Average transactional job run lengths have come down to the point that it no longer makes sense to order and store pre-printed stock, said GMC’s Harris.” Also, the burden rate due to time lost to swapping between pre-printed stocks means that white-paper workflows make more and more sense,” he noted. “We offer an application within GMC Inspire called Inspire Consolidate, which is able to merge multiple short jobs into optimized long-run jobs to take best advantage of the speed and flexibility of white-paper inkjet production.”
There still is plenty of printed transactional output to be had in 2017 and beyond. “The decline is occurring at a rate of about 3 percent year over year,” said McGrew, “but there are still many billions [of pages to be printed] over the next 10 years.” Her counterpart at Xerox took it a step further: Expect transactional print marketing in to be around in the year 2033, projected Shelley Sweeney, VP and GM of Xerox’s Service Bureau and Direct Mail Sector.
E-communications preference such as electronic bill presentment and payment are not necessarily generational, as Xerox learned last year. Its 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. (See “Press ‘Print’ for Transpromo”)
Even 20 years from now, when most of us will have a lot more gray hair and wear older people’s clothes, we and our younger consumer counterparts likely will be opening printed statements that arrive in the mail, Sweeney said. That’s because the use of transactional data packs a 1-2-3 punch, she added: 1) applying “intelligence,” 2) using relevancy, and 3) adding full-color printing. It’s not just the print medium working by itself, of course. “The opportunity is most powerful when different media sources are combined,” she noted. “I don’t think the printed component is ever going to go away because paper will still deliver the highest response rates. Plus, even young people want a paper trail.”
Healthy and Thriving
HP’s McGrew agreed. Respected industry research in the late 1990s predicted the death of transactional printing by 2003, she recalled scoffingly. “Analysts said nobody would send bills in the mail by 2005. But with online bill payment, you log in, push a button, and leave – there’s no engagement,” explained McGrew. But employing a multichannel combination of online and offline communication allows for the creation of a cycle of engagement via special “discounts and deals.” Savvy transactional marketers use the print medium to drive customers online, she noted, “where they are then entitled to get more information. For example, a printed bill can include an offer for a five percent discount on gasoline purchased for the month if customers set up an online account. The next month could be five percent off groceries or landscaping supplies.”
There is also the “mobile” element of mobile communications to consider. “A person in his or her late 20s may have had as many as 10 different phone numbers,” McGrew points out, “not to mention email addresses.” Younger people seem to like changing and experimenting with their online personas. Each may have four active Twitter accounts, for example. “There’s no guarantee that and e-bill will find them,” she noted, “but they’re confident that paper and the USPS will. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone hates mail – definitely not the majority.” Even though many people may prefer to pay their bills online, McGrew explained, they still want to receive printed statements in the mail.
Harris concurred. “Issues with electronic delivery will continue to cause a very significant number of recipients to still demand paper statements, even when they might pay online,” the GMC executive stated. “A surprising bit of research showed recently that a large portion of the Millennial generation, once they are on their own and have to pay their own bills, still want physical delivery of important documents like statements. E-mail addresses change frequently and there is no equivalent to the USPS forwarding service. Bill notifications get routed to spam at the e-mail border server, even before they make it to a local e-mailbox. The associated penalties and fees make e-delivery less attractive to the end-user ….”