Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to print
The statements and bills of outrageous usage,
Or to take online against a sea of logins,
And by accepting digital mailboxes? To print: to email;
Ah, Shakespeare and his affinity for transactional documents. Well documented in his masterpieces, such as “A Midsummer Night’s Data” and “Much Ado about Printing,” Shakespeare is not the only one that noticed a shifting landscape from print-only transactional documents to online documents. Well, which one is better? To print or not to print?
As you might have guessed, the answer is not a simple one. I recently read an article in the Digital Nirvana blog describing the online shift for statements. To quote the article: “According to a massive 2011 InfoTrends study, the shift is taking place slower than anticipated. In fact, only 11% of American consumers receive their bills electronically.” Whereas, the perceived shift to electronic communications seemed prevalent (at least to me), consumers still crave printed materials, for reference purposes and for security.
First and foremost, consumer preference leans towards the printed piece. In Epsilon’s consumer preference survey, direct mail was the channel of choice for health information, insurance information, and financial services statements. 62% of Americans enjoyed checking the mailbox daily. Print technology is simply making the printed piece even more engaging, and consumers also expressed that printed mail is easier to reference at a later date. Digital Print technology has evolved in such a way to take statements and personalize them to levels never before thought possible. Utility statements can show individualized usage charts and suggestions based on energy consumption. 401k mailing and insurance statements can pair with information databases to show full color representations of distribution and growth, as well as market trends. These personalization options will continue to shift consumer preference towards print, and any business can outsource the data storage, printing and mailing responsibilities to a qualified provider.
According to the same Channel Preference study, Mobile device users were 40-50% more likely to prefer email and online communications, respectively, than non-users. This fact is important to note in an increasingly connected and mobile world. Not only are statements shifting to online options, but mobile apps for statements and utilities are surfacing, as well. Younger generations are being raised in an online world, and when they become billpayers and recipients of medical statements and 401k breakouts, they will expect them to be digital communications. The social media component very well might eventually pair with transactional documents in the future, and digital mailboxes will provide a level of security to appease those concerned about online threats.
So to print or not?
Both. The answer lies in determining and exercising your client preferences. Finding out whether your customer prefers electronic presentment is the first step in statement redesign and billing preference. Whereas mobile is convenient, the printed piece offers great levels of personalization, color, and is tactile. For a long time to come, the solution lies in combining the printed world and the online world into an overarching multichannel strategy. Preparing your statements for both online and printed communications will allow the customer to choose how and when they transition between mediums and will help you answer the question “To print or not to print?”