Quadient research has revealed that almost two-thirds (62%) of UK consumers are more likely to open a letter than an email.
The researchers have therefore warned businesses against thinking that physical mail is a thing of the past. Almost three-quarters (71%) of the 2,000 UK consumers surveyed in autumn 2022 expected banks, solicitors, etc, to send important documents such as contracts or mortgage/pension statements through the post rather than over email.
Almost half (47%) of the consumers surveyed have been annoyed by receiving a letter that looked threatening or alarming at first – for instance, a final notice bill or medical test result – but which turned out to be junk.
When participants were asked why a physical letter from a business might be better than email, 43% said that important letters can always be sent with guaranteed or signed-for delivery, so they can be sure they’ve received it and know immediately that it’s important. 42% said that there is no risk of hacking, phishing or being infected by viruses, while 37% said that they appreciated the lack of spam messages received through physical mail compared to email. 39% said that letters feel more personalized to them and their needs rather than bulk email messages.
Consumers were also asked why a business might be better off sending an email rather than writing a letter. Reasons for this included the method’s immediacy, ease of access and regularity. Of those surveyed, 56% pointed out that they can receive and reply to an email immediately, meaning they can communicate with a business much faster if they need to, rather than through physical letters. 54% preferred email because messages can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, provided the recipient has an internet connection. 49% appreciated the ability to access email on any day when it’s relevant to them, instead of having to miss delivery on Sundays and Bank Holidays, as they do with letters.
The research found that those aged 55 and over place more value on the benefits of communicating through email. Almost two-thirds (65%) of this group reported that they prefer email because of the ability to receive and reply immediately. 59% of this age group pointed to the ability to access emails from anywhere, at any time, the same percentage of this group preferring email because you can receive messages on any day, including holidays.
Anthony Coo, product head at Quadient, said, “Depending on the reason for contacting customers, companies need to strike the right balance between using letters or emails and other digital communication channels. If somebody receives a letter from their solicitor or bank and is concerned it is about something hugely important [but] then it turns out to be an attempted cross-sell from a partner, they are likely to be irritated. In this instance, digital channels could be more appropriate.
“Businesses need to play to the strengths of both letters and emails – it’s dangerous to assume your customers will want one or the other. For instance, businesses serving an older customer base may assume they won’t respond well to email – but this is not the case. People aged 55 and over are more appreciative of the instant, always-available nature of email. Overall, businesses need to think strategically about the different scenarios in which they contact customers, and which communication channel fits the job.”