Digital vs. Paper: Walking the Line

The right communication mix will improve the customer experience



Eve Padula


Consumers are more informed and empowered than ever before, and their preferences are in a constant state of flux. This is especially true as the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reshape our world. Providers of transactional communications (e.g., bills, statements, policy notices, and other business-critical communications) must continually reinvent themselves to keep up with consumers’ changing preferences while effectively delivering their messages. Businesses of all types and sizes are competing to capture consumers’ attention, and personal online experiences have conditioned consumers to expect a relevant and personalized experience from all their providers.


Striking the Right Balance

It is now more important than ever for providers of transactional communications to deliver the quality experience that their customers have come to expect. Rather than focusing on migrating all consumers from printed to digital communications as quickly as possible, the goal should be to deliver a transformative customer experience that will build relationships, increase loyalty, and ultimately drive revenues. A positive customer experience can be a compelling competitive differentiator in today’s market.


One component of a positive experience is delivering the right mix of digital and paper-based communications—but this can be more complicated than it seems. Different consumers will have different preferences, and these preferences may change over time. As such, many enterprises are motivated to maintain some paper-based communications while also moving their customers up the paperless adoption curve based on their preferences.


First, let’s consider the motivators for maintaining or increasing paper communications. Keypoint Intelligence recently completed a web-based survey of over 350 business respondents in North America (US and Canada). Among these respondents, the top drivers for maintaining/increasing the level of print produced included better customer engagement and addressing customers’ security concerns.



Of course, paper is only one piece of the puzzle in today’s digital world. In an effort to cut costs, many enterprises are working to shift their customers to paperless adoption. When enterprises were asked to rank the importance of various business objectives to their transactional communications strategy, nearly a third considered an increase in paperless adoption to be a highly important business objective. Among these respondents, cost reduction was the top driver for increasing paperless adoption.


Whereas the primary drivers for maintaining or increasing paper-based transactional communications centered upon improving the experience and honoring client preferences, drivers for increasing paperless adoption were more focused on cutting costs and improving efficiency. Many firms might initially view increased paperless adoption as a means of reducing costs—and it certainly can be. To ensure customer satisfaction, though, paperless adoption must be positioned as a vehicle for improving the overall customer experience.   


The customer must be at the center of all communication transformation initiatives, and this means concentrating on the customer’s journey and experience rather than focusing on cost reduction.


Keypoint Intelligence’s transactional communications survey data suggests that enterprises are trying to walk the line between acknowledging the shift toward digital while still honoring their customers’ preferences. Over 80% of enterprises believed that at least three-quarters of their transactional communications would be paperless in five years, but many of these same respondents also stated that they would not try to convert customers with a known preference for paper-based communications to paperless.



Even in today’s world, customers do not necessarily want all of their interactions to be digital. Instead, they want to engage with a company on their terms (based on convenience or comfort level) and receive a consistently excellent experience across all communication channels. Some customers will welcome a highly digital experience, but others might be confused by it. A paperless adoption strategy will not lower your costs if calls to customer service go up or additional correspondence must be sent to frustrated customers.


Keypoint Intelligence’s Opinion

Modern consumers have come to expect a consistent and positive experience, and enterprises must deliver on these expectations to remain competitive. Rather than focusing on reducing costs, enterprises must concentrate on improving the customer experience with superior interaction. That said, simply committing to a digital communication strategy is not enough. Enterprises need to deliver a transformative customer experience that is consistent across all communication channels. This can help establish solid relationships, increase loyalty, and ultimately drive revenues.


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