Marketers must better speak the language of consumers

With consumers scattered across the media landscape, knowing how best to speak to consumers on which platforms is key

Sam Richardson

Customer Engagement Consultant Twilio


Brands face a multitude of challenges when communicating with customers. On the one hand, they want the interactions to get cut through, yet every customer has their own communication preferences – everything from ideal interaction times to preferred channels of engagement. Given the need to cater to each customers’ individual expectations, staying attuned to evolving language dynamics adds an extra layer of difficulty. It's not just about grasping general language shifts; it's about pinpointing which customers embrace or shy away from specific linguistic nuances, and personalising communications accordingly. Artificial intelligence (AI) represents a huge opportunity; tools are not only able to pick up on these preferences, but are also able to act upon such intel, communicating with different customers in line with their preferences across all engagement channels.

Consumers are leaning towards informal styles of communication…

When engaging with brands, customers are open minded on using informal language (on the whole). Over half (54%) are open to brands using emojis, and 48% are open to brands using slang.

In addition, being overly formal was listed as a pet peeve by nearly half of consumers (46%), with two-thirds feeling the same way about brands using overly complicated language. The takeaway? Sometimes simple is better.

That’s not to say there aren’t boundaries though. Almost two thirds of consumers (61%) draw the line at text talk and abbreviations. While brands should take note of this trajectory towards colloquialism, they must therefore be mindful not to overstep the mark with inappropriate informality. This is where effective use of data comes in, helping marketers to understand preferences across channels and strike the right balance. 

Brands need to replicate the communication style of each customer… 

Consumers of today have high benchmarks when corresponding with brands; half (50%) expect them to mirror their own communication style with similar length messages, formality, and use of abbreviations and emojis, for example.

This is even more prevalent among the younger generations, highlighting the growing need for brands to adapt to accommodate digital natives.

Consistency also proves key, with over three quarters of consumers (77%) expecting brands to maintain the same style across different communications channels – such as WhatsApp, emails, and live chat. Brands need to ensure customer data insights don’t sit in a silo, and that they can be leveraged across customer engagement channels. AI tools can then play their part in assisting contact centre agents to accurately generate ‘mirrored’ responses.

Keep it short and snappy… 

Receiving several short, easily digestible messages was ranked consumers’ preference when engaging with brands (51%) – and an overwhelming majority (85%) expect timely and fast responses.

As such, small talk and delayed responses were considered to be irritating by over 70% of Brits. With today’s customers keen to get to the point, brands should prioritise this element of communication – but not at the expense of expertise and emotion. 

Multilingual consumers that switch between languages expect brands to do the same…

Marketers must adapt to global audience bases. Almost half of consumers (49%) expect to be able to share their preference on chosen language and over a third (34%) expect brands to be able to seamlessly switch between languages.

Beyond preferred language, almost three quarters of consumers (72%) expect brands to be able to accommodate different disabilities, ages, regions, and cultures in their communications, with over a quarter of consumers (28%) anticipating that AI will assist with this level of personalisation. Using AI models to not only learn customers’ preferences but deliver such personalisation will become a non-negotiable for brands.

There’s no excuse for sloppy copy… 

AI technology has raised the bar of expectation. Thanks to this emerging technology, over half of consumers (54%) have come to expect marketers to deliver well-written communications.

And the payoff is there for brands, with consumers stating that well written communications make brands look professional (69%), competent (58%), and that it builds trust (51%). Poor grammar, however, such as the incorrect use of apostrophes or the incorrect application of 'there', 'their', and 'they're' and/or 'your' and 'you're', was rated a pet peeve by 50% and 65% of consumers respectively. Brands should therefore consider implementing AI tools that not only enable personalised interactions, but that make sure they are getting the basics right with well written communications.

The takeaways

While these trends represent the general direction of travel for language use, by building a real-time view of customers across all touchpoints, brands will be able to stay agile and responsive to changing communications preferences on an individual basis. Receiving personalised communications has become a basic expectation among consumers, so it’s never been more important for brands to better understand their customers - not only across language, but for a range of preferences across the board. Building a holistic understanding of customers, through the help of AI, will also ensure customers feel like they have their own individual sales assistant. This will ultimately help brands to power more personalised and impactful experiences.

With engagement styles in marketing scenarios able to make or break relationships with customers, understanding customers’ language preferences presents a worthwhile return on investment for brands looking to ensure they can meet consumers’ increasingly high expectations.

Guest Author

Sam Richardson

Customer Engagement Consultant Twilio


With over 20 years of experience helping organizations improve their customer engagement strategies, Sam is passionate about the power of great conversations to drive transformation. As a facilitator, event host, and CX expert, she’s worked with leaders across EMEA and APAC to create engaging, impactful discussions. She consults with organisations from the latest tech startups to global household brands on their engagement and CX strategies, and is a sought after contributor on the future of customer engagement.