Last Updated: July 4, 2019 8:08AM
In the last few years, communication technology has advanced at a blistering pace. From the first 4G smartphone in 2010 to today’s new augmented reality devices, we’ve opened a host of new communication channels for ourselves in the relative blink of an eye.
How are people communicating in 2019? What new tools are they using to connect? What is changing as new technologies enter the market?
And, most importantly, what do these communication trends mean for brands seeking opportunities to connect with a growing world of connected consumers?
Let’s take a look.
Mobile Phones: Still the Number One Global Communication Channel
A 2014 Gallup study concluded that texting was the most popular method of communication among Americans, especially younger Americans. Five years later, things both have and haven’t changed. Americans are still communicating via their phones’ keypads, but they can now choose from a veritable trove of apps from which to send their messages.
According to the PEW Research institute, 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and 77 percent of them own smartphones. Back in 2011, when PEW conducted its first study on cell phone ownership, that number stood at just 35 percent.
This means that 95% of people have access to the Internet—and to your brand—in their pockets at all times. And according to the study, an increasing number of people—one in five Americans, to be exact—are using their smartphones as their only means of getting online.
Mobile use isn’t just on the rise among Americans. A separate study by PEW that surveyed 11 countries in the developing world—countries like Vietnam, Jordan, and Tunisia—found prevalent use of both social media and smartphones. In seven of the countries examined, half or more of the people surveyed used smartphones. Vietnam displayed the highest rate of phone ownership at 97 percent, and smartphones were generally the most common mobile devices owned by those in the survey.
What does this mean for brands? It means savvy businesses will prioritize experiences for global users on mobile devices. Companies seeking to do (and stay in) business around the world will need to ensure their multilingual websites are responsive. They’ll also need to localize both their desktop and mobile sites, so they can provide a frictionless experience for customers from Hartford to Hanoi.
Top Messaging Apps Around the World
What apps are keeping people connected worldwide?
According to a January 2019 list from Digital Trends, these are the most popular messaging apps around the globe, in alphabetical order:
- BBM (BlackBerry Messenger)
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Hangouts
Apps like WhatsApp and Line are hugely popular for international communication. WhatsApp has a strong international user base, and Line is especially popular in Asia. Both apps offer free person-to-person messaging, video calls, and file transfers.
The list, and others like it, also lends insight into what people today are looking for in their communication apps:
Apps like Telegram and Signal offer high-grade, end-to-end encryption. With this feature, users don’t have to worry about their messages falling into the wrong hands. SnapChat’s messages famously vanish after 42 hours. Viber also offers self-destructing messages. Even WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger offer the option for secret conversations or encryption. People value their privacy in a world where hacks and data breaches are constantly in the news.
Many of today’s communication apps let you show your location to other users nearby. Group chats can number in the thousands with Telegram. Almost every app listed above lets users video chat with one another for free. Line has a timeline feature akin to Facebook, a sort of self-contained social network in the app where users can post and comment. Like most messaging apps, WhatsApp lets you edit and share photos.
Today’s users want the option to connect without worrying about invasions of privacy or companies selling their data. As a brand hoping to connect with these users, are you prepared to offer customers the connectivity and privacy they require?
Workplace Communication: Shifting More Toward Mobile and Video?
As an ever-larger slice of the workforce opts to work remotely at least some of the time, workplace chat apps like Slack have become more integral. They allow employees to stay connected even when they’re not all in the same place and enable easy sharing of important files.
Video conferences over Skype, Google Hangouts, Cisco, and other services are becoming commonplace even among employees who work at brick-and-mortar locations. As more people are “on the go” for their jobs, they find themselves becoming more connected to their mobile devices. They use these devices to answer emails, send files, take photos, and edit work-related documents like spreadsheets via cloud services. The long-awaited rollout of 5G cellular network technology in America in 2019 will only make these tasks easier and spur further development of the “Internet of Things (IOT)” network.
Are you enabling your sales teams to connect with multilingual clients most effectively, wherever they are in the world? Have you optimized your tech stack for real-time communication that breaks down barriers and builds bridges to a world of consumers who circle the globe?
At Lionbridge, communication is what we do. We understand how people around the world are communicating, and we can help you ensure your brand’s voice is a part of the growing global conversation. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you communicate your vision.