E-Delivery: Paperless or Less Paper?

Rarely does a week pass without a new article or whitepaper arguing the virtues of moving from printed communications to electronic communications.  And most recently, we have heard a lot from lobby groups that are actually promoting printed communications over e-communications (check out www.twosidesna.org ).  The subject even made it onto CBC Marketplace’s Dumbest Charge in Canada !

There is no question that the choice between electronic communications vs. paper-based communications generates a big debate on cost savings, environmental impact, data security, etc. Surprisingly the percentage of consumers that have actually adopted e-delivery compared to printed communications for statements and invoices is surprisingly low – hovering around 10% industry average (Dalbar e-delivery benchmark study).  Whether you are a pro-electronic or pro-print advocate, there is little doubt that the percentage of communications delivered electronically will accelerate in the future. There are many obstacles to e-adoption including infrastructure shortcomings, security concerns and the reality that people are just reluctant to change.  We actually believe that the term “Paperless” also creates an obstacle to e-adoption.  So many of the pro-electronic and pro-print advocates are pitching one channel over the other.  We believe that viewing the issue as an either/or choice is actually preventing e-adoption. Perhaps a better term than “Paperless” is “Less Paper” – by simply transposing the words “Paper” and “Less”, we feel that organizations can jumpstart this opportunity.

Ultimately the final consumer – clients, investors, customers and unitholders should make the decision between preferred communications channels.  Once these decisions are made, we need to respect the customer choice and cater to each individual in the channel that they prefer.  The notion of “turning off print” or promoting paper-based communications as a better channel is really irrelevant.  After all, it doesn’t matter what we think – it only matters what the customer thinks.