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Q1 of 2021, Which Verticals Totally Crushed It in Digital Customer Communications?

Q1 of 2021, Which Verticals Totally Crushed It in Digital Customer Communications?

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Digital Customer Communications. With Quarter 1 of 2021 almost behind us, we wanted to take this opportunity to look back at what CommBox has achieved over the last few months. Let’s take a look.

The State of the World

COVID-19 is still dominating headlines all over the world, despite promising developments in vaccine rollouts. As an international company operating in the digital communications space, CommBox has continued to help businesses adapt and adjust to the pandemic’s ongoing challenges. Over the last year since the pandemic began, we have helped companies globally switch to omnichannel and advance and enhance their digital communication capabilities. It should come as no surprise that digital communication became critical for business-customer communications in 2020. This need for excellent digital communications has progressed into 2021.

What Sectors Has CommBox Been Working With in 2021?

We will discuss five distinct sectors in this report; Insurance, Retail, Telecom, Government and Municipal, and eCommerce. Below you will find the statistics for each sector for Q1 of 2021, as well as commentary on the highlights for each sector.


  • 122% rise in digital channel use,
  • WhatsApp 140%,
  • SMS 88%,
  • Telegram 14%,
  • Email 72%,
  • Automation resolved first response time of customers 44%

The insurance sector is made up of companies that offer risk management contracts to businesses and consumers. While mitigating risk is a core feature of the industry, the types of companies within the insurance sector can vary. Here we’re going to focus on the consumer insurance side.

The insurance sector has been impacted in many ways by the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Event cancellations: Many insurers have had to payout for canceled events, including concerts, weddings, and other social gatherings.
  • Travel cancellations: Many flight and accommodation bookings were covered by insurance.
  • Life insurance: The pandemic has resulted in many premature deaths.
  • Car insurance: In areas with strict lockdowns, fewer vehicles were on the road and fewer accidents.

These impacts have presented an increased need for customers to communicate with insurers, and communicating online was the most appropriate option. This was reflected in CommBox’s Q1 2021 statistics, with a massive 122% rise in digital channel use. The most significant rise was with WhatsApp, at 140%. But why? WhatsApp is a powerful digital messaging app with approximately 1.6 billion monthly active users. When companies in any sector are looking to offer more digital channels, WhatsApp is always a solid choice due to its accessibility. Consumers typically already use WhatsApp recreationally and are comfortable using it (there’s a low barrier to entry).

The automated first response time of customers also rose 44% across the insurance sector for the companies CommBox works with. This is highly positive because studies repeatedly show that a fast first response time directly impacts how the rest of the interaction will go. When customers feel ignored or forgotten, they become increasingly anxious or frustrated, and repairing this relationship can be challenging. Since insurers often talk to customers about sensitive subjects (money or loss), responding quickly is paramount.

What Sectors Has CommBox Been Working With in 2021?


  • 155% rise in digital channel use,
  • WhatsApp 184%,
  • SMS 101%,
  • Telegram 66%,
  • Email 112%,
  • Automation resolved first response time of customers 35%

Looking at the stats above, you’ll notice some significant differences between the Insurance sector from the section above and the retail sector. While not commonly thought of as trailblazing when it comes to digital communications, the insurance sector was more widely accustomed to dealing with the majority of their customers through remote channels. Consumers typically buy insurance products over the phone or online, and it’s much less common to rely on a brick-and-mortar store for all of your insurance needs. By contrast, the retail sector has always been relatively split. Some consumers are happy to do all of their retail shopping online, while others highly value the brick-and-mortar store. And, of course, some consumers fall somewhere in between.

During the pandemic, the retail sector had to switch to online-only in many areas rapidly, and this applied to not just shopping but all customer communications. This is why we see such an increase in the rise in customer digital channel use (155%). Again, WhatsApp represents the largest increase at 184% rise in customer communications.

Interestingly, the retail stats are also very varied, with Telegram, SMS, and Email use also skyrocketing. While the insurance sector only saw a 14% increase in Telegram use, the retail sector saw a whopping 66% increase. Telegram is a messaging app popular with people who highly value privacy. It’s typically used by young and technically minded people who want an alternative to the messaging giants WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The rise in Telegram channel use tells us that consumers in the retail sector have varied communication preferences and they enjoy being given a range of choices for their communication channel.


  • 94% rise in digital channel use,
  • WhatsApp 130%,
  • SMS 47%,
  • Telegram 8%,
  • Email 111%,
  • Automation resolved first response time of customers 29%

With a 94% rise in digital channel use, it’s fair to say CommBox’s Telecom industry partners have successfully transitioned to offering excellent digital communication channels. The most significant rises come from WhatsApp (130%) and Email (111%).

It should come as no surprise that the Telecoms industry has played an enormous role in the coronavirus pandemic, helping to mobilize remote workforces en masse. They have had to be available to talk to consumers and businesses around the clock to fulfill this need. When it comes to remote working, consumers needed to ensure their home WiFi networks were running optimally and that the cell service was adequate.

Email has always been a popular digital communication channel, and despite frequent headlines about how email is dying, it’s still thriving in 2021. With advancements like smart inboxes (offered by CommBox), it’s becoming easier every year for companies to respond to customer queries faster and more purposely than ever before. Many consumers prefer email over other digital communication channels before it promotes long-form communication. Consumers feel more comfortable writing longer messages about complex problems over email than they do on SMS or WhatsApp. Some consumers also prefer email over phone calls for this reason – sometimes, it’s easier to clearly describe a complex problem over an email when you have the time to edit and reflect.

Government and Municipal

  • 192% rise in digital channel use,
  • WhatsApp 220%,
  • SMS 119%,
  • Telegram 7%,
  • Email 190%,
  • Automation resolved first response time of customers 51%

A rise of 192% in digital channel use is enormous. Government and municipal customer-facing services are traditionally less digital channel-friendly than other sectors. This can be for various reasons, including funding, antiquated technology or systems, or lack of resources (staff). However, due to the pressures of the pandemic and the government’s role in upholding any safety rules, there was an imminent need to offer more digital communication channels. This is partly why we see such a huge increase. Government and municipal organizations were compelled to look for digital communication software like that offered by CommBox. By investing in this software, they could continue to provide critical services with little disruption.

An automated resolved first response time of customers at 51% is also highly significant. It shows that government and municipal organizations are also to solve a good deal of customer issues through digital channels, supporting the idea that digital channels are the way forward across all sectors.

WhatsApp digital channel use rose by a whopping 220%, the highest of any of CommBox’s partner sectors. This proves that WhatsApp is an excellent digital communication channel for all consumers, no matter the sector. Consumers want to communicate with organizations in the way they feel most comfortable. Since WhatsApp is straightforward and easy to use, it becomes the go-to option for many people.



  • 165% rise in digital channel use,
  • WhatsApp 170%,
  • SMS 83%,
  • Telegram 36%,
  • Email 170%,
  • Automation resolved first response time of customers 46%

Many companies within the eCommerce sector have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic. In a world where everything has to happen online, eCommerce had to do the least to adapt. Of course, that isn’t to say eCommerce companies didn’t face challenges. Supply chain breakdowns became a massive issue across many industries, eCommerce included.

While the many companies in the eCommerce sector experienced an increase in consumers buying their products as brick-and-mortar options were no longer viable, they did have challenges to overcome. Supply chain issues meant there were often delays in getting products to consumers and sometimes meant that entire product lines had to be disbanded. Additionally, many mail services were disrupted by the pandemic, which led to delays in getting products to the customer’s doors. These factors led to an increased level of communication with customers (a more pronounced customer service function).

eCommerce companies needed to be available to address customer concerns over delays and product availability, which has continued into 2021. In Q1, we saw an increase of 165% for digital channel use in the eCommerce sector and a 170% increase in WhatsApp channel use. More eCommerce companies than ever before are providing WhatsApp communication to aid streamlined customer communications.

We also saw an 83% increase in SMS digital communication, which suggests that consumers prefer a varied digital communications approach (something we see reflected in other research). The rise in Telegram communications was also high, at 36%, with only the Retail sector beating it. Companies in the eCommerce sector should strongly consider offering Telegram and WhatsApp as digital communication channels to their customers.


Quarter 1 of 2021 has been a successful period for CommBox, and we have high expectations going into Quarter 2. In Q1, we saw huge increases in digital communication verticals across all sectors.

We are continually working to enhance CommBox’s features to allow maximum flexibility and agency to companies in the five major sectors. The global pandemic is still evolving, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. With widespread vaccine rollouts happening across the globe, experts expect that in the next three to six months, life in many countries may start to look more similar to how it did before the pandemic. However, we firmly believe that the rapid acceleration towards digital communications and remote working has had a powerful and permanent impact on the future of business-customer communications and the way we work. Digital communications and remote working is here to stay, and CommBox is proud to play an active role in supporting these transitions.

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