Snail mail versus E-mail

Although Internet access and e-mail usage are prevalent in Canada, the majority of Canadians still prefer receiving information and documents by regular mail and consider this communication method far more secure and reliable than e-mail.

According to Pitney Bowes’ Canada 2005 Household Mail

Preference Study, more than half (58 per cent) of Canadian households with access to e-mail favour receiving documents, letters and messages by mail while less than a third (30 per cent) prefer the electronic version.

Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of respondents (81 per cent) believe regular mail is more secure than e-mail with only eight percent holding the opposite opinion. The survey of more than 250 households across Canada outlines Canadians’ habits, behaviours and attitudes toward the receipt and use of regular and electronic mail, as well as their stance toward telemarketing.

The high degree of confidence in the security of regular mail also translates into Canadians’ preference to receive sensitive information such as bills, bank statements and other financial information by this communication method. Eighty-five percent of respondents with e-mail access still choose to get financial data in hardcopy format compared to only 11 per cent who prefer receiving it electronically. This bias in favour of regular mail is also prevalent for communicating other information such as new products and services with two-thirds of households preferring to receive regular mail from businesses compared to around 20 per cent who like to be informed by e-mail.

“The study provides interesting insights on how Canadians would like to be approached by businesses and service providers. Surprisingly, although Canada scores high in connectivity levels with two-thirds of households connected to the internet and e-mail, many of them still prefer to receive information by regular mail,” said Bill Mackrell, Vice President, Marketing & Global Credit Services, with Pitney Bowes Canada.

“Whether embarking on a new marketing campaign or for ongoing communication with clients, aligning the appropriate communication channel with recipients’ preferences plays an important role in achieving successful business results.”

But while regular mail seemed to be the favourite business communication channel in Canadian households, telemarketing is at the other end of the spectrum. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of Canadian households acknowledged that if Canada had a Do Not Call registry, they would want to be on it. Interest in a Do Not Call registry in Canada is even higher than in the U.S. where, in a similar survey conducted by Pitney Bowes, less than two-thirds (61 per cent) of households indicated interest in being on the list. Also, unlike their peers south of the border, 53 per cent of Canadians expect the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls to increase over the next year, compared to just 13 per cent of respondents in the U.S. Telephone is also the channel least preferred by Canadian households for receiving information on new products and services from companies they don’t do business with (52 per cent least prefer telephone, 22 per cent least prefer e-mail and 19 per cent least prefer regular mail).

Additional key findings

Canadians are more likely to discard unopened unsolicited e-mail than regular mail (69 per cent vs. 26 per cent).

About 61 per cent of Canadians spend less than 15 minutes on reading and responding to incoming mail, which puts more pressure on direct-mail marketers to communicate quickly.

While 20 per cent of Americans devote more than 30 minutes to review mail, only 10 per cent of Canadians spend the same amount of time.

About 79 per cent of respondents find unsolicited phone calls more intrusive than mail (14 per cent).

The same percentage (62 per cent) of Canadian and U.S. households believe the volume of e-mail will increase over the next year.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Canadian respondents said regular mail was most convenient, and 45 per cent found it most persuasive.

Survey methodology

Commissioned by Pitney Bowes of Canada and based on a similar study carried out by Pitney Bowes in the U.S., research company BrandTrust surveyed more than 250 households across Canada. Phone interviews included questions about households’ mail, e-mail and telemarketing use and preferences. The findings provide a snapshot of Canadian habits, behaviours and attitudes towards the receipt and use of mail, both regular and electronic – as well as telemarketing.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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