Print Communications Remain Critical to CX Success
Broadridge delivered nearly 7 billion print and digital communications on behalf of our clients last year. These clients trust us to produce their printed communications but also come to us for help elevating their digital experiences. But before focusing on any single channel, we encourage them to step back and clarify their specific goals.
Some simply want to reduce print costs. Others are more focused on customer loyalty, retention, or the overall experience.
Regardless of strategic objectives, however, we usually find that print-based communications figure centrally in a go-forward roadmap. Paper is not going anywhere. And as the digital divide continues to prevent millions from taking full advantage of digital experiences, print-based communications can make all the difference.
In February 2021, Broadridge published highlights from its third Annual CX and Communications Insights Survey. At the height of the pandemic, we asked 3,000 consumers from the U.S. and Canada (age 25 and older) how they interact with companies and their communications preferences. Spoiler alert: Even during a global pandemic, consumers aren’t giving up print.
Narrative vs. Reality
If you read headlines in the past year, you’d think the whole world has gone fully digital and will never look back. So-called stay-at-home stocks (think Zoom, Slack, Teledoc, etc.) have been the media darlings, ushering in a new “virtual era.”
Our research contains some evidence pointing to similar trends.
Fifty-six percent of respondents agree: The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed how they communicate and engage with companies — for good. Seventy-five percent switched at least one bill last year to paperless. And even 73% of Baby Boomers say they’re engaging digitally in a new way for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
On one level the pandemic was, in fact, an accelerant for digital adoption. It just didn’t happen at the expense of print.
We’re nearly 15 years since the launch of the first iPhone; however, only 40% of consumers have gone fully paperless. Less than half! Virtually everyone now carries a smartphone, but only a minority have fully abandoned paper communications.
In fact, 27% of all respondents said they prefer to receive communications by mail. Most interestingly, 28% of Millennials say they see “no benefit” in going paperless. Of course, part of this is because many companies still struggle to deliver an engaging, relevant digital experience. But there’s more to it than that.
Paper Gets Noticed
We asked consumers why they prefer print-based communications, and most responses align with what we expected. Half say they prefer print to preserve a paper record. Thirty percent say they like paper because it’s easier to track and manage.
Other responses, however, underscore the real value of print for companies. Forty-one percent say paper is a helpful reminder to pay bills, and 23% say they’re more likely to notice paper mailings.
Taken together, these responses point to something extremely important about print-based communications: Consumers see far fewer paper communications than digital, so paper communications tend to stand out more.
Many of us receive hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of emails, text messages, and notifications per day. By contrast, we might only find a handful of print mailings in our mailbox. This makes a huge difference when it comes to connecting with customers.
Sixty percent of respondents say they still want some paper communications (whether paper-only or a hybrid), but 84% of consumers want something even more than that: They expect to easily interact across physical and digital channels. Whatever experience companies serve up, consumers just want it to work seamlessly.
Unfortunately, our research revealed that businesses aren’t meeting expectations. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said, “Most of the companies I do business with need to improve the customer experience they provide.”
The reality is paper versus digital preferences are secondary to a more foundational need: A seamless and engaging customer experience. That’s why it’s so important to step back and look at your entire customer experience, end to end.
The best way to connect with customers is to ensure that your communications meet them where they are, in the channels they prefer. In this respect, print communications should not be viewed in opposition to digital. Paper not only complements digital, but both are required to serve the varying preferences of your customer base.
Print as the Gateway to Digital
If you’re looking to elevate your digital experiences, it helps to start with your print-based communications. That’s because print communications represent a powerful springboard to holistic, omnichannel engagement.
Consider transactional bills and statements. Too many companies fail to use these communications to maximum effect. Just like anything else, transactional communications provide the occasion to connect with customers, drive cross-sell and up-sell, and build loyalty.
You can easily transform these communications by elevating design and using visually appealing branding and colors. In addition, looking for ways to simplify and use plain, easy-to-understand language.
Finally, don’t overlook the power of QR codes. As QR codes become ubiquitous at restaurants, museums, and other public places, consumers are adopting a more favorable attitude. Nearly half (49%) of consumers in our 2021 survey said they were interested in QR codes on their printed communications – up from just 29% in 2019.
QR codes can be an incredibly effective way to drive digital adoption because they enable customers to easily transition between channels. QR codes can launch interactive digital experiences or transition a customer into a mobile app to take the next action.
What’s Next for Print?
Print remains a critical component of CX success, but that doesn’t mean we should embrace the status quo. Just as customers expect digital experiences to evolve, they too expect businesses to re-imagine their print-based experiences.
In the next decade, we will continue to see print communications get simpler, shorter, and more design forward. Businesses will use data to stay responsive to customer needs and preferences. And print communications will regularly feature as part of holistic omnichannel experiences.
Matt Swain is a recognized Customer Communications industry thought leader. From delivering keynotes around the world to defining best practices, hundreds of well-known companies have relied on Matt’s expertise and research for their current and future omni-channel communication initiatives.
As Managing Director and Practice Lead for Broadridge Communications Consulting, Matt brings invaluable market research and consulting expertise to clients relative to benchmarking, customer experience optimization, and digital transformation.
Prior to joining Broadridge, Matt spent more than a decade at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends where he was a member of the senior management team with global responsibility for Business Development and Customer Communications advisory services. Matt is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and holds a Master’s degree in Print Media.