Customer engagement

Previewing the post-COVID digital economy in the 2021 Twilio State of Customer Engagement Report

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    Kayleigh Karutis
  • Feb 24, 2021

In-person interactions moved online at light speed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every organization raced to build new ways to engage customers, communities, and constituents. See how businesses made it happen, and their plans for the future, in our annual State of Customer Engagement Report, available now.

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Look back to move forward; no year has that been more apt than this one. As much as we might hope to erase 2020 from our collective memory, COVID-19 and its impact on the world can offer business-critical insight. 

We dove into that insight to present you with our 2021 State of Customer Engagement report, a survey of more than 1,400 businesses across the world, about how the ways they communicate with customers changed in 2020—and how they expect it to evolve moving forward.

See the report now.

Without digital communications, businesses would have failed. We heard that message loud and clear from practically every business leader surveyed—that digital engagement wasn’t just a ‘nice to have’ last year, it was a requirement to do business.

That requirement led to some powerful outcomes, though, with 90 percent of leaders reporting increased customer insights as a result of better customer engagement during the pandemic. With that insight and engagement, companies are now tapping into the holy grail of customer relationships with staggering frequency: a better, more personalized customer experience at scale. In turn, that personalized engagement has become table stakes for customers: they expect it and will continue to in the post-COVID digital economy. More key findings:

  • 96 percent of leaders say failing to digitize customer engagement would have negatively impacted their business, including making them less competitive, causing a loss of revenue, and an inability to meet customer expectations. 

  • Businesses are not going back: 87 percent report digital customer engagement will be critically or very important to their success going forward.
  • 95 percent expect to increase or maintain their organization’s investment in customer engagement after the pandemic.
  • Already, digital comms are playing a critical role in the rebuilding and recovery (e.g. vaccine distribution depends on digital communications to solve complex logistics). This will persist and evolve over the course of 2021. 

We're never going back to fully analog. Every in-person experience in the future will have a digital element. Businesses that don't adopt this model will take a hit on customer loyalty and relevance.

Glenn Weinstein, Chief Customer Officer at Twilio

There is no divide between ‘in-person’ and ‘digital’ anymore. In 2020 and beyond, businesses are embracing a hybrid world, in which nearly every in-person interaction has a digital element as well. 

Nearly every leader surveyed said they plan to increase or maintain their current communications channel offerings after the pandemic, and expect to add an average of four new channels this year. These new channels will supplement in-person interactions going forward. 

  • 92 percent report COVID-19 accelerated their move to the cloud. Companies are equipping their employees with digital communications—supported by the cloud—so they can serve customers from anywhere, under any circumstances.   

The future will be built by empowered software teams. Companies that adapt to a “builder” mindset will survive, those that don’t—won’t. Right now, one in three companies are building with programmable solutions, but 91 say they will build communications solutions to meet customer demands in the future, a change that’s already changing how business leaders approach digital engagement.

  • Leaders are increasingly seeing the profound value of developers. 93 percent of businesses agree software developers were crucial to solving the business challenges caused by COVID-19. The need to build solutions quickly in-house in response to the pandemic made this clearer than it’s ever been.
  • The value of building unique and positive customer experiences is emerging as the way to set yourself apart from the competition. Businesses see this and plan to build going forward.     

Get your copy of the 2021 Twilio State of Customer Engagement report now.

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Kayleigh Karutis