COVID-19 Accelerates Digital Communications Strategies


Source: Twilio - COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report

By Roy Urrico

A survey assessing the effect of the pandemic on businesses’ digital engagement strategies found it accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by six years on average and 5½ years for financial organizations.

“For the last twenty years, companies have been gradually transforming themselves with digital technologies to adapt to new realities of the internet and mobile. You will often hear brands discussing their ‘digital transformation’ initiative. Digital transformation roadmaps could be anywhere from a year to ten years. Then COVID-19 hit,” revealed San Francisco-based cloud communications firm Twilio’s “COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report,” which surveyed 2,569 enterprise decision-makers in June 2020. The study provided a snapshot of how businesses addressed the complex challenges posed by this crisis and how they will continue to evolve moving forward.

Construction and energy companies (8.1 years) saw the greatest acceleration in their digital communications strategy due to COVID-19 followed by the energy (7.2), retail and ecommerce (6.1), healthcare (6), finance (5.6), manufacturing and automotive (5.6), professional and technical services (5.3), and technology (5.2) sectors.


Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer, Twilio.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of COVID-19,” said Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio. “Our customers in nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders – from patients, to students, to shoppers and even employees – essentially overnight.” He added, cloud scale, speed, and agility are enabling organizations to innovate faster than ever. “We believe the solutions being built today will be the standard for digital engagement in the future.”

Key findings of the “COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report” include:

Almost all enterprise decisionmakers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation (97%); now seek new ways of engaging customers as a result of COVID-19 (95%); and said transforming digital communications is extremely or very critical to address current business challenges (92%).

Almost eight of ten respondents said the advent of COVID-19 increased the budget for digital transformation. Companies also reported easing of barriers such as: lack of clear strategy (37%), getting executive approval (37%), reluctance to replace legacy software (35%), and lack of time (34%).


Omnichannel communication took on new importance with 92% saying their organization is very or somewhat likely to expand digital communication channels as the world reopens. Another 54% said COVID-19 propelled their focus on omnichannel communications, and 53% added new channels amid the pandemic. For example, one in three companies started using live chat and interactive voice response channels for the first time as a result of COVID-19.

When asked “Will the digital communications and technologies used to enable your remote workforce during COVID-19 open up future opportunities for remote work?” almost all respondents reported “definitely yes” (67%) or “probably yes” (32%). The “definite yes” respondents were higher for technology companies (80%) and slightly lower for finance companies (60%)

Energy, construction and finance industries added the most net new digital channels as a result of COVID-19. Top new channels for finance were: live chat (42%) interactive voice response (31%), video (35%), voice (34%), in-app chat (36%), SMS (31%), web-based chatbot (30%), email (25%) SMS-based chatbot (28%), in-app calling (25%), voice-based chatbot (27%), remote contact center (22%) and social media (21%).

A breakdown of respondents in the financial industries answering the question “What barriers to digital transformation has COVID-19 broken down within your organization?” showed the following results: getting executive approval or buy-in (42%), lack of a clear transformation strategy (37%), reluctance to replace legacy software (40%), insufficient budget (36%), lack of skills and know-how (39%), lack of time (31%), lack of engineering support (42%) and bureaucracy (32%), led the way.

Twilio conducted the five-minute online survey with 225 to 300 survey respondents each from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The respondents were directors and above in corporate communications, customer experience, customer or technical support, data analytics or business intelligence, executive leadership or administration, IT or engineering, innovation, marketing, operations, product design/development, sales or business development, or strategic planning at companies with 500-plus employees.

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