VeeDeePee on TransPromo’s Demise

By | September 15, 2008

Eliot Harper blogs Vodafone Australia recent announcement to discontinue the use of printed statements:

As of October 1 2008, all new & existing customers will be sent an Email Bill. Customers can still choose to view their bill via My Vodafone if they do not wish to/cannot provide an email address

It it is interesting to compare Vodafone Australia announcement to Telstra (Australia’s biggest telecommunications company) who adopted TransPromo with a statement redesign earlier this summer.

As Harper points out, TransPromo arrived too late for Vodafone.

While the value of incorporating TransPromo elements in a full colour printed statements TransPromo are obvious, and Telstra are already incorporating TransPromo in their new bill for their 9.6 million fixed line and 9.3 million mobile subscribers, it seems the opportunity for TransPromo has arrived a little too late for Vodafone.

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11 thoughts on “VeeDeePee on TransPromo’s Demise

  1. Michael Josefowicz

    Just goes to show: Different strokes for different folks.

  2. Pat McGrew

    Eliot! I read you and I understand your point, but I think you are linking two things that may not be related.

    First, “TransPromo” in its many forms doesn’t require print at all. It is just as valid to insert informational, education, and promotional information into an electronically delivered document as it is to add it to the print form. That Vodaphone didn’t try statement-based marketing or did it in a different way than Telstra doesn’t mean that “it came too late”… let’s be honest. Statement-based marketing has been around for a VERY LONG TIME. More than a decade. Some adopters were more active than others, but even in 1985 you could add triggered messages to statements and many companies did it.

    The difference now is that you can add full color marketing objects based on sophisticated triggers with greater ease.

    Remember, companies like ONE, Digiplus and others are using statement-based information, education and promotion very effectively in the ANZ market.

  3. Bob Raus

    Do both companies serve the same markets in Australia? If so, this could be an interesting case study to develop and watch.

    Both are in the same industry with apparently similar customer sets. One has chosen not to print statements at all, the other has invested in full color, highly variable statements that are not only printed – but include targeted promotional marketing information – in essence competing very effectively with on-line customization and highly creative marketing pop-ups or other “e” demand-generation techniques.

    Since you can not opt-out for receiving bills, the printed statements WILL be opened and read, while the e-statements may not be (or read less often) it would be exciting to track the actual return and effectiveness of each type of communication technique. There have traditionally been claims that highly targeted, full color, printed statements will have the highest readership, response rates and therefore payback. This appears to have potential to more scientifically support or deny that claim with a real-life situation and data.

  4. Scott Baker

    Pat, you are absolutely correct. Transpromo marketing is a toolset/methodology/solution that transcends the delivery media. In fact, Digital Nirvana editors, the blog entry you reference makes exactly the same point in it’s final few sentences — “Maybe the next revolution isn’t TransPromo after all. Maybe it’s “eTransPromo”; the incorporation of conditional marketing messages and offers on electronic statements.”

    What I find truly interesting regarding Vodaphone’s move, however, is that they have unilaterally decided which communications channel to use when speaking to their customers. This runs counter to conventional logic, which tells us that the CUSTOMER controls the “how” and the “when” of when they communicate with their service providers. While EBPP has been an option in Australia for quite awhile, I hope Vodaphone did sufficient research regarding this decision. Voluntary adoption of EBPP in Australia and worldwide has been pathetic since its introduction. Maybe forcing customers to use it will improve the adoption rate for Vodaphone.

    Or, perhaps, Vodaphone may have decided that they do not want customers who do not have email addresses…

  5. Erik Holdo

    EBPP with variable messaging and statement production with elements that promote added services is not at all what I think of as the TransPromo market. These readily accesible methods are and have been in play for quite some time and are more accurately considered Cross-Marketing.

    I believe the TransPromotional market converges print, and targeted and customized web microsites (ie- using purls) to drive purl traffic, with click-through analytics. This drives higher overall response rates and allows for the gathering of key prospect motivation and reaction data.

    With the cost per page of full color dropping, TransPromo helps separate the borrage of full color VDP mailings from meaningful and/or interesting messaging that takes into account the psychology of color and target motivation, increasing overall effectiveness.

  6. George Alexander

    I would love to see the kind of ROI comparison between Telstra and Vodafone that Bob Raus proposes (above). Now THAT would help decisions-makers who are trying to choose between printed transpromo and electronic billing.

    Absent that type of real-world evidence, though, it seems to me that those responsible for getting the bills out will tend toward adopting the electronic approach because it will seem the less risky choice. If you are interested in the details behind that conclusion, you can find them here: http://www.beyond-print.de/site/content/en/channel_news/news_0467.html

  7. Eliot Harper

    Pat, as Scott points out, I make the point in my blog that the next revolution will be “eTransPromo”; the incorporation of conditional marketing messages and offers on electronic statements.

    While Vodafone are the first major player to switch completely from paper to electronic, I don’t think they will be the last. Several Australian banks and utility companies are bullying customers into switching to online statements and playing on the “environmental guilt” message. In a recent TV campaign, Westpac Bank bragged how they have converted over 3 million of their customers to electronic statements and in turn, are reducing their carbon footprint.

    Regarding Bob’s comment, I’m not convinced that e-statements are read less often. You should see the stack of unopened paper bills on my desk 🙂

  8. Patrick Howard

    What Vodafone’s decision emphasizes is that it is not particularly interested in activating customers to pay their account. Presumably most Vodafone customers are on automatic deduction so the statement is merely a reminder that their account has been debited. If they were trying to energise their customers into actually paying their accounts they would find that paper invoices produce a far more prompt response.

    Over and above that, it simply boggles the mind that a company, any company, would voluntarily cut off a high-level communication medium to its customers in order to save a few bucks. Essential mail is an open invitation to conduct a dialogue with customers, enhance the relationship and upsell and cross sell products. It seems that Vodafone’s financial execs are driving the marketing strategy. Not a good idea.

  9. Kevin Trye

    We’re seeing this ‘lost opportunity’ in other areas outside telecoms. Here in New Zealand where online banking is very popular, most of the banks are now encouraging customers to have all their statements delivered online or via email. My own bank put the question to me when I signed in today. They told me that unless I indicated otherwise, (ticked the box) all my statements would in future be delivered online. No more paper. The natural argument pushed is the saving of trees and the environment.

    Now that the financial sectors are in such a mess worldwide, reducing statement printing costs by using simple electronic communications will be a priority. And let’s face it, some of this email communication and alternatives like secure rss feeds to deliver online updates can look pretty good, is safe and reliable. We must accept, as Dr Joe Webb has said many times, that electronic is often better and more efficient.

    The frustration for us technologists and academics is that all the software and hardware to do good transpromo effectively has been around for over 10 years. I saw my first amazing demonstration at the Dallas XPlor conference (www.xplor.org) in 1996. The markets belated acceptance of the benefits of transpromo is now too little, too late. Strategies using purl marketing may revive interest in niche areas, but costs will be a factor.

    So good people, where to from here? We’re open to ideas….

  10. Nilanjan Sur

    Going thru these arguments….it seems that we are caught between “e” (“e”verything!) and “p” (paper/print..thing). I guess there is a middle path, a place for both. It’s perfectly all right to optimise the printing volume for better business health wherever justifiable…there are a no. of customers in all businesses whose account (be it bank/utilities) acivities are very limited and could well be flagged as “sleepy” customers. For these, an e-bill/e-stmt make perfect sense to cut down the service cost.

    However, on the otherhand for the upwardly active and web-savvy group, one should not neglect the power of personalised cross media communications. An online or email offers will prompt much better response if accompanied with an equally powerful message in the printed form…so why not effectively utilising the “white space” within the bills/stmts for this. Let’s not downplay the criticality of “response to offer” from a CMO’s point of view. Somebody will still spend a lot of money in the name of business promotions! I bet many of that will still go into some printed form!

    During my recent visit to India, I found the same Vodafone there, changes the full colour graphics within their bills every month, changes the envelopes every month….and still prints in millions and millions. All these, I guess is to differentiate within a crowded market place..!! Moreover, I noticed, the private electricity company, is selling the white space to 3rd parties for their advertisement. So, the “cost centre” for bill production has suddenly transformed into a “revenue generator”!!

    On the whole, I guess it is certainly not all doom and gloom for that “p” bill…and for all those who are moving on to “greener pasture” (more trees/less paper), I suggest….let’s eat less meat..first….to save our environment!

  11. Helene Blanchette

    Elliott and all
    First, I am delighted that the comment from Elliott sparked such a list of good and rich replies as it means that transpromo is not only alive but makes people very alive in their interest to this great appllication.

    It is true that transpromo can be in any format (paper or electronic) but what people seem to forget is how the customer wishes to receive their statement and he (she) is the most important stakeholder. It seems that Vodaphone is a product focus company who makes decisions based on the lowest cost way to deliver their product without consideration of the most important stakeholder, the client! This only means that they have decided that only people with internet home access may have the priviledge of being a client of Vodaphone. It also demonstrates an attitude of “I don’t care what customers prefer as a media, I want the cheapest way of doing it. They will perhaps justify their action with the great escape of “Being Green”. I do not believe in this type of marketing or product driven attitude.

    Perhaps the success of Telstra who is providing a choice for their customers will be placing competitive pressure on the market and will make Vodaphone become a bit more customer centric. I agree that this should be an excellent comparison if we can monitor it.
    Helene Blanchette
    Go-to-Market Strategy Manager
    Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific

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