Email communication is outdated and irrelevant to customers of all ages, finds study

Brands’ communications are falling into a channel gap when it comes to reaching their most loyal customers as they repeatedly fail to speak to their subscribers via the most appropriate platform.

A study into subscription services from independent media agency The Kite Factory, explored the habits, attitudes, preferences and bugbears of consumers in this space and found that the majority of brands are missing a trick by relying on email as their key form of communication.

While 35% of the 2,000 respondents interviewed said they were most likely to discuss subscription products on Facebook, 27% on WhatsApp and 17% on Facebook Messenger, 80% said subscription service providers still use email to communicate with them, with 19% of brands turning to Facebook and 9% opting for Twitter.

The gap was particularly significant among 16-24-year olds, just 9% of whom said they preferred using email to communicate about their subscriptions, though this is compared to only 18% of those aged over 55.

This disconnect between the way businesses communicate and the platforms on which their customers are talking to each other is a key contributor in brands failing to achieve meaningful dialogue with existing or prospective customers in the subscription space.

Robin Trust, CEO of The Kite Factory, said: “Understanding where customers are having conversations is just part of uncovering the full customer journey and providing an inclusive experience where people feel their needs are met every step of the way.

“The business tools for WhatsApp and Facebook are young compared to email but show a progressive attitude, and it’s important for brands to have a voice on those channels. However, it is clear from our research that the vast majority of businesses are still not there. Those who already use these channels to speak to their customers are certainly enjoying the benefits of first mover advantage.”

With forecasts showing the subscription market is set to be worth £1bn by 2022* (up from £583m in 2017), The Kite Factory’s report also proves just how crucial effective communication is at all stages of the subscription journey when it comes to retaining customers in a competitive market place. Customers at different stages of the buying cycle – from the consideration stage, to sign-up, to post-purchase – all have different needs and therefore should receive different communications.

Some 70% of 16-24-year olds are passionate about the importance of personalisation but 60% of respondents said they receive communication that is not personalised to their needs or interests, suggesting a lazy, one-size-fits-all approach by many brands.

Marketers are often not aware of the full extent of the tools available to them to analyse existing customer data, nor the huge variety of touchpoints that can be utilised for analysis in the pursuit of gaining a full and detailed picture of a customer’s behaviour – what influences them, what is important to them, how they think and practical insights such as their income and disposable cash.

Brands are often failing to standardise and organise their customer databases or garner vital layers of third-party data from external sources. And for those marketers who are collating their customer data efficiently, the improvements in machine learning now used to identify patterns in the data mean they are able to be smarter in applying it to personalised marketing strategies.

Trust added: “The key to effective personalisation lies in the use of data. Tracking behavioural data throughout the whole user journey and identifying what triggers provoke specific actions is crucial to truly harnessing insight into individuals’ preferences. Brands must invest more time and budget into employing specialist data analysis in order to build a fuller subscriber picture from the outset.

“Effective personalisation should be neither complex nor intrusive. Our research – and our experience with many of our clients – shows the vast majority of consumers respond positively to communication that is clearly tailored to their preferences rather than blanket emails that fail to make that all-important emotional connection.

The Kite Factory commissioned a survey of 2,000 consumers across the UK in 2019.