basis, and three of those are messaging apps. Out of all of them texting is the priority. If I get a text message, that is the first thing I will check.
Scott: Consumers are frustrated when they reply back to a company’s text message from the report, yet companies are still using short codes and programmatic APIs to send business texts. What is a short code anyway?
Natasha: A short card is a five to six digit phone number that sends out text messages generally alerts, which is what I get from my bank on a short code and generally it’s on a mass level. They’re sending hundreds or thousands of text messages via the short code. And it’s frustrating because you don’t have the ability to reply.
Scott: The same is true of a programmatic APIs that send text via the software application. You can’t respond to a one way programmatic text.
Natasha: Exactly. And it frustrates consumers because though the company is sending that reminder, I don’t have the ability to reply back and say, “Well, I actually need to reschedule my appointment.” And it means that the company just doesn’t hear back from them. And though the text message may be helpful, you really want to increase that customer satisfaction, that customer communication.
Scott: Truly a testament to the power of two way conversational texting when you have a human on the other side of the text. You can react and respond and intuit and understand and deliver exceptional service.
Scott: Yeah. There’s also an interesting cost and complexity ramification for using short codes. You have to register it, you have to invest more than a ten digit or a 800 number to send texts over.
Natasha: They are expensive.
Scott: And it’s a lot of complexity and then you can’t respond to it. So it’s got a number of inherent negatives.
Scott: Just curious why companies continue to use them so much.
Natasha: Especially when it’s not their branded business, but you put so much money into branding your business and using that ten digit for a number and then you change the number and it’s not associated with your business and that can be really confusing for consumer.
Scott: Yeah. Okay. One of the other insights from the report is that only 10% of people are familiar with RCS, which is curious. Remind us first what RCS is.
Natasha: RCS is Rich Communication Services, and what that really means is the future version of texting. Texting 2.0 if you’ll have it that way. RCS is really going to transform texting and you’ll be able to do complete business interactions over it. For example, if I’m buying a ticket to the upcoming Rolling Stone concert, I can text my ticket rep, buy the ticket, do all the payment over text. They’ll be able to send me my ticket, a map of where my state is and maybe even a concert trailer.
I’ll be able to do all my interactions over text and never have to leave that conversation, which is really exciting. And then in terms of the familiarity of RCS, it hasn’t fully rolled out yet. So we’re slowly bringing in devices that will be RCS enabled. 2019 we’ll see an increase in RCS, but it wouldn’t be til 2020 where everyone is really aware of it and expecting that level of customer service.
Businesses have to get ready for that, and I would say in 2019 bring in business texting, put the resources towards it, so when RCS is here and it’s expected from your customers, you’re ready.
Scott: Yeah. Of course, one of the things that’s going to influence RCS adoption is the application of RCS apps on actual cell phones across America. That’s going to take some time. It’s rolling out today for most of the major carriers, and I agree with you that we’re probably going to see much more adoption in 2020 than we do in 2019 because of that.
We could go on and on here because there are so many more interesting stats and analytics and the state of texting report, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out at zipwhip.com/sot19 or find the link in our pod show notes.
Natasha, you’ve been sorting through this data for weeks and months. From your perspective, what do you see as the big picture takeaways here?
Natasha: Big picture, texting the businesses is here to stay. It is the expected way to communicate with your customers, for customer service and just general communication. RCS is coming and businesses need to get ready, they need to text enable their business landlines or toll free numbers and really put the resources towards it because as we go through that’s going to be the preferred medium. It already is and customers are expecting it.
Scott: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the zipcast, Natasha.
Natasha: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Scott: Yeah. Really enjoyed it.
Thanks for joining us. Make sure you subscribe to the zipcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, so you get the latest episodes and feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just text 2065823740 anytime of the day. Until next time.