The 9 Most Essential Digital Communication Channels for Business

Chris Thomas
June 2, 2021
Read time:
10
Minutes
Omnichannel
Chris Thomas

Deciding on the best digital communication channels can prove a bit of a headache - especially 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 communication channels are going to do the trick? 

 

To help you find the best tools for you, we’ve listed the most essential channels for getting conversations flowing - both with your team, and your customers. Let’s get started by clearing up some of the basics. 

What is a communication channel?

A communication channel is a form of media that enables you to interact with one or many people. They are also often called contact channels.  

 

For this discussion, we’ll be looking at digital communication channels. These are the electronic tools your team uses to contact one another online, as well as the tools businesses use to speak with their customers. 

Examples of communication channels

Think of any medium you’ve recently used to speak with a company or team-member. Whatever medium you chose, it’s an example of a communication channel. 


Traditional examples of these channels include phone calls, text messages, or old-fashioned mail.


As for digital communication channels, these channels are all electronic in nature. Examples include email, live chat, and social media.

The most essential team-facing communication channels

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let's take a look at the most important 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 communication channel of all, but there’s some good reasons as to why over 290 billion emails are sent every day. It’s cheap, reliable, and supports most regular attachments with ease. It can be used for a quick note to a colleague or mass email announcing upcoming updates.  


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 is most often reserved for the least time-sensitive of issues and queries. In fact, 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, it’s probably best to use a more immediate channel. 

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. 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 their competitors so popular. 


Workplace messaging apps allow you to communicate faster and more efficiently with your team. You can also rest assured that your conversations are archived too - a great perk for documentation or referring to earlier communications when needed. 


With a layout and style similar to personal messaging platforms, this communication channel also allows conversations with multiple participants in multiple variations. It means several members can discuss topics together, or simply 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 this organisational tool isn’t used for general conversations, it can be an incredibly useful communication channel in it’s own right. 

 

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

 

The goal of project management software is to improve your team’s productivity and efficiency. This is done by tracking the steps you need to take to complete a given project. 

 

By splitting the project up into smaller tasks, these tasks can be assigned to other members of staff. 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. 

 

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 as a communication channel for remote work, 90% of respondents claimed it improved how clearly they could get their point across. 

 

Face-to-face communication will always be the gold-standard for communicating effectively with your team. So if you and your staff choose to work remotely for the long haul, video conferencing software is a great investment. 

 

The great news is that you don’t need to break the bank either - there’s 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 to any long term software solutions. A month by month subscription could easily do the trick. 

 

Either way, whichever platform you adopt for your video conferencing 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 most essential customer-facing communication channels

If you’ve put the time and effort into choosing the best digital 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 service to think of, your ability to communicate with your audience is a huge contributor to your business’s success. 

 

So, to make sure you’re covering both these crucial areas, here’s our list of the essential digital channels for communicating with customers. 

5. Websites

For marketing purposes, your company’s website is one of the most powerful communication channels at your disposal. 


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. 


That said, it’s been widely reported that our attention spans are constantly getting shorter. In fact, the average attention span for Gen Z is only 8 seconds long. So while you might have a chance to nab your customers’ entire focus, you need to do it fast. 


One of the best ways to do this is to make sure your site’s got a great 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 make sure 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. 


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. 


Customers love social media because it allows them to connect with a huge amount of people fast, while also staying up to date with recent trends and the latest 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 make sure 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 really has to shine. 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. 

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. 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 essential communication channel for any business with an online presence.  


To make sure you’re getting the most out of live chat, ensure you opt for 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 translation


Similarly, if you’d like to take payments through live chat to boost your remote sales, you’ll also want to ensure your live chat software comes with card masking capabilities too. PCI and HIPAA compliance is also essential. 


Whatever your industry, make sure you’re catering to your customers by offering live chat as one of your key digital communication channels.


If you want to really boost your customer-facing communication, you’d also do well to consider integrating live chat with social media. By combining the two communication channels, you can make sure you’re always present, wherever your customers are.

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

8. 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 also a great self-service support tool too. 

 

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

 

If a customer query isn’t understood, the chatbot can then 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, while also collecting 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 some 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.

9. Video chat

Alongside video conferencing, there’s another great use case for video as a communication channel: offering video chat for customer service. It’s popularity as a website engagement tool is growing incredibly fast. 

 

Between December 2019 and 2020, the use of customer facing video chat has surged by 400%. The reasons why are clear: video chat provides the same face-to-face connection that customers are used to receiving in person. 

 

Whatever your industry, it’s the only communication channel that allows you to bring the in-store experience online. 

 

For more on the great effects video chat can have in a variety of sectors, check out our full guide on how to offer amazing 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.

10. Bonus entry: Email

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

 

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 to using email as a customer service channel is that it’s incredibly easy to use. Simply 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. 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, if you want to avoid this customer service mistake and offer your customers the best service possible, it’s best to compliment email with the other communication channels we’ve listed above. 

Email as a marketing communication channel 

This is where email really shines. In fact, 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 is an essential 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. 


Say your business has a huge 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 Twitter was replaced by a more popular social network?


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 prioritize 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.

What communication channels do you need?

To decide on the best communication channels for your business, take a look at the audiences you’re trying to reach. 


For example, if you are part of a team that plans to work remotely on a permanent basis, it might make sense to invest in more collaborative communication channels. 


On the other hand, if improving your customer service is more of a priority, then investing in a customer service solution is an easy way to boost your customer engagement and satisfaction. 


Either way, once you’ve got an understanding of what kinds of conversations you want to inspire, you’ll be much better equipped to choose the communication channels that’ll serve you best. 

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