Featured image by metamorworks on Shutterstock
Efficient communication is a cornerstone of business success.
Whether with colleagues, business partners, or customers, It’s important to choose the right channel, the right message format, and the right content. Doing so improves relationships, creates trust, and drives sales.
What’s more, in 2020 these choices are more important than ever.
Not only has the digital revolution come to stay, but it is also reshaping the world’s communication landscape. The coronavirus pandemic is also radically altering the ways people communicate with each other—and with businesses.
RELATED ARTICLE: HOW A SMALL COMPANY CAN ACCESS GREAT MARKETING
Keeping ahead of the communication curve now will help you provide the best possible customer experience. Also, you will achieve higher conversion rates and make team collaboration more efficient and effective throughout 2020.
Keep reading to find out about the 10 most important communication trends for small businesses in 2020.
Harness User Reviews
Getting reviews is important. Analyzing them is crucial.
Real people advocating for your brand provide a strong basis for building trust in your products. Research has found that when searching for services or products online, 92% of consumers will hesitate to buy if no reviews are available.
Conversely, having full-star reviews by dozens of customers instantly makes your business more attractive. That alone is reason enough to enthusiastically encourage your customers to leave reviews on as many platforms as possible.
But reviews have uses beyond creating trust. They help you produce better content, formulate new products, and improve customer support.
They also provide data such as natural-language keywords. Then, by harnessing the language used in hundreds of reviews for your product (or your competition’s) across multiple platforms, you can boost SEO and web traffic.
Review analysis also helps you develop data-driven strategies to optimize communication. All this strengthens your rankings, ups conversion rates, and improves customer experience.
Adapt to Voice Search and Interaction
With this viral meme as the latest example, voice technology broke into public consciousness in 2018.
Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are joined by ever more voice assistants. It’s estimated that fully half of all searches will be voice-driven in 2020.
By 2022, 55% of all American homes will own a smart speaker. Moreover, voice shopping will account for $40 billion, a sharp ascent from today’s $2 billion.
In practical terms, you’ll have to adapt your language to how customers talk to score SEO points. You’ll need to keep the tone of content conversational and tweak your keywords.
Old content, too, will have to be adapted—or it will become invisible to voice search.
Audio content in general can help you benefit from this development, as will featured snippets on Google.
Integrate AI and Chat by Using Bots
AI still sounds a little futuristic. However, for many companies, it is already part of business reality.
AI, or artificial intelligence, can be employed in a huge number of ways.
Social media and blog data can help you to figure out how customers find businesses in the first place. AI also investigates search patterns and customer behavior in general.
One application of AI is fast becoming omnipresent: chatbots. Using natural language processing, they understand the customer’s typed demands. Then they respond like a real person.
Statistics from 2019 underscore the efficacy of chatbots, showing that 63% of people prefer chatbots to communicating with a business online.
Perhaps this is because they provide instant responses to any questions potential customers might have. Also, they are available day in and day out, and they can handle any number of customers.
In fact, by 2022, chatbots are expected to cut business costs by $8 billion.
Go Mobile First
Customer experience is continually shifting to mobile. With 2020’s forced remote work and 5G roll-out, this will only accelerate.
Therefore, mobile is not optional. It’s a must.
Your website isn’t mobile-friendly and accessible? Most potential customers will backtrack before it even finishes loading.
In short, a fluent mobile experience is a requirement for most customers.
Besides a mobile-friendly website, this means mobile payment in stores and online, mobile marketing, and mobile-friendly communication. All these improve customer experience.
Mobile communication also increases team efficiency. Used instead of endless email exchanges or notoriously slow-moving meetings, mobile messaging saves time and resources. Plus, it automatically produces records.
WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, Trello, and others provide direct channels of communication between colleagues and across the hierarchy. Scheduling and file-sharing features can additionally enhance your teams’ productivity.
Optimize Remote Work with Communication Tools
With a quarter of the world’s population under coronavirus lockdown, remote work is a no-brainer.
However, remote work was on the rise even before the pandemic struck. What’s more, analysts predict that as a result of current remote adaptations and investments by many companies, employees will work from home even after the immediate crisis is over.
Clearly, remote working is here to stay. Now is the time to invest in optimizing your business for remote work.
Tools allow efficient communication between remote team members. These include video calling services like Zoom and Skype or team messaging services such as Slack. Additionally, they include platforms with integrated project management, such as Trello and Basecamp.
There are also full-featured suites such as Microsoft Teams.
On the other hand, efficient and effective remote work requires more than tools.
Workflows need to be adapted to maximize both productivity and efficiency within remote teams. That said, not being able to see whether employees are working may tempt supervisors to micro-manage their teams.
However, constant video-calls and check-ups actually lower productivity.
It takes time to find the “right” amount of communication. Alternative accountability systems might need to be developed, but again without wasting productive time.
Channel the Power of Social Media for Business Communications
Social media posts and memes provide social proof. That is, they offer evidence to potential customers that other people have found certain products or behaviors helpful. It’s a counterpoint to traditional marketing, and customers value it highly in 2020.
Social proof is a key element for building trust among customers.
Viral Twitter exchanges between brands and consumers. Engaging customer support on Facebook. Building online communities around your brands by leveraging social media. All these are potentially vital to business success.
But in 2020, it’s also time to look beyond Facebook and Twitter. Visual platforms like Pinterest are on the rise, and the new video platform TikTok is a sweeping success among Gen-Z.
Consider which channels are most popular with your target audience, and then focus your attention there.
Tell Stories and Show Video
Storytelling continues as a definite trend in 2020, with video formats taking an ever larger share.
Stories are now pivotal to conveying your brand message on any channel. However, instead of giving the spotlight to new products, services, or company news, focus on showing the human side of your brand.
In other words, show what people do with the product or service, what they achieve, and what this means to them.
The best way to do this is with video content. In a recent survey, 92% of marketers say that videos are an integral part of their marketing strategy.
And when consumers are given the choice between slogging through a text and having a short engaging video provide the information, the latter is the people’s favorite.
Engage with Live Chat
Among all customer service channels, live chats result in the highest levels of customer satisfaction at 73%, a recent report shows.
Live chats get customers answers instantly. They are just as personal as phone calls, while maintaining the comfort of typing rather than having to talk to someone. Live chats can lower cart abandonment, raise your conversion rate, and drive sales.
And with the various options for WordPress plugins and additional live chat software that are currently available, offering a live chat is not much more complicated technologically than listing a business phone number.
Shift Your Communications to VoIP
In the new decade, VoIP is the future in business telephony. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Moreover, it is the future of business telephony.
Rather than using the phone lines of yesteryear, VoIP technology breaks audio signals up into digital packages and transfers them over the Internet.
VoIP also offers much more flexibility than traditional business phone systems, whether you are working in an office or as part of a remote team. Additional features such as voicemail-to-email, instant messaging, multi-device support, and real-time analytics can help you create the best possible customer experience. Importantly, you’ll also maximize communication efficiency with colleagues and business partners at the same time.
Use the Cloud
Finally, switching away from an expensive on-premises data system to the cloud can improve your communication.
The cloud offers greater flexibility, with files being accessible from anywhere. It can also simplify user administration and generally lower operating expenses. Additionally, many offers for cloud systems are available on a pay-as-you-go basis.
While some may have hesitated to use cloud systems due to security concerns, these are generally no longer an issue in 2020. This is because technology such as end-to-end encryption ensures your data is secure, as well as readily available.
Revamp Your Communication Tools and Thrive
The realities of business communication are ever-shifting and fast-evolving. And with the current COVID-19 crisis, efficient communication between remote teams, within enterprises, and between customers and businesses is more important than ever.
By choosing the right trends to follow and adjusting your approach to communication accordingly, you can stay ahead of the curve. Ultimately, you will be providing the best possible customer experience, along with smooth internal communication.