Companies have been trying to persuade customers to opt for electronic billing and communication for decades, and yet the rate of adoption has remained relatively stagnant. While it varies by industry, most consumers still opt for paper.
According to a survey by the advocacy group Consumer Action, 38% of American consumers said they favored getting bills and other important notices in the mail; 26% preferred digital (email or online).
In an age where so many people are plugged in, why do they still need paper communication as their main source of information? We’ve heard the following reasons from consumers:
- The paper statement is my physical reminder to pay my bill.
- I don’t want to go to 10 different websites to get my statements when they can be in a nice stack on my kitchen counter.
- I don’t want to lose the documents and like to keep a paper copy for my records.
What all of these reasons have in common is that consumers are still looking for ease of use. They don’t care whether their statement is physical or digital, as long as it’s a good experience.
Rather than simply pushing electronic communication, brands need to step back and examine how to improve the customer experience. As Steve Jobs said, “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.” Here’s how brands can evolve their communication strategy to increase adoption of electronic communications.
Rather than simply pushing electronic communication, brands need to step back and examine how to improve the customer experience.
Think mobile-first in statement design
Media consumption is switching to mobile-first. According Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans own a smartphone, with 15% of American adults who consider themselves "smartphone-only" internet users. This is a trend that will only become more pronounced, as both business and personal users shift away from being tethered to desks and instead choose to access the Internet anytime from anywhere.
Brands have only begun to take advantage of the platform. Today customers too often receive a PDF version of the paper statement delivered online, which is not the best experience for electronic delivery.
You can’t just slap the statement online and consider yourself digital. A better strategy would be to make statements interactive, following known design best practices and modern technology capabilities.
Here’s a sample statement from a telecommunications company, designed specifically with digital platforms in mind:
It bears repeating: the best electronic statements are created specifically with digital platforms in mind.
RRD's own SuperDoc web statement enhancement adds a layer of interactivity to static PDFs so consumers can see additional and dynamic data.
Identify your customer personas and then build journey maps
The best way to create any communications and marketing program is to start with a customer experience audit to understand the experience across all of the channels that your customers are currently using.
No two businesses are the same, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for companies. Financial services companies and utility companies are very different. Be aware of the nuances specific to how consumers are accessing content in your industry.
While different industries might vary, consumers now expect a certain level of customer experience from all industries. It doesn’t matter if you’re Amazon or not, because your customer experience is being compared to Amazon no matter what.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Amazon or not, because your customer experience is being compared to Amazon no matter what.”
At RRD, we approach this by identifying customers and prospects by known archetypes. Once these personas are identified, anyone within your organization who is building or designing customer-facing materials has an easy-to-reference view of the customer: This is who I am designing for, writing for, or talking to.
Once you have identified the customer, you can begin to dig into the journeys most important to your business.
- What are my customers trying to accomplish?
- What do they need in order to accomplish that goal?
- What is the series of interactions/steps they take to get there?
- How do they feel along the way? (Were needs met? Were goals accomplished? And what was their satisfaction before/after/during the interaction?)
- Where can we improve the interaction to support their needs and goals?
(That’s a very high-level overview, but we can really geek out about this with you another time.)
Use your customer mapping to inform your communication
Once you understand your customer and what motivates them, then you can develop an overall communication strategy. Of course, this applies to every area of your marketing.
Here’s an example of how it works. Our client, a utility company, was looking to increase their e-adoption rate by 3%. Even this small uptick in e-delivery would net significant cost savings in monthly statements. We designed a customized solution that helped the client increase e-delivery opt-ins by 12%.
How did we do it? We started by analyzing the current enrollment process, which was driven via print reply mechanisms. We identified key pain points in the process and then developed an optimized online process that included a highly personalized email campaign strategy. These campaigns made enrollment much easier by linking directly to a dedicated, prepopulated landing page.
By eliminating the need for multiple click-throughs and making the enrollment extremely easy, our client was able to exceed their primary goal, cut down on cost, and improve the overall enrollment customer experience.
Craft messages that make it easy on your consumer
A customer that traditionally needs paper as a reminder to pay a bill might appreciate more communication directly reminding them to pay the bill. Maybe your email messaging when sending the electronic billing statement needs to say “don’t forget to pay your bill.”
For the person that wants to save a paper bill for their records, you might consider creating messaging that says “don’t worry, we have all of the bills available in our archive.”
For the customer that wants statements easily accessible in one place, you can provide a solution to help them. For example, at RRD we provide the capability to aggregate all of a customer’s documents, across multiple senders, into a central hub. Instead of each statement standing alone as a separate container of information, the data in all documents can work together, allowing consumers to glean better insights from the whole picture.
To increase electronic opt-in and improve your communications overall, you should look at who your customer is and how/why they communicate with your brand, design with mobile-first in mind, and continue to analyze the customer journey. It’s a win-win situation: you’ll create a better experience for your customers while also making your communications more efficient.
Cynthia Bajana serves as a Vice President of Sales for RRD’s Business Communication Solutions division.