Drop Print for Digital Communications? Consumers Say "No Thanks!"

79% of Consumers Prefer Print

You’ve probably experienced it yourself. You receive an invoice from a vendor encouraging you to drop print, “Go Paperless” and consent to receiving all further communication digitally. Many businesses imply an environmental benefit to dropping print. More on that later, but such “requests”to drop print, reflect a continued attempt by many corporations to force their customers into electronic forms of commerce and correspondence.

The news here is that this implicit desire to take away the print-based option, doesn’t sit well with most American consumers. A survey conducted earlier this summer by Toluna Inc. for our friends at Two Sides North America, makes that very clear. A large majority of respondents strongly oppose the idea of losing the option of receiving printed communications, invoicing and statements, and reject the idea of paying a premium to do so.

Resisting The Digital Dictators

The Two Sides survey shows that 79% of respondents want to have the choice to receive paper bills and statements, since paper provides a more permanent record. Furthermore, 77% said they would be unhappy if asked to pay extra for that option.

Another big reason for the print preference was the ease of reading on paper vs. a screen (79%). Another reason cited was unreliable internet access (49%).

Questioning The Digital Motive

Companies often use implied environmental claims when attempting to influence their customers to choose digital delivery.  “Go Paperless – Go Green” or “Go Paperless – Save Trees” are common catch phrases. Interestingly,  57% of the respondents doubt the validity of those claims, and an overwhelming 85% believe that cost saving is the main reason behind them. Even younger “digital generation” consumers agree with 75% of respondents aged 18-24 believing that cost savings, and not environmental concern, is behind the push for digital communications.

While it is good that the “green” story is met with some skepticism, the study showed that education is still needed. Among respondents, 78% were concerned about the effects on forests by the production of paper, and more than half believed U. S. forests had decreased in size. In fact,  forests have grown 3% in area and 58% in volume over the past 60 years. Additionally, fewer than half of respondents knew that paper is one of the most recycled products in the U.S., with recovery rates of over 66%.

As Forests Grow, So Does Environmental Acceptance of Print And Paper

Other results in the survey are even more encouraging for those who work in printing and graphic communications and forest products industries. Positive notes included:

  • 91% of respondents agreed that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when responsibly produced and used. (This represents an increase of 13% over results of a similar survey in 2013.)
  • 88% of survey respondents agreed that when forests are responsibly managed it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing.
  • The “wired” generation is on board, too – more than 80% of respondents 18-24 agreed with both of the above statements

People Prefer Print. Is Your Business Giving It To Them?

It’s always been popular, of course. But as forestry practices have improved and the real environmental costs of other supposedly “green” options are analyzed, print materials are smarter and more sustainable than ever. Clearly, receiving communication from your business in print is the communication option valued most highly by consumers, when the other option is digital.

Print deserves an important place in your marketing and communications plans. Contact me or one of our sales reps for some great thinking on how to make the most of it. No matter how “high-tech” or contemporary you believe your business and customers are, remember that digital just doesn’t do it.

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