Customers pay more attention to their printed bills and statements, with bank and credit card statements topping the list of postal pieces that hold their interest, according to a report by Pitney Bowes Group 1 Software.
The company's study of consumer attitudes to mailers found that in the UK, France, and the USA, consumers spend more time looking at their bank statement than other important documents such as tax correspondence.
Interestingly, web-based statements received significantly less attention than their printed equivalents, possibly partly because that attention is often fragmented throughout the month.
Stop the migration
As a result, the report recommends that banks, credit card issuers, mobile telecoms operators, and utilities should not be quick to migrate customers to the economies of web self-service.
Instead, the suggestion is that these kinds of companies - for whom the printed statement is often the only regular contact with the customer - should instead concentrate on generating additional income through advertising and marketing messages on printed bills and statements, whether through additional cross-sales, or through selling exposure to an affinity partner.
Adding brand value with partners
According to the report, there has been a great deal of debate over the years about the demise of print with the rise of new media and the development of dynamic internet publishing. But a great deal of consumer attention continues to focus on monthly statements, especially from financial and mobile telecoms firms.
There is, the report says, significant scope for monetising the attention that consumers pay to printed statements. Suitable affinity partners may be allowed, for a fee, to occupy an advertising slot on statement, or to insert a leaflet. And if these partners are also required to develop offers that are clearly relevant and exclusive to the statement issuer, both companies will be able to gain brand value and thereby help to increase customer retention.
This kind of initiative, The Wise Marketer notes, can also be enhanced by providing segmented campaign management to one or more partners, with relevant offers and adverts being directed to only the appropriate segments of the statement issuer's customer base. For example, a credit card issuer may choose to provide luxury brand advertising and offers to its top 10% of high-spending cardholders, while providing High Street retailer money-off offers for its bottom 10% of spenders, and family entertainment-related messages for other accounts that have secondary cardholders.
Email works for relationships
E-mail also emerged as a powerful medium but mainly for communication with existing customers rather than as a customer acquisition tool. This provides a statistical confirmation for industry observers who have predicted over the years that e-mail would become focused on customer management rather than acquisition.
Not surprisingly, direct mail remained firmly ahead of cold e-mail in terms of the consumer attention it commands. Given the universal reach of direct mail, its comparative inability to be 'filtered out', and its relative lack of legislative restriction compared to the e-mail channel, it seems likely that direct mail will retain a key place in marketing plans for many years.