Consumers Want the Power to Choose Between Digital and Paper Documents

Recent study dismisses notion that digital sources have largely replaced paper documents

Anyone old enough to remember the first days of the internet in the early 1990’s can recall the predictions of paperless offices, classrooms without books and newsstands without newspapers. Yet here we are, almost thirty years later, and paper documents are still in our midst. In fact, paper documents remain used, viewed, preferred and trusted by consumers in today’s digital world.

Paper remains popular for important documents

A survey of 2,131 U.S. consumers was commissioned by Two Sides, a non-profit graphics communication industry organization, and carried out by leading research company Toluna in June of 2017. The results found printed documents remain an important method for delivering financial and health information to consumers.

  • 40-50% (depending on age) prefer to read bank, internet and phone statements on their computers.
  • Printed statements were preferred by 32-52% (depending on age), especially for important documents such as tax statements (52%) and personal information from doctors and hospitals (49%).
  • 65% say they prefer to receive bills and financial statements through a combination of both online and on paper. However, the under-45 age groups had a stronger preference for digital options.

Paper documents seen as safe alternative to digital data

Respondents to the survey also indicated they believe printed documents provide more privacy and security than their online counterparts. In fact, 76% of consumers reported they are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged. 79% said they keep hard copies of important documents filed at home and believe maintaining those paper documents is the safest and most secure way of storing their information.

“It’s all about reducing risk,” said Aaron Singer, president of Micro Format, a leading manufacturer and printer of document security paper. “For decades, the paper industry has been developing techniques to prevent fraud, tampering and counterfeiting efforts. This survey shows those efforts are valued by consumers who have concerns over the digital world being able to offer the same level of protection as our paper products provide.”

Overwhelmingly, consumers want the power to choose

At the end of the day, it is all about control. 90% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from financial organizations and service providers. Interestingly, there is no age gap in these findings. In fact, 88% of 18-24-year-olds want that control, and 83% of all respondents say they should not be charged more for choosing a paper bill or statement.