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Can Asia lead the eStatement adoption evolution?

I was speaking to a group of banking people from fast-developing countries like Indonesia, India and Pakistan at a conference in Singapore a while ago. Their views on eBilling and eStatements were very similar - adoption rates for going paperless are still very low and they place the blame on low internet penetration. As a result, some banks are postponing eBilling implementation until there is a clear shift in the market towards paperless initiatives.

Recently however, Asia seems to leapfrog the West when it comes to technology adoption – consider mobile phone penetration compared to land-lines. This got me thinking whether the same will happen with eBilling? It seems very likely that Asia could lead the world in eBilling and eStatement adoption as the internet penetration explodes…

Default new customers to eStatements

The Asian banking market isn’t as saturated as it is in developed countries, so there isn’t the same legacy of paper billing to contend with. The massive growth in new banking customers however, provides a great opportunity for bankers to default them to eStatements.

Psychology also plays a role - Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (the premise that people must have their basic needs like food and shelter before they seek other things like luxuries and self-growth) works with modern day services too.

What comes first as a person starts earning enough money to enjoy more of the modern conveniences, such as mobile phones, computers, scooters, bank accounts and credit cards? What is the most accessible trapping of modern life? The answer is clearly internet access and an email address. Email provides vital connectivity and it’s generally free, thanks to Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo.

Email is the common denominator

The question is: How many people registering for a new bank account, taking out a credit card or using a post-paid mobile phone service already have an email address? Logically, it’s a huge proportion!

And whilst it’s certainly true that many developing countries have relatively low Internet penetration – e.g. 7% in India and 12% in Indonesia – they also have huge populations, so these percentages translate to 81 million and 30 million connections respectively. With the right strategy in place, banks can drive eBilling adoption to this connected group and realize ROI within a matter of weeks.

Steps to achieving your adoption goal:

In order to capitalize on this opportunity and improve eStatement adoption, follow these simple steps: 

  • Ask your customers for their email addresses at every touch-point.
  • Make ‘email address’ a mandatory field on all application forms.
  • Send out an eWelcome Pack – useful numbers, branch locations etc. via email to every new email address/customer you have; include lifecycle messaging in your online strategy.
  • Make eStatements the default for all new accounts and use transactional messaging to further reduce paper communications.

The same processes will work in mature markets too, but developing markets have more ‘low-hanging fruit’ - a large number of new bank accounts.

Don’t let low Internet penetration figures delay the drive for eStatements – maximize returns with a clear focus and robust paperless adoption strategy.



Comments: (6)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 April, 2012, 09:31Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Many brands and ad agencies I came across recently - in Asia - are prepared to pay manifold premiums for TransPromos placed on print and portal bills and statements. This is because, according to their own experience and SLAs given by billers, these two media deliver far greater open- and conversion-rates than email. According to an MNO biller, "print is the only type of bill that I can guarantee that every one of my customers will open and read". With the drastic drop in color laser printing costs in recent times, billers no longer find it impractical to do TransPromos on printed bills and statements.

Therefore, while billers will undoubtedly be able to grow eBilling adoption by following the suggestions given in this post, they might no longer want to do so - not only does "eBilling by default" risk putting off customers as I'd pointed out in a recent Finextra comment - but it could also result in substantially reduced ad revenues.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 April, 2012, 15:08Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for your comments, Ketharaman. 

While the open rates of paper bills can't be questioned, I'm not sure how these companies are measuring the conversion rate for their print transpromo as there's really no way to tell who's looking at what.  The Direct Marketing Association certainly rates the effectiveness of direct email marketing as several times more profitable than any other direct marketing media.  And a tracked link in an eBill provides companies with not only the facility to measure the effectiveness of any campaign, but also directs customers at the time of their interest directly to the page in question to take up the service.  From a marketing viewpoint, it just doesn't get any better than that! :-)

When taking on new customers, suggesting eBilling as the default while giving them the option to choose paper is the only effective way to save money on paper bills.  Using human nature (laziness) as a tool to enhance adoption within the existing customer base, while providing an easy 1-click "revert to paper" function on every eBill sent, is also just good business practice.  It's only where companies "force" eBilling on customers and don't provide an easy unsubscribe function that problems occur and customers are frustrated or put off - and it sounds like this is what happened to you.  We would never advise clients to do this...

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 April, 2012, 17:05Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


Thank you for your clarifications.

I re-read your blog post and I didn't find any mention of 'easy 1-click "revert to paper" function'. What I did find were recommendations to billers to 'to default them (customers) to eStatements' and 'Make ‘email address’ a mandatory field on all application forms'. In fact, my biller probably was following the suggestion to "Ask your customers for their email addresses at every touch-point", which is how it was able to enroll me into eBilling without my consent. If this isn't forcing eBilling upon consumers, I'm sorry I don't know what is.      

When there are real-life examples of brands and ad agencies who are willing to pay billers a premium for print and portal based TransPromos, it should hardly matter to billers what DMA or some other research analyst says about email conversion rates. Besides, just because it's easy to measure effectiveness of a certain medium doesn't automatically make that medium effective. 

The traditional difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of print ads is being rapidly overcome by QR codes and other technologies that advertisers are using increasingly often these days. 

Maybe the time has come for billers to chant the mantra of "less paper" - enough to permit a couple of TransPromos (just joking!) - than "paperless". This way, I see greater opportunity for them to save trees, cut costs and increase revenues.

While much of my comments might be applicable anywhere in the world, I'm restricting them to Asia - the context of this blog post - where gut feeling still plays a significant role in business culture.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 April, 2012, 07:40Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Ketharaman. If there was some detail missing in the original article it's because it's a blog-post, not an eBilling Masterclass... :-) 

And making eBilling the default choice while offering paper bills as an alternative isn't forcing anything on anyone.  Watch this great presentation by Dan Ariely for details of how this works though.

Anyway, while everyone’s experiences are different, our experiences with our clients have shown that the solution we provide is easier than opening a paper envelope and more valuable with the digital experience it provides. Our successes are evident in the fact that we smash industry averages for paper turn off.

Perhaps it’s that your experiences are based on driving customers to portals which have proven time and time again to not meet with what customers want. Happy to have this conversation offline so I can tell you more about why these strategies work for us and for some of the biggest brands across the world.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 19 April, 2012, 09:33Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


I agree that "making eBilling the default choice while offering paper bills as an alternative isn't forcing anything on anyone." However, the only rub is, most billers don't seem to be undergoing Masterclasses before taking these decisions!

No, my views are not based on portal-based eBills and eStatements. For reasons given in my Finextra post, they apply to PDF bills sent by email, especially those that involve a password / shared secret. Since it's even more unnatural to have a consumer enter a password / shared secret to see an ad on a emailed PDF bill / statement, it's not surprising that advertisers are willing to pay a premium for TransPromos placed on printed bills and statements. 

Through paper turnoff, billers might save a few pennies in paper and printing costs but they stand to lose a lot of $$$ in advertising revenues. So, to me, the real question is, should billers even want to smash paper turnoff industry averages?

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 April, 2012, 10:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I guess we'll let the billers decide that one...

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