The drive toward paperless statements is old hat by now, but companies like Inlet are leveraging newer technology to create a richer experience for consumers and billers. PaymentsJournal.com recently spoke with Inlet’s Vice President and General Manager Russ Chacon to get his take on the new payments niche.
“Today billers look at their peers that are leaders in paper suppression, and they can see that more than 80% suppression is actually achievable. That’s even when you’ve got a large, diverse customer base,” says Chacon. “Consumers have also evolved; they have more and more ways now to see their bills that go to more devices. Many payment methods now revolve around the way the customer prefers to pay.”
Inlet is the five-year-old brainchild of shipping giant Pitney Bowes and investor communications and technology company Broadridge Financial Solutions. Through a collaboration with financial services technology providers, Inlet created a network of 6,500 banks in the U.S. These are the banks that most billers aren’t reaching today. Next, the company connected to popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft One Drive, which allow consumers to store bills and statements in a common location with access from any device. The result: a platform that reaches over 33 million consumers and provides a meaningful reduction in monthly billing and payments costs.
“The biller saves money, and the banks get more direct integrated content. The consumer gets a better experience overall,” says Inlet’s Vice President and General Manager Russ Chacon.
In addition, as mentioned above, billers enjoy the success Inlet achieves regarding driving customers toward paperless. “Our customers use us because we drive paperless adoption, but we do it in an interesting way. Our customers are actually able to save money while they’re delivering a superior experience, which is a unique proposition,” says Russ.
Companies’ major benefit to going paperless?
Cost savings, says Chacon. “Every time a consumer selects to receive an eBill instead of a paper statement, our customers save money, and they keep saving it month after month after month. So we keep a very close eye on adoption. That’s the primary driver of savings for the biller. That’s why it’s so important to track.”
For companies to be successful in moving their customers to paperless, says Russ, they need a diversified approach. “The leading billers moved from the old days of just an email notice to developing the delivery of bills on their own website, and now they’re engaging a broader strategy that leverages bank bill pay at all 10,000-plus financial institutions. [They] need to get to all of them because that’s where the consumers are.”
“What you see out there in the marketplace is a mix of old and new, all of which can work, but it’s all part of an overall multipronged strategy,” continues Chacon.
Moving to the cloud
An additional piece of this strategy, he says, is cloud destinations, such as Amazon Drive. “These are growing so fast that it’s hard to keep track of what consumers are using to accumulate and store their important papers electronically.”
Look at the mobile wallet
The last piece is the mobile wallet. “It isn’t part of a lot of the success today just because it is so new, so it’s not driving a lot of volume, but we all know that that is probably going to be an important component as you look toward the future,” Russ Chacon says.
There’s no question that electronic payments are the way of the future. According to a 2018 Mercator customer survey, in 2017, 78 percent of consumers paid bills electronically, including 36 percent who did so with their mobile device (smartphone or tablet).
Inlet uses this type of multifaceted approach with their customers—the billers, says Chacon. “The first thing that’s really important is for a company to understand where their customers are paying their bills. And so, for example, one of the things that we do that’s an important element of our conversation is to be able to help them understand how many of their customers are actually paying their bills through bank bill pay today that they’re not paying any attention to.”
Armed with that knowledge, billers then have the opportunity “to deliver a superior experience and give their customers a way to store [their bills] electronically,” he says. “This really sizes that opportunity in terms of how many consumers you can get in front of immediately.”
The growth of real-time payments
Real-time payments are a trend that the Inlet executives have seen growing.
“It used to be that when someone was making payments way back when, they loved to schedule payments so [the payment would] get there at the last possible minute so that they could hold the money in their checking account for the longest period of time,” says Chacon. Doing that took care and diligence, because the payer had to ensure there would be enough in the checking account to cover the payment when the payment cleared.
No longer, according to the executive. “Now today’s consumers, especially the younger consumers, really look at it more in terms of, ‘If I have to pay somebody, I just want to pay them and get it over with, and I don’t want to spend that money twice. So go ahead and take the money out of my account now.’”
As a result, he adds, “you’ve seen a real evolution as we’ve moved to consumers wanting to actually make their payments now, in real time. That matches their expectations and capabilities that they have now with their mobile devices for everything else that’s real-time.”
This is driving the financial marketplace in a direction in which financial institutions and billers are examining real-time payments and creating infrastructure that’s evolving to better match up against those new consumer expectations, the Inlet executive adds.
A view of the future
“We expect to see double-digit growth in 2019 as more companies realize that they need to embrace that multipronged approach to suppression and satisfaction,” says Chacon. “We’ve got the cloud providers continuing to add features that are attracting more and more consumers to their solutions. And we’ve got several customers talking to us about how to how to help them with their wallet solutions.”
Inlet also plans to add a new distribution partner midway through the year.
“We’re very bullish on the prospects for Inlet and for paper suppression,” he adds, “as more and more people figure out that it does take the multipronged approach and that there’s a low-effort way through Inlet in order to be able to really grow that suppression.”
One thing is certain: Paperless—and mobile—payments are here to stay—and so is the age of catering to the consumer in increasingly specialized ways.
Visit www.InletDigital.com to learn more.
Customers’ delivery preferences are shifting, and many are demanding to receive their bills and statements digitally, but companies are struggling to deliver. Inlet has teamed up with Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends and developed a white paper that explores how companies such as Sprint are implementing new strategies to expand digital offerings to include preferred digital channels such as bank bill pay sites and cloud storage destinations to help facilitate more payments and increase paperless adoption rates.