Print documents play a critical role in many business operations. They are a staple piece in marketing – a way for advertisers to stand out from the digital-first approach most organizations today are using. Plus, paper is still a preferred material among consumers. But when it comes to print service providers capitalizing on market opportunities and gaining a leg up over competitors, one of the best angles to take is focusing on transactional documents.

Of all business forms and paper products print service providers sell, today, transactional forms are among the most valuable.

Source of security
A lot of the reasons why customers prefer using paper forms for transaction-related activities can be attributed, at least in part, to the influx in high-profile cases of security breaches that have cropped up over the past year or so. Data hacks, particularly those targeting financial and banking institutions, have generated fear among customers, acting as cautionary tales of the negative circumstances companies can find themselves in when critical infrastructures and digital devices are infiltrated. It seems that not a week goes by without at least one major news story about a security disruption hitting headlines.

The scary reality is that we are all at risk – and, when it comes to our personal information and privacy, certainly our banking and financial details are among the most important for us to protect. But the appeal of using paper for transaction-based processes extends far deeper and beyond the surface of security concerns.

Billing statements: People prefer paper
In a piece for WhatTheyThink, Barbara Pellow recently highlighted the hard facts and data supporting consumers' preference for paper. Drawing on InfoTrends' 2016 Transactional Communications and Payments State of the Market research study, she reported that less than half (34 percent) of the bills and statements American households received in 2015 were "paperless." Furthermore, data from a survey revealed that almost half of the 93 million people who currently have credit cards prefer to – and do – get their statements via paper rather than online.

The research also found that nearly half of people who still get paper financial statements don't just like them because it's what they know or it's convenient: They would actually be willing to pay money to continue receiving these documents in the mail, if necessary. Furthermore, being offered a discount or coupon as a reward for switching to digital wouldn't be successful in persuading them. (Although, to be fair, this resistance has its limits: Just over half of survey participants agreed that the bare minimum they would need to be offered in credit to make the transition would be $50).

Many banking and financial institutions are making an effort to encourage their customers to switch to electronic billing. But it seems consumer sentiment isn't accelerating at quite the same pace as these business requests. Why is that?

Why banks should use paper forms
Understanding why people still value paper transaction forms over digital versions can help print service providers gain a more comprehensive view of their target audience's mindset and, in turn, an advantage over competitors and greater share of the market.

Pellow offered some insight on this topic: According to the InfoTrends' study, there are various reasons why consumers say they prefer paper statements, including:

  • They act as reminders to pay the bill (51 percent)
  • Recipients want to keep the hard copy for a back-up in their own archives (29 percent)
  • Easy to access and manage (25 percent)
  • Convenience (24 percent)
  • They are free (23 percent)

The study concurred with these findings, discovering that 80 percent prefer paper bills because it's easy for them to keep them for their own records and that almost 75 percent of people use the printed forms as a reminder to pay. When statements are online, it can be easy for customers to overlook them. Digital landscapes are overly crowded with content, so delivering electronic statements is an all-too-easy way to get lost in the shuffle.

Creating and selling the perfect transactional forms
When marketing or selling to businesses, print service providers should focus on the benefits of using paper business forms and transactional documents. By giving companies a better understanding of their consumers' preferences, print distributors are more likely to make a long-term customer. Another way to increase the chances of an organization wanting to purchase print products is to offer some tips and strategies for how they can customize the forms to most appeal to their customers. For example, Pellow suggested that transactional-related documents should be:

  • Easy to understand
  • Colorful and personalized
  • Educational and informative

In order for print service providers to expand their customer bases and better serve their existing clients, it is critical they have a sound understanding of the needs, patterns and preferences of their customers.

Navigating today's ever-evolving and increasingly complex printing market requires a strategic approach. Maintaining optimal levels of success becomes a lot easier when print service providers dedicate the majority of their focus to paper products that have high repeatability and are still very much favored and in-demand by consumers. 

And while honing in on the personal motivations and reasons people have for choosing paper is certainly helpful, it isn't nearly as important as taking advantage of the opportunity that comes with knowing that they do. Despite any naysayers who argue that the print industry is on its way out the door, paper products and transactional business forms aren't going anywhere anytime soon.