Electronic bill presentment and payment is nothing new. After a decade of begging, online banking’s “go paperless” pleas finally are being heard, as tens of millions of bill-payers no longer write checks or affix stamps on return envelopes, to the USPS’s chagrin. That many customers still...
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Electronic bill presentment and payment is nothing new. After a decade of begging, online banking’s “go paperless” pleas finally are being heard, as tens of millions of bill-payers no longer write checks or affix stamps on return envelopes, to the USPS’s chagrin. That many customers still are charged for this convenience misses the point that nearly 90 million American households participate in online money management, as Reuters reported last September.
Internet and 4G network security concerns aside, this is our reality; it’s how the market has trended. On a cold winter day early this year, I saw a cashless 20-something pay for a steaming Starbucks latte from an iPhone app, as if to dare mobile phone hackers. Is such e-preference generational? Not necessarily, says Xerox, whose 1:1 Lab partnered with Miami University to market to high school junior honors students. Surprisingly, perhaps, some 60 percent of the 16- and 17-year-olds targeted said they prefer hard-copy communications to electronic alternatives.
Transactional documentation is the most “required reading” of all the hard copies reproduced in print. Text and corresponding images for such promotions as tailored service reminders, bonus cash offers, lower financing rates, and new product deals are printed prominently — and often in full color — onto bills that arrive monthly in the mail. With volumes expected to drop by about one billion by year’s end, paper statements and bills still are being printed and mailed en mass — almost 24 billion such documents in 2011 alone. We’re not talking, dare we utter, “junk” mail here. Consider that 19 of every 20 statements or notifications that get mailed actually are opened and read. A multi-client study by InfoTrends showed that, on average, consumers spend between two and three minutes reviewing monthly statements received in the mail; 20 percent spend five minutes or more. Even video-centric websites are jealous of “eyeball” viewing stats like those!
Of course, consumers are more mindful of their debt and debit cards during lean economic times like these. In corporate America, marketing typically is one of the first areas to suffer when budget cuts commence. And those two factors combined are precisely what makes transpromotional printing so enticing. It combines transaction documents with promotional direct mail by printing non-solicited, highly targeted personal messages directly on the face of bills, statements, and invoices. (Respondents prefer “onserts” to easily discarded inserts, research shows.)
Transactional output has not been immune to cost cutting: Statements are smaller and page counts are down, particularly since 2010, as marketers strive to save money on printing and mailing. Postage can account for up to 40 or 50 percent of the cost for some transactional marketing pieces, pointed out Shelley Sweeney, VP and GM of Xerox’s Service Bureau and Direct Mail Sector. “The [transpromo] segment is in transition, [yet] direct mail is growing,” Sweeney said. The challenge lies in changing customer mindsets, she added, from focusing on “the cost to produce a bill versus revenue generation.” By leveraging campaign content, transpromo print can be combined with marketing pieces or even replace other direct mailings.
With the prevalence of online billing, MPR asked Jim Hamilton, InfoTrends production group director, how much longer the transpromo segment of the print market will be viable. “I think transaction print holds out for quite a bit longer than 10 years,” Hamilton said. “We don’t have a forecast out that far, but our five-year forecast, though showing a significant drop in transaction documents, doesn’t have them dropping out entirely. [See chart in sidebar.] And keep in mind that though volumes drop, the remaining pages become more fully digital (fewer workflows with pre-printed offset shells) and more colorful,” he added.