Doubling down on the customer communications market: A vital investment in uncertain times

April 07, 2023

In 2020 and 2021, the customer communications market was rocked by an unprecedented level of disruption that accelerated consumer digital adoption and ushered in a new digital reality. Now in 2023, inflation and rising energy costs are fueling increases in both print production and distribution fees while contradictory economic indicators continue to point towards an uncertain future. That’s why businesses worldwide are focused on fostering a digital culture so they can improve communications experience and boost customer retention through superior digital engagement.

In this three-part series sponsored by FIS®, we’ll explain why current market conditions should encourage businesses to double down on their communications investments and highlight concrete insights that will help organizations choose the right partner to help them attain their desired digital communication future.

Before we move on, we first need a common frame of reference to help us better understand the market forces reshaping the communications landscape.

Aspire defines customer communications management (CCM) as the creation, management and fulfillment of data-driven, omni-channel communications at scale. Over time, consumers’ expectation of instant access to relevant, personalized information has made customer experience (CX) an increasingly important metric in business communications. As a result, enterprise priorities have been shifting toward a focus on increasing business value through superior interactions. To that end, many organizations hope to realize savings by eliminating infrastructure costs while leveraging an outsourcing partners’ expertise and superior capabilities to improve customer experience.

The overall market effect has been to transform CCM into Customer Experience Management (CXM), which Aspire defines as the practice of managing all (including transactional) interactions that a business conducts with its customers with the express goal of improving the perception that customers have about that business. In order to fulfill the ultimate promise of this evolution from CCM to CXM, organizations must transition from sending static messages triggered by regulatory obligations to carrying on a conversation with customers through bi-directional, omni-channel interactions that span the entire lifecycle, from sales to onboarding, service, billing and renewal.

In the spring of 2020, a surge in consumer digital adoption brought the promise of CXM closer to reality and made customer communications even more vital to an organization’s overall success. Aspire has found that 80% of American consumers accessed a bill or made a payment online shortly after (with around 15% doing so for the first time). In response, businesses committed to unprecedented digitization and actually managed to exceed their own e-adoption projections.

Figure 1: Business response to consumer digital adoption
Source: Aspire, 2019-2022

While our 2022 research confirms digital adoption has slowed somewhat since this initial wave, Aspire believes ongoing economic conditions will continue to push businesses to reduce print. For instance, rising e-commerce sales have driven paper manufacturing toward packaging and away from print. As a result, white paper production has dramatically declined, driving prices higher for the little that’s left. At the same time, inflation and skyrocketing energy prices have fueled increases in both print production and distribution costs. Print will continue to be used as one of many channels, but it’s only natural that businesses will search for ways to offset rising rates and avoid service downgrades. In fact, many organizations have begun to outsource print production, generating savings they can then use to fuel digital transformation while, at the same time, eliminating the need to hire employees for high turnover positions that are often difficult to fill.

Figure 1 shows that enterprises worldwide now expect to deliver nearly half of their transactional communications exclusively through digital means by 2024. Furthermore, businesses responding to our new global survey reported that digital transformation and (to a lesser extent) customer experience were far and away their most important corporate priorities.

Figure 2: Digital transformation and efforts to improve CX go hand in hand
Source: State of the CCM-to-CXM Transformation, Aspire, 2022

As Figure 2 illustrates, enterprise efforts to digitally transform their communications and improve customer experience are indelibly linked. In a follow up question, respondents selected “shifting customers to digital channels” as the top tactic they use to improve customer communications experience.

Moving from print to digital will provide a quick win, but any serious effort to improve customer experience will have to confront the fact that while younger consumers are open to digital communications, they are not content with their current state. In the next installment, we’ll dive into this dilemma in greater detail and then discuss how organizations can make more effective use of data and technology by doubling down on their communications investments.

Read more from this three-part series:

Part 2 – How savvy investments in communications can boost customer retention

Part 3 – How to choose the right communications partner for your business

About the Author
Will Morgan, Senior Research Analyst, Aspire
Will MorganSenior Research Analyst, Aspire

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