The 10 Most Essential Digital Communication Channels for Business

Chris Thomas
September 15, 2021
Read time:
11
Minutes
Omnichannel
Chris Thomas

Deciding on the right communication channels for your business can prove a bit of a headache.

This is especially true if you're trying to improve communication with both your staff and your customers. 

So how do you make sure you're able to connect with both of these groups quickly and easily?

Which communications channel is going to do the trick? 

To help you find the best tools for you, we've listed the essential channels for getting conversations flowing. You'll learn about:

  • The essential internal communications tools
  • The best external communications methods for customers
  • How to use each communication channel most effectively

Let's get started by clearing up some of the basics.

What are communication channels?

A communication channel is a form of media that enables you to interact with one or many people.

They're also often called contact channels.  

We'll be looking at a whole range of different communication channels for this discussion, so make use of our contents bar to navigate!

Examples of communication channels

Think of any medium you've recently used to speak with a customer or team member.

Whatever medium you chose, it's an example of a channel of communication!

Let's take a look at the various mediums before diving deeper into the methods you'll want to review for your business.

Written communication channels

Besides verbal communication channels like landline telephone calls and face to face conversation, most traditional contact methods are examples of written communication. 

Some prime internal communications examples include:

  • Staff memos
  • Staff contracts
  • Quarterly reports
  • Employee manuals
  • Business publications

As for written examples of external communication, these can include:

  • Formal written documents
  • Letters
  • Faxes
  • Customer contracts
  • Direct mail advertisements
  • Customer brochures or catalogues

Digital communication channels

Digital communication channels can encompass every medium that comes to mind - from written communication to video conferencing. 

Here are some examples of the most common digital methods used for internal communication amongst team members. We'll be covering several of these in more depth below.

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Project management apps
  • Video conferencing software
  • Audio notes
  • Intranet
  • Internal social media sites

Digital examples of external communications methods include:

  • Email
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Live chat
  • Chatbots
  • Video chat
  • Web calling
  • Press releases
  • Display advertising

Mobile communication channels

Arguably the newest development for both external and internal communication, mobile allows you to convey rich information wherever your recipients are based.

For both business and external communication, mobile channels include pretty much every digital channel we've already mentioned, in addition to:

  • Mobile calls
  • SMS text messages
  • Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp
  • Video calls

How do I choose the right communication channels?

To make sure you're choosing the right communication channels for your business, take a look at the audiences you're trying to reach

For example, if you are part of a permanently remote team, investing in more collaborative business communications channels might make sense. 

On the other hand, if improving your customer service is more of a priority, investing in a customer service solution will boost your customer engagement and satisfaction. 

In contrast, choosing the wrong communication channels means you'll limit the number of customers you can reach.

Either way, once you've determined what kinds of conversations you want to inspire, choosing the right communication channels will be a breeze. 

The top four digital communication channels for teams

Now that we've covered the basics, let's take a look at the most crucial internal communication channels for you and your staff.

Take a look and see how you could improve your team's efficiency with the following digital tools. 

1. Email

It might be the most basic digital written communication channel of all, but there are some great reasons why we send over 290 billion emails every day.

Image source: Unsplash

It's cheap, reliable, and supports most regular attachments with ease.

You can send a quick note to a colleague or a mass email announcing upcoming updates, helping to keep track of ongoing company conversations.


However, when compared to other forms of digital communication, email does have some setbacks. 


For instance, while emails are delivered extremely fast, that doesn't mean you'll receive a response with the same speed. 


Unlike other communication channels, email works best for the least time-sensitive of issues and queries.

52% of professionals who send work-related emails usually expect a response within 12 to 24 hours. 


So if you've got an urgent message for your team or need a quick response during company-wide communications, it's probably best to use a more direct channel to keep your employees informed.


Key Takeaways: While email is an essential and longstanding communication channel, you should never rely on it for time-sensitive messages or conversations that require more of a human connection.

2. Workplace instant messaging apps 

This digital communication channel has seen an explosion of interest over the last few years. 

Business chat app Slack, for example, now has over 10 million daily users.

Image source: Unsplash

What's more, the New York Times reported that the company hopes to one day replace email in the workplace. 


However unlikely that might sound, it's this ambition to improve on email that's made Slack and its competitors so popular. 


Workplace messaging apps allow a faster and more efficient way for your organisation to communicate.

You can also rest assured that your conversations are archived, too - an excellent perk for documentation or referring to earlier communications. 


With a layout and style similar to personal messaging platforms, this communication channel allows conversations with multiple participants in multiple variations.

It means several members can discuss topics together or catch up for a quick one-on-one.

Key Takeaways: Workplace instant messaging apps are great communication channels for informal discussions with your team - especially if you’re working remotely. Just be aware of distracting off-topic conversations. Make sure these platforms improve your team’s productivity rather than hinder it!

3. Project management tools

While organisations don't use this tool for general conversations, it can be an instrumental channel in its own right. 

It's one of the most information-rich communication channels available.

 Image source: Monday.com

These tools are excellent for productivity too: according to research, 77% of high performing projects use this kind of software to get the job done. 

 

Project management software aims to improve your team's productivity and efficiency by tracking the steps you need to take to complete a given project

 

By splitting the project up into smaller tasks, you can then assign these tasks to other staff members.

From there, you can use these tools' built-in commenting systems to update your colleagues and discuss your next steps.

It's a great way to keep your team up to date while keeping conversation focussed and to the point. 

For an example of such a tool, check out ProofHub. It's an excellent option for achieving on-time project delivery and on point team accountability.


Key Takeaways: Project management tools aren’t the best communication channel for every discussion, but they are great for keeping larger teams updated and on track with projects and tasks.

4. Video conferencing 

When asked for their opinion on using video conferencing solutions as a communication channel for remote work, 90% of respondents claimed it improved how well they could get their point across. 

Image source: Unsplash

Face-to-face communication will always be the gold standard for communicating effectively with your team.

Verbal communication leads to quicker expression. Nonverbal communication cues like body language also help to create understanding and empathy.

So if you and your staff choose to work remotely for the long haul, video software is an excellent investment. 

 

The great news is that you don't need to break the bank either - there are several inexpensive options available online.

 

What's more, if you and your team are eventually planning to go back to the office on a fully permanent basis, you might not even need to sign up for any long term software solutions.

A month by month subscription could easily do the trick. 

 

Either way, whichever platform you adopt for your video needs, it's a great channel if remote working is your new norm. 


Key Takeaways: Whether your team is working remotely on a permanent or occasional basis, video conferencing is a must-have communication channel. Just bear in mind the size of your team and whether you really need to spend more than necessary.

The top six digital communication channels for customers

If you've put the time and effort into choosing the best electronic communication channels for your team, you don't want to let the side down by neglecting your customers. 

 

After all, with both marketing and customer support to think of, your ability to communicate is a massive contributor to your business's success.

 

So, to make sure you're committed to successful external communication, take a look at our list of the essential digital channels for communicating with customers.

5. Websites

Your company's website is one of the most potent written communications channels at your disposal

Image source: Squarespace

The reason why is simple: once your customers are on-site, you're in charge of everything they see.

It means you've finally got a chance to entice them without competition. You can deliver a focused message - whether through your branding, your copy, or your web communications methods.


That said, our attention spans are constantly getting shorter - the average attention span for Gen Z is only 8 seconds long!


So while you might have a chance to capture your customers' entire focus, you need to do it fast. 


One of the best ways to do this is to ensure your site's got an excellent user interface and design.

After all, 75% of consumers have said they'll judge a company's credibility based solely on their website's design. 


To ensure you're getting the most of this essential communication channel, you'll want to design your website with the most sceptical visitors in mind. 


If you can signal trust with customer reviews and testimonials, show great product images and use cases while proving your dedication to the best customer service, this communication channel will do more for you than any other. Try site builders like Squarespace to get started. 


Your website is also a great channel to show off your content marketing.

By providing extra value with blogs, videos, and personalised recommendations, you can make sure your customers hear the message loud and clear: purchasing your product will give them a great customer experience.


Key Takeaways: Websites are now a prerequisite for businesses. If you don’t have a website or your site is poorly designed, not only are you losing out on a primary marketing communication channel, you’re also likely to cause a sense of distrust.

6. Social media

With a staggering 4.2 billion users worldwide, social media is here to stay - both for businesses and their customers. 

Image source: Unsplash

Customers love social media because it allows them to quickly connect with many people while also staying up to date with recent trends and news. 


Businesses love it as it allows them to demonstrate new products, engage with specific audiences, and vastly improve customer relations - just a few of the reasons why social media has become an essential communication channel. 


To ensure you're getting the most out of social media as a marketing channel, you'll want to ensure you're truly engaging your customers and not giving them updates that'll bore them to tears. 


This means your social media content has to be on point. It can’t just be a stream of commercial messages or public relations campaigns. 

Make the most of videos, images, and GIFs, and don't forget to create a sense of community with your followers by starting real conversations. 

For help on how to get started, check out our favourite customer engagement examples for inspiration. 

You could also consider offering social media live chat to your followers. It’ll allow you to engage with your social audience and your website customers from a single dashboard.


Key Takeaways: Social media has become an essential communication channel for businesses as it’s a great tool for engaging customers. To really boost your social output, take a look at some expert advice on increasing customer engagement.

7. SMS & WhatsApp

These days, messaging apps aren’t just used for personal communication. Now, messaging your customers over SMS and WhatsApp is the norm.

Image source: Unsplash

It's one of the more intelligent communication choices for large enterprise companies that want to inform their customers about new offers and deals.

It's also great for businesses that need to make frequent communications about status updates. Take order and delivery notifications, for example. 

The most important thing to remember about messaging over SMS and WhatsApp is that text messages are only helpful to customers if they're timely and appropriate.

So, make sure your external business messages on these mediums aren't time-sensitive.

Key Takeaways: SMS and WhatsApp messages are a great form of communication media for quick customer updates - whether that means a new offer or an order status update. Just remember: if you serve EU customers, remember to make your WhatsApp GDPR compliant.

8. Live chat

Live chat's speed and convenience means it's earned a customer satisfaction rating of 73%.

It's why it's become an important communication channel for any business with an online presence.  

If you’re interested in offering live chat for your customers, opt for customisable software that caters to your needs. ‍

For instance, if you're serving a worldwide audience, you'll want to look into live chat that incorporates automatic multilingual translation


Similarly, if you'd like to take payments through live chat to boost your remote sales, you'll want to ensure that your live chat software comes with card masking capabilities.

PCI and HIPAA compliance is also essential. 

Whatever your industry, make sure you're catering to your customers by following our web chat best practices. They'll help you become a live chat pro in no time.

Key Takeaways: Online businesses of any shape and size can benefit from live chat capabilities. It’s popularity amongst all types of customers has made it an essential communication channel for customer service and sales.

9. Chatbots

Thanks to live chat's success as a communication channel, chatbots have become an essential tool in their own right.

They provide much-needed support to live chat agents when live chat queues get busy, and they're a tremendous self-service support tool too. 

 

For instance, chatbots can provide your customers with simple FAQ answers when they have a quick query. 

 

If a customer query isn't understood, the chatbot can automatically escalate the interaction to live chat, bringing you one step closer to providing a seamless customer experience.  

 

Another perk gained from using chatbots as a communication channel is their 24/7 availability. 

 

If your live chat agents are offline, they can still provide your customers with the answers they're looking for. At the same time, they can collect data for later interactions. 

 

To get the most out of your chatbot, it's a great idea to consider how you might use it to engage customers, as well as communicate with them.

For inspiration, check out our list of the best ecommerce chatbot examples

Key Takeaways: Chatbots are a great communication channel for automatically answering basic queries. Their only setback is that they can’t answer more complicated questions. It means they’re best thought of as live chat support, rather than a standalone tool.

10. Video chat

There's another excellent use case for video as a communication channel alongside video conferencing: offering video chat for customer service.

Its popularity as a website engagement tool is growing incredibly fast.

In fact, some of our customers have seen video interactions surge by 400% over the course of the last year!

The reasons why are clear: video chat provides the same face-to-face connection that customers receive during in-person communication

With video, verbal communications are greatly improved, leading to better understanding overall.

Your contact agents' facial expressions and body language also improve understanding and decrease customer tension. For example, a direct smile conveys confidence, and a calm attitude increases trust. 

Finally, whatever your industry, video is the only communication channel that allows you to bring the in-store experience online. 

For more on the remarkable effects video chat can have in your sector, check out our complete guide on offering fantastic customer service with video

Key Takeaways: It might be the newest communication channel on the market, but in the moments where it matters most, on demand video chat outperforms any other channel. It provides a truly human touch to your customers’ digital journey.

11. Bonus entry: Email

While we've already covered email in our section on internal communication channels, it's worthy of another mention as a tool for customer service and marketing. 

This is because email is universally recognised as a channel for both offering support and advertising your business. 

Let's take a look at each use case in turn. 

Email as a customer service communication channel 

The key benefit of using email as a customer service channel is that it's straightforward to use.

Place your business's support email address on your site, and customers will get in touch whenever they've got a query. 

 

However, when using email to offer support, remember that it's far from a customer favourite. 

While it might be helpful to use if you've got a sensitive or emotional message to share with your customers, they'll want other options made available too.

Customers have cottoned on to the fact that email queries hardly ever receive fast responses

For instance, while 88% of customers want to hear back within one hour, the average response time from companies is over 12!

So, suppose you want to avoid this customer service mistake and offer your customers the best service possible. 

In that case, it's best to complement email with the other communication channels we've listed above. They’ll help you offer a more proactive approach to customer service

Email as a marketing communication channel 

This is where email really shines - a whopping 47% of marketers rate email as the most effective marketing channel of all. 


One of the reasons email is so effective for marketing your products is that you're communicating with a pre-selected audience - an audience who've agreed to see your updates, offers, and news.

It means they're already engaged with your company.


Another reason that email works as a customer-facing communication channel is that, unlike other marketing channels, you'll always own your email list.

Let's take a look at a quick example to explain why this is important. 


Say your business has a considerable following on Twitter.

What would happen to your follower list if your account got hacked or accidentally banned?

What would happen if the platform suffered technical issues? 


Though it might seem unlikely now, what would happen if a more popular social network replaced Twitter?


In all these scenarios, your follower list would be useless.

You'd never be able to contact these followers again because you wouldn't have a useful address to message them on. 


Your email list solves this problem, as each of your customers has agreed to give you their primary contact details.

So, whatever the size of your business, remember to prioritise this marketing communication channel above all others.

With a better engagement rate and a more secure audience, you'll be glad that you did. 

Key Takeaways: When using email as a communication channel for customer support, be sure to prioritise response times. For using email as a marketing channel, remember to prize your email list above all other marketing channels.

Communication channels in summary

There are hundreds of tools out there that can help you communicate with your customers and employees.

Finding the right option all comes down to your end goals. 

For internal purposes, consider whether you want to improve a specific type of communication. Take your project management efficiency, for example. 

Remember to consider the size of your team too. 

For communicating with customers, on the other hand, the smartest option is deploying a customer service solution like Talkative. 

With a range of customisable and connectable channels, you'll be able to help all your customers quickly and efficiently.

What's more, you'll be communicating yourself as a customer-centric brand that cares.

Want to learn how to humanise your online customer experience? Book a demo with Talkative today.

Download the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Video & Next-Generation Customer Contact’

Discover use cases, implementation tips, and ROI for video chat as a contact channel

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