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Something to Talk About: Fragmented Communication Preferences Revealed in Global Study

This article was published on July 6, 2021

We've all heard the mantra, "think global, act local." Most companies with a global footprint pride themselves in being able to serve diverse audiences across the globe. But when it comes to truly understanding how their customers most like to engage and through which channels they prefer to do it, do companies really understand the unique nuances?

An image of communications across the globe

Take language for instance. Television’s favorite fictional aerospace engineer, The Big Bang Theory's Howard Wolowitz, had a great line about the disparity in certain words from culture to culture. As he explained, "Did you know the word "pumpernickel" comes from the German words "pumper" and "nickel", which loosely translates to "fart goblin"? 

I still won’t eat pumpernickel to this day.

Just like language, communication channels are also thought of differently around the world. How you communicate in one country may not always resonate with another. The point is that while communication is universal, how it is done is circumstantial. Different types of communication channels are required in different localities.

For many companies, the nuances are simply too complex to understand and they default to assuming that communication channels—carefully chosen to connect with customers from one market or segment—can be rolled out to all customers, regardless of who or where they are, and be met with the same delight. If only it were that simple.

New research by Vonage reveals just how complex customer engagement has become for companies operating across multiple countries. The global study surveyed 5,000 consumers across 14 countries about how they want to interact with businesses like yours—and how they don’t. 


In the report, Customer Engagement Beyond Borders, consumer channel preferences are broken down by country, region, gender, age, and channel. By doing so, it aims to help businesses around the globe navigate the fragmented state of customer communication preferences—and alleviate the one frustration that consumers the world over share.

A Universal Need for Digital Communications

We are living in a time where there is an unprecedented need for digital communications to keep the world—as well as businesses and their customers—connected. We’ve already seen the remarkable impact COVID-19 has had on video communications since conducting this survey. Video traffic on the Vonage platform has exploded, increasing 232% in March 2020, over February. As a result, we expect video usage and demand to be stronger than reported in this study as more and more businesses roll out video chat to step in for critical services.

Key Findings From Vonage's Report:

To summarize the standout takeaway in one sentence, it would be this: there is no silver bullet for customer engagement success.

Communication channel preferences differ massively—not only based on who the customer is, but where they are. The fragmentation of preferences across customer segments and geographies is so extreme that even the most preferred communication channel—mobile phone calls—only satisfies about one-third (35%) of all consumers, and even then, only in certain scenarios. 

Here are more insights that point at the global unpredictably of consumer channel preferences. Scroll through to see some of the unique statistics we uncovered across different communication channels ...


Differences Run Deeper Than Countries

A generational divide exists across the globe:

  • Younger consumers (under 40) the world over connect with businesses 25% more frequently than older consumers (over 40) and do so across a much more diverse range of channels such as messaging, voice-based personal assistants, and video chat.

There is also a gender communication gap:

  • Men video chat with businesses more than women. 1 in 2 men have video chatted with a business compared with 2 in 5 women—although we expect that to have evened out in our new COVID-19 remote world.

  • Women are 1.5x more likely to prefer live chat or in-app messaging than men.

The Universal Conversation Killer in the Digital Age

Among all these differences, there is one universal annoyance that you can be sure will crush customer experiences the world over.

The number one frustration for most consumers when engaging with businesses is having to repeat themselves to different people. 66% of consumers across the globe put it at the top of their lists. In other words, more than half of consumers are frustrated when they have to repeat themselves. Don’t think we don’t see the irony in repeating ourselves there.

Yet this communication breakdown happens all too often. It happens when a conversation begins on one channel, but when a customer switches to another, the history of their conversation is lost. Ultimately, we’re all human and no one enjoys repeating themselves over and over and over again. Is your business culpable of this customer experience hazard?

Think Global, Act Local. 

If you want to effectively engage your customers across borders, you need a multichannel approach. But how can you accommodate the highly fragmented preferences of those customers? And how can you integrate the array of preferred channels to deliver seamless conversations? 

Through the tangled mess of consumer preferences across the globe, there is a path to finding customer experience success in 2020. To help you on this journey, the report provides a global customer engagement cheat sheet and maps the 7 different types of consumer communicators—so you can learn what works in your key markets around the world.

Read the Consumer Engagement Beyond Borders report to find out how consumers around the world want to engage with businesses. 



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