Consumers waiting for banks to take EBPP lead - anthrax not an issue

Consumers waiting for banks to take EBPP lead - anthrax not an issue

The majority of online bill paying consumers are still looking to their bank to take a leading role in the aggregation of their recurring bills according to research from the Yankee Group.

The study, conducted as part of the Yankee Group's annual Technologically Advanced Family Survey, found that fifty-five percent of online bill paying consumers chose their bank as their preferred central site, while just over 10% chose their Internet service provider or a private site.

Through steady marketing and incentive programs, billers are slowly driving more of their customers to the Web to receive and pay their recurring bills, says the Yankee Group, but the transactional nature of electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) still creates a strong opportunity for the financial institutions to play the leading role.

"Banks, which in the past used a `wait-and-see' approach to EBPP technology investment, still have a distinct advantage thanks to the churn-resistant nature of their customer base, and the increased acceptance of online banking among high-end customers," explains Paul Hughes, director of billing & payment application strategies at the Yankee Group. "The next step in continuing to build adoption is to improve bill distribution via a standards-based delivery channel, and ensure that the end customer can gain access to as many bills as possible, thus demonstrating the true value of what EBPP is trying to provide."

In a seperate report, Jupiter Media Metrix has released figures disputing the consensus view that the recent spate of anthrax scares will drive adoption of electronic billing in the US. Jupiter's analysis of unique visitors to the nation's largest online billing Web sites indicates that there is no noticeable increase in traffic that could be attributed to September 11 or the Anthrax threats.

Online traffic data reveal that unique visitors to online billing sites - including American Express and Discover Financial Services - increased by an average of 2.8 percent during each of the last three weeks of October, compared to a 2.5 percent average weekly growth increase over the last three months.

According to Jupiter analysts, this difference is not statistically significant and should be expected as more consumers embrace online financial applications including online billing.

"Online billing growth began this year as consumers began responding to targeted promotions and messages from financial institutions," says Jim Van
Dyke, Jupiter senior analyst and research director. "Barring a much more widespread level of consumer fear, anthrax issues will not have a significant impact on the growth of electronic bill payment and presentment. Consumers will steadily embrace online billing as they become more aware of the benefits and the bills become increasingly available online."

According to Jupiter analysts, consumers are currently able to view and pay no more more than three or four of their 12 to 18 recurring monthly bills online, preventing EBPP from being the panacea to current fears.

As with the Yankee Group, a recent Jupiter Consumer Survey indicates consumers (42 percent) are most interested in viewing and paying their bills at online banking sites. Biller's Web sites are the second most popular choice, selected by 23 percent of respondents.

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