Q&A: InfoTrends’ Matt Swain on Digital Mailbox Services
Matt Swain, an associate director at InfoTrends, talks about the state of digital mailbox services, and whether or not the transaction printing industry should pay attention. OutputLinks asks Matt eight questions to get the complete picture.
Question No. 1: Hi Matt. What we really want to know is, should printers fear digital mailbox services? So please, share with our readers what your latest study discovered. What can you tell us about the scope of the research InfoTrends recently completed?
Answer: This was a comprehensive study entitled The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services that looked at the digital mailbox service market in the U.S., while providing a high-level perspective of some of the services available abroad. We surveyed over 1,500 consumers, 300 businesses, and conducted more than 25 in-depth interviews, including leading service bureaus, billers, financial institutions and digital mailbox service providers.
Question No. 2: What is InfoTrends’ definition of digital mailbox services?
Answer: We define digital mailbox services as a digital alternative to a traditional mailbox that allows users to “go paperless,” receive and archive business-critical documents within the service. These services are more than traditional online bill consolidation. Additional functionality may include bill payment capabilities, document and content upload, long-term storage, loyalty program management or access to special offers. Based on these criteria, announced and available digital mailbox services in the U.S. include doxo, Manilla, Volly and Zumbox. Internationally, some examples would be Digital Post Australia and Australia Post Digital MailBox in Australia; ePost in Canada; Data Boxes in the Czech Republic; Denmark’s e-Boks; the Finnish NetPosti; digiposte and HomeBubble in France; and digipost and e-Boks in Norway.
Question No. 3: How did you decide on the term?
Answer: I went back and forth on terminology a few times before I decided to lead with “digital mailbox services.” I reviewed other terms that were being leveraged globally –digital mail, electronic post, digital postal mail, and others – and I came up with reasons not to use each of them. I think digital mailbox services is the best term because it aptly describes the category in a concise and accurate fashion. I’m open to feedback if there is a better descriptor out there!
Question No. 4: What was the most important finding from your study?
Answer: I think it’s the market’s potential for growth. Digital mailbox services will grow to be an important delivery and payment channel that billers, service bureaus, and vendors will need to develop a strategy around. In fact, we estimate that digital mailbox services will deliver two billion paperless transactional documents to U.S. consumers in 2015 – representing seven percent of all transaction documents, 19 percent of all paperless delivery, and $323 million in transaction document delivery fees alone.
Question No. 5: Did the research reveal which consumer demographic would be most likely to try this type of service?
Answer: Yes, definitely. We found that nearly 75 percent of consumers under the age of 35 are willing to try a digital mailbox service, compared to just 41 percent of respondents over the age of 54. Not surprisingly, consumers who consider themselves early adopters of new technology were significantly more likely to try a digital mailbox service. Men tended to be more likely to try if incentivized, while women tended to be more likely to try with more information. We expect to see highly-targeted marketing on the part of the service providers to reach consumers that fit into this demographic.
Question No. 6: Do you expect this market to consolidate down to one service provider in the U.S.?
Answer: We expect there to be two, maybe three, successful digital mailbox services in the U.S. in the long-run. That said we are not in consolidation mode yet. With such a young market, it is going to attract competitors. The first thing that will happen is that new companies will enter, as venture-backed startups or established organizations entering from adjacent spaces. Users will decide which service(s) they most prefer and providers will rally around the most successful ones. The exception internationally is when there is a government mandate that content will be delivered through a specific service, often tied to the postal service. This is not the case in the U.S. today and it would be highly unlikely for that to change.
Question No. 7: Why is it important for transaction document service providers to be paying attention to this market?
Answer: Consumers noted that the top three document types that they would like to see consolidated under a single sign on are bills, statements, and receipts – all transaction-oriented relationships. The digital mailbox providers understand that they need to lead with bill and statement consolidation and then expand from there. For the transaction document service provider, the goal should be to be seen as an integrator of all client communications, including print and the gamut of electronic delivery channels. Some consumers will continue to demand print communications, but others are going to demand exclusively electronic relationships. The transaction document service provider can be that integrator and the digital mailbox is an emerging electronic delivery (and payment) channel that must become a part of the providers’ delivery portfolio as this channel grows.
Question No. 8: So back to the real question on everyone’s mind: Should printers fear digital mailbox services? Why or why not? Is there enough data or is it too early to make the prediction?
Answer: Well the short answer is – it depends. If you are a printer of high volume transaction documents and that is all you do, then yes – absolutely. Digital mailbox services will disrupt your livelihood. Forward-thinking mailers and service bureaus are actively partnering with digital mailbox service providers to avoid disintermediation. Ultimately, your client is seeking your support for distribution of business-critical communications. Some of those communications will continue to be distributed through traditional channels, while others will increasingly migrate to digital alternatives. The provider that can support the breadth of the client’s delivery channel needs–print, web, mobile, social, digital mailbox – will be seen as a business communications distribution expert…who also prints.
One Question for YOU: What do you think – agree or disagree with Matt?
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