With everything and everyone “online” these days, it may be a surprise to see data pointing to digital and physical engagement being paramount to creating an effective connection with customers. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, in partnership with Pitney Bowes, has found that no matter what age, gender or location, consumers around the world agree that when it comes to brand interactions, personal, trusted and reliable omnichannel engagement is the preferred option and choice.

More than 85 percent of the 2,000 global consumers surveyed by the CMO Council report that a blend of both digital and physical channel experiences is their preferred way of interfacing with brands. However, the study, “Critical Channels of Choice: Meeting the Customer Expectation for Omnichannel Relationships,” also found that that only 13 percent of consumers believe that brands are fully meeting this expectation and delivering across both physical and digital channels.

The CMO Council found that the preference for both digital and physical channel experiences extends to younger consumers as well. Survey data shows that 87 percent of Millennials and Gen Z say they prefer an omnichannel choice of communications. Also, across all generations, key omnichannel touchpoints are an expectation, not an option. These include access to email, phone, web, in-person engagements, video, social media and printed mail. Promotional products also represent an example of physical engagement. The majority of consumers, 91 percent, suggest that omnichannel experiences are either important or critical, with 29 percent suggesting that companies should be “where I want, when I want, ready to share and communicate how I expect.”

When it comes to channels consumers can’t live without, all but Gen Z chose their phones. For Gen Z, it was social, which they are likely accessing on their phone. Social emerges as a key channel of discovery and influence for Millennials and Gen Z, while Gen X, Boomers and the Silent Generation rely on websites to discover new products, and they admit that web is also the biggest influence on buying decisions.

Across all generations, the majority of consumers are comfortable sharing some data with brands, especially consumers in Europe who have been well-educated about data and its uses and benefits. In exchange, consumers expect to understand what is collected and how it is used. Specifically, Millennials are slightly more inclined to share more data in exchange for better personalization.

“It is easy to assume that a single generation will embrace or reject a single channel as we see individual adoption rates soar or plummet year over year,” says Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing with the CMO Council. “But we also live in an age where we are seeing incredible creativity being applied across both digital and physical channels—where digitally native brands like Google, Casper and Harry’s Shave Club are looking to disrupt consumer behavior and consideration patterns with beautiful printed pieces pulled from a mailbox and extend the reach and impact of email, mobile and in-store experiences. We can’t afford to ignore or discount physical experiences by assuming digital is the only channel of engagement. Consumers are not focused on channel. They are focused on their own needs, requirements and preferences. The call to action is to meet them in their moments and not in ours.”

Jeff Winter, vice president of marketing and communications at Pitney Bowes, adds, “It’s incredible to note how even the newest and most exciting of digital channels continue to evolve as consumer preference fully embraces the omnichannel opportunity. Whether by traditional means of communication, or more modern means like video and chatbot, one constant remains: everyone wants to be treated as an individual and it is up to us to deliver on that promise. The amount of data and emerging technologies available today make this an attainable goal for our industry. But it’s those brands that embrace these capabilities that will stand out as leaders in the future.”