Business texting has steadily gained traction in the past five years as channels like email have become more crowded, and new research from business texting platform Zipwhip finds that the COVID crisis has dramatically accelerated adoption. In fact, one of the permanent changes to come out of the pandemic is the way consumers and businesses communicate, and the firm’s new 2021 State of Texting report reveals that 70 percent of businesses are texting their customers today.
Out of all businesses that started texting in 2020, 34 percent did so as a direct result of the pandemic and 77 percent of those businesses say they’ll keep texting after it’s through.
The increase in business texting matches consumer behavior and demands. Most consumers (58 percent) said that between texts, phone calls or emails, texts are the best way for businesses to reach them quickly.
“Most businesses have realized over the past few years that texting was their missing communication channel, and for the remaining few who hadn’t yet, COVID-19 was a wakeup call,” said John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip, in a news release. “The overnight shift to remote work, remote socializing, remote errands, cemented the need for a quick and easy way to communicate with customers. After forming this habit for the last year, we’re not going back.”
With in-person interactions curtailed, consumers are turning to their phones instead
Sixty-four percent of consumers are spending more time on their personal cell phones every day, and of those, 26 percent are spending more than four additional hours a day on their devices. And the attachment starts early in the day—67 percent of consumers check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning and 34 percent check them immediately, a 62 percent increase from last year. We can attribute this changing behavior to COVID-19 and the many other crises that 2020 brought. More than ever before, consumers felt the need to read the latest news and check in with loved ones the moment they woke up.
Looking to 2021, one of the biggest opportunities for businesses lies within consumers’ desire to make payments over text. Nearly half (46 percent) of consumers say they would like the option to pay a business by text if it was done securely, yet only 29 percent of businesses say they would consider accepting payments by text. And while 45 percent of businesses have adopted contactless payments like Apple Pay or Square, the real opportunity lies in payments by text since the buyer and seller can be in completely different locations.
Beyond payments, businesses have an opportunity in 2021 to capitalize on additional texting preferences from their customers. Consumers said that the most valuable kinds of texts they received from businesses in 2020 were appointment reminders (64 percent), shipment and delivery updates (48 percent) and discounts on products or services (29 percent).
The challenges of 2020 didn’t stop at the pandemic
Twenty-five percent of businesses said they were impacted by natural disasters or other property damage, 36 percent said their revenue decreased and 21 percent had to reduce headcount. Despite these setbacks, businesses said they were optimistic for 2021. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all optimistic and 5 is very optimistic, businesses responded with an average of 3.5. And a positive indicator for the small business community, which has taken the biggest hit from COVID-19—when asked how their shopping habits have changed, 36 percent of consumers said they’re buying more from small and local businesses since the pandemic set in.
For the purpose of this report, Zipwhip surveyed over 2,000 businesses and consumers. Zipwhip surveyed each participant individually and blindly from a purchased panel sample through SurveyMonkey. All respondents are from the United States and followed a census breakdown of gender and age. The survey was run in December 2020. No participants were compensated for their participation.