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Push' Email Billing and your Online Strategy

Published on 30 Sep 2008
Strategic Online Goals And Push Email Billing

While customer adoption rates for self-service portals have disappointed, email delivery of secure bills and statements has been extremely successful at driving qualified customer traffic to biller websites.

For billers tasked with online bill pay targets, the vision was never a mere reduction in billings costs, but rather, the ability of a billing platform in an online environment to drive customers to their web based services, while reducing paper output and associated billing expenses. Unfortunately this web based bill presentment and payment strategy has not resulted in the anticipated reduced ‘cost to serve’ through electronic payment and paper suppression, or fulfilled strategic web portal targets.

  • The theory was that consumers would flock to biller websites to manage accounts, view statements, pay bills and turn off paper. Most importantly from a marketing perspective, customers would also click on offers and promotions and purchase more products and services while at the biller’s website.
  • The reality is that only a small percentage of customers have opted to pay online. This has not translated automatically to significant savings, as even fewer have consented to turning off the paper. In practice, these online bill pay portals have become just another electronic payment channel option and have not succeeded in driving paper turn off, reducing billing costs, or capitalizing on customer retention and up-sell. However, with email bill delivery, these opportunities are within every biller’s grasp.

Striata’s experience shows that offering secure ‘push’ bill delivery via email in conjunction with existing website self-service allows billers and financial institutions realize these strategic online goals. Moreover, email billing has proven itself as a very effective marketing channel, adept at encouraging qualified, revenue generating customer traffic.

Email bill presentment drives qualified customer traffic to online self-service portals

The primary benefit of email billing for online bill pay and self-service portals is that trusted links within the secure electronic bill or statement drives customer adoption of web based services.

Email billing and web based billing have fundamentally different approaches to consumer traffic:

  • Website self-service portals offer enrolled customers a simple email notice in their inbox informing them that a bill is ready for online retrieval. This notice does not attempt to entice the customer into doing anything outside of visiting the biller website. The email itself is unprotected as the security is with the website. Billers cannot therefore, effectively utilize email communication to further online strategic goals, or drive paper turn off.
  • With email document delivery, bills, statements and other documents are delivered as secure attachments directly to the customer’s inbox. The same security mechanisms protecting a biller’s website are built into the secure attachment. Unlike links from a “come and get your bill” email, links from within the secure electronic document are trusted and unphishable.

While delivering bills to customers does negate the need to pay at the biller site, it still offers the option to do so, with the difference being that it does so from a protected, secure link instead of an unprotected email. Trusted links within the eBill prompt customers to view their billing history, manage an account, or respond to marketing promotions, thus driving qualified traffic to biller web self-service portals.

This is due to:

  • The convenience of email presentment: bills arrive in customer inboxes. Once customers are comfortable dealing with a biller electronically, it is an easier transition to pull them to an online self-service portal.
  • The ease of one click viewing: Customers who are daunted by the complexity of having to navigate an online bill pay portal have a high comfort level with email.
  • The security of the delivery method and the protections that are built into a well executed delivery strategy eliminate any possibility of phishing or scams.

Secure document delivery creates secure links

Adding email bill presentment and payment in conjunction with online self-service, alleviates the phishing concerns that inhibit adoption.

Unlike unprotected emails sent by billers inviting recipients to a login page, encrypted bills that arrive in customer inboxes are completely unphishable. It is not possible for a phisher to have the detailed, personalized information included in the email or the secure attachment. Authentication is an offline process, with no sensitive data passing over the Internet. Payments can be made directly from within the encrypted document, without the need to enter sensitive payment information onto a web site.

While web users will often overlook their security concerns with sending personal information or performing web based transactions when it is significantly more convenient than the offline alternative, it is it unlikely that they will simply dismiss their fears for web based bill presentment and payment. For the majority of customers (90% across all industries) it is less convenient to retrieve a bill online than to receive it in the mail.

However, by eliminating security concerns, these protections, combined with the convenience of email presentment and payment, encourage customers to take advantage of the time saving self-service options available online.

Trusted links create effective marketing opportunities

The secure environment of an encrypted email Bill creates new, personalized marketing opportunities that allow billing to serve as a significant revenue generator. Many email billers maximize this trusted real estate with personalized marketing offers that drive well qualified website traffic. In comparison, unprotected email notices tend to refrain completely from promotional messaging, as this would simply create new phishing opportunities and heighten consumer resistance to clicking any link at all.

With paper bill stuffers becoming increasingly ineffective and cost prohibitive, and the marketing opportunity at customer portals often lost altogether, the ability to cost effectively utilize the billing platform for growth has added importance. BillPay marketing is one of the hottest, most effective channels for customer retention strategies and loyalty programs, providing numerous up and cross sell opportunities. Even a simple, plain text payment confirmation can easily be transformed into a rich marketing vehicle.

Commercial messages such as eBills, are expected, anticipated and extremely unlikely to be deleted unread. Integrating promotions into the bill guarantees customer’s attention. With the Striata Platform, offers can be individually personalized and profile targeted, promising relevant, highly visible marketing messages.