Try Tryvertising to Boost E-Bill Adoption

Tryvertising is the promotion of goods, often through a free trial period, to give consumers a chance to try before they buy. It's a tactic used to introduce consumers to a new product or service that they have yet to see in person or experience. Tryvertising is mostly associated with the sale of consumer products, such as cookware or satellite radio subscriptions, but it can also change the way people receive and pay bills.

Millions of consumers are receiving electronic versions of their paper bills, known as e-bills, at service provider Web sites or through online banking bill-pay services offered through financial institutions. Consumers cite convenience as the primary reason for selecting e-bills, according to the 2011 Fiserv Billing Household Study. Other benefits include the enhanced ability to manage finances and reduced paper waste.

Despite the benefits, some customer segments are still reluctant to shift their financial habits. It is likely that these customers stay with paper bills because they are comfortable paying bills in a conventional way or are unaware of the benefits of e-bills. However, after consumers sign up to receive bills electronically, they often find that the e-bills themselves, as well as the associated reminders they can receive via email or text, provide an additional level of due date awareness, facilitate on-time payments, and support personal financial management. Trial periods provide an opportunity to introduce consumers to these benefits, and consumers have been very receptive to the idea. As part of the Fiserv Billing Household Study, consumers who have yet to use e-bills were asked how they could be convinced to sign up. The leading response was that they would like the ability to try e-bills before turning off the paper bill.

E-billing offers significant benefits for companies that send monthly bills. Hard cost savings are generated from the elimination of paper, printing, and mailing. In addition, cost savings can be recognized because customers who receive e-bills usually make fewer calls to the customer care center. When they do need to call, e-bill recipients more frequently use the less costly online customer care channel. Research conducted with Con Edison in 2011 found that e-bill customers make more timely payments. A study with Qwest Communications in 2009 found Qwest customers receiving e-bills either at their bank site or at Qwest.com had higher levels of retention, profitability, and product bundling than paper bill customers.

Given general consumer interest in e-bills, and their benefits for both consumers and companies, it's a good time for service providers to push for increased adoption through tryvertising.

In 2011, a major U.S. telecommunications provider partnered with Fiserv to launch a tryvertising program to encourage e-bill adoption. The program, E-bill Easy Activation, gave the provider's customers, who were already paying bills through online banking, the option to receive an e-bill at the bank site, in addition to their paper bill, for a 90-day introductory period. An e-bill is an electronic version of a paper bill that customers can view and pay online. Instead of being sent to the customer's home mailbox, eBills are delivered to the websites of companies they do business with. This could be a bank, credit union, or in this case a U.S. telecommunications company that sends bills.

The company offered the free billing cycle trial to 400,000 customers. At the end of the trial period, if the customer did not opt to continue with e-bills, the paper bill continued and e-bill delivery was terminated. The rate of Easy Activation program customers choosing e-bills was three times higher than customers who were not involved in the pilot. That major telecommunications provider successfully changed the financial services behavior of many customers, 75 percent of whom were first time e-bill users.

Tryvertising programs for e-billing provide consumers with a way to experience something unfamiliar while still receiving traditional paper bills. Like the many other types of companies that embrace innovative marketing campaigns to capture more customers and increase adoption, service providers that incorporate tryvertising to change consumer bill payment behaviors can expect strong and lasting results.

Eric Leiserson is a senior research analyst at Fiserv, where he is responsible for the development of consumer-related electronic billing and payment research, adoption strategies, and marketing programs. He has conducted numerous primary research projects and Webinars in the areas of green marketing, consumer segmentation, longitudinal surveys, Web usability, and focus groups. Prior to joining Fiserv, Leiserson held marketing and sales positions at Unisys Corporation and Intuit.

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