Barriers to Success and Tactics for Driving Paperless Adoption in Financial Services

by | Aug 30, 2021

Reactive To Proactive: How Financial Services Providers Make it Easy to Switch to Paperless


Paper suppression was all the rage 4 or 5 years ago, so financial services providers were able to “cherry pick” the people who really wanted to go paperless. So, as time has passed only those that were more reluctant to convert to paperless remained. As they strove to convert the rest of the pack, financial services providers relied on their standard paper suppression techniques to drive paperless adoption in financial services.

The issue is that ongoing concerns about data security, as well as a ‘what’s in it for me,’ attitude have some consumers pushing back against these reactive paper suppression tactics. Financial services firms are beginning to realize that they must take a more proactive approach, as they strive to introduce more consumers to the overall benefits of going paperless.

The consumers that haven’t yet converted to paperless are different from the ones who were easy to convert 5 years ago. This means providers must rethink their tactics, understand what the real barriers are, and become more targeted and proactive in their efforts. Ignoring these specific barriers may jeopardize customer loyalty and prompt customer fall-off to a competitor.

Taking a Different Approach To Paperless Adoption In Financial Services

According to Keypoint Intelligence’s commissioned survey results, the top tactics for achieving paperless adoption included a better customer experience, an effective multi-channel marketing strategy, and meeting security/privacy concerns. These are the tactics that today’s consumers are gravitating towards, so financial services firms can use this information to embrace a more proactive approach to paper suppression. Meanwhile, it is evident that more reactive behaviors (like charging consumers a fee for receiving paper communications) are becoming less popular because they can interfere with loyalty and trust.

Which of the following tactics are you implementing to achieve your paperless adoption targets for delivery of bills/statements?

  • Better customer experience (e.g., easier to receive, view, pay, and store) – 53% 53% 53%
  • Effective multi-channel marketing strategy – 41% 41% 41%
  • Meeting security and privacy concerns – 41% 41% 41%
  • Making it easy for customers to switch – 39% 41% 41%
  • Focus on educating customers on benefits of paperless – 38% 38% 38%
  • Providing incentives (e.g., gift cards, discounts, loyalty points) – 36% 36% 36%
  • Setting realistic goals – 34% 34% 34%
  • Use of internal programs to incentivize CSRs and others to drive adoption – 33% 33% 33%
  • Defaulting new and/ or renewal customers to paperless communications – 29% 29% 29%
  • Charging a fee to receive by mail – 27% 27% 27%
  • Don’t know -2% 2% 2%

N = 121 Enterprise Respondents that are meeting or exceeding paperless adoption targets for bills/statements | Multiple Responses Permitted
Source: Doxim CCM Vertical Marketing Study (United States, Keypoint Intelligence 2021) 

Digging deeper into the research data, we find that financial services firms rank about 10% higher than other verticals in terms of delivering a better customer experience (e.g., making it easier to receive, view, pay, and store bills/statements). At the same time, however, financial services firms lag behind the proactive approach that other industries deployed in terms of making it easy for customers to embrace paperless. In fact, financial services providers were almost 25% behind the healthcare and utilities industries in this regard.

Among financial services firms that are not achieving their paperless adoption targets, the lack of internal consensus on strategy was a top contributor, right up there with not making it easy enough for customers to switch.

The lack of a strategy suggests that many financial services providers don’t understand where their customers sit on the paper suppression adoption curve. It might seem logical to assume that all digital natives will want to go paperless, and that they will always be the easiest to convert-but this is not always the case! In fact, digital natives are often more attuned with today’s security and personal data concerns. As a result, some have held off on transitioning to paperless and  others have switched back to paper communications as they consider them more secure.

So, the question these financial organizations should be asking themselves is: how can we possibly make the transition from reactive to proactive if we don’t know where all our customers stand on the paperless adoption curve?

An Opportunity to Make a Change

According to Keypoint Intelligence’s research, the paperless adoption curve has largely flattened out within the financial services industry. So, what does that mean? If we think back to 8 or so years ago, sustainability was a huge concern in consumers’ eyes. Migrating consumers to paperless was therefore a rather easy task, because going paperless meant saving the planet. As technologies and communication innovations progressed, the paperless adoption curve continued its upward trend, particularly as the proliferation of smartphones redefined customer communication preferences and encouraged more consumers to make the switch.

Today, those consumers who continue to prefer paper-based communications often have genuine concerns about digital communications in terms of data security and identity theft. Still, others simply have a personal preference for paper. The paperless adoption curve is flattening out, and the reactive paper suppression tactics that might have done the trick a few years ago are no longer moving the needle with these consumers.

As noted earlier, some of these tactics are in fact contributing to lower levels of satisfaction and eroding customer loyalty. Today’s customers won’t feel valued if they’re also feeling forced into making a decision, so a more proactive strategy is required to counter the barriers contributing to this flattening trend.

Which of the following actions are you taking to improve your paperless adoption rates over the next 2 years?

  • Making it easy for customers to switch – 48% 48% 48%
  • Better customer experience (e.g., easier to receive, view, pay, and store) – 46% 46% 46%
  • Focus on educating customers on benefits of paperless – 37% 37% 37%
  • Meeting security and privacy concerns – 36% 36% 36%
  • Setting realistic goals – 35% 35% 35%
  • Effective multi-channel marketing strategy – 33% 33% 33%
  • Providing incentives (e.g., gift cards, discounts, loyalty points) – 32% 32% 32%
  • Defaulting new and/or renewal customers to paperless delivery – 31% 31% 31%
  • Charging a fee to receive by mail – 30% 30% 30%
  • Use of internal programs to incentivize CSRs and others to drive adoption – 28% 28% 28%
  • Defaulting customers who pay electronically to paperless delivery – 27% 27% 27%
  • Defaulting customers who pay electronically to paperless delivery – 1% 1% 1%

N= 147 Total Enterprise Respondents | Multiple Responses Permitted
Source: Doxim CCM Vertical Marketing Study (United States, Keypoint Intelligence 2021)

The Bottom Line

Consumers who have not already converted to paperless bills and statements will likely require a different approach if financial services firms hope to continue moving forward with their paperless adoption strategies.

Rather than being reactive (e.g., automatically converting new/existing customers to paperless without permission or charging consumers extra for paper statements), financial services providers should strategically shift to a more proactive approach (e.g., focusing on the customer experience and addressing any data security/privacy concerns).

Doxim’s solutions can help financial services firms transition those consumers who have not already embraced paperless adoption and deliver an outcome that maximizes the benefits for both the consumer and the firm.

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Eve Padula
Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Advisory Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format.
Her responsibilities include the promotion and distribution of content, handling data analysis for forecasts and research reports, and managing the editing and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables.

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