Environmental concerns are the basis of the growing desire for companies to become paperless. There’s plenty of data to support this fact– after all, the United States alone, which has about 5% of the world’s population, uses about 40% of the world’s paper. A huge amount of that use is within businesses whose documents could be done without using paperless.

There are also plenty of non-environmental concerns that might lead businesses to become paperless organizations, such as public relations, focusing on paperless billing, responding to consumer preference data, focusing on e-commerce, and so on. Although consumer preference and consumer consciousness is moving in the direction of more eco-friendly paperless systems (like document management software) one of the biggest obstacles in the way of companies going entirely paperless is that many other customers still expect paper options. Businesses are afraid of losing business by eliminating paper entirely.

In this article, we will talk about how customer preferences have shifted toward paperless operation, the various challenges of organizations becoming paperless, and how these factors are expected to develop in the next few years.


Consumers’ Preferences Shifting towards Paperless Operations

One of the ways that paperless business has become very much normalized is through electronic billing. Although customers might want to receive other information on paper, most are quite happy for billing to be handled electronically. That said, 72% of people interviewed in a study from 2013 said that they at least wanted the option for billing and statements to be in print, and that they believed that print can be offered in a sustainable way. Customer confidence indexes are still kind of split on this issue, but billing is one of the foremost places that customers are shifting their preferences toward paperless operations.

This shift can also be seen in the overall and sweeping acceptance of things like “biller direct” and credit cards. Biller direct is a method of payment that goes directly through the biller, rather than through a bank. It is an alternative to using checking systems that has become incredibly popular with the widespread use of the internet for e commerce and other business endeavors. Credit cards are equally popular, although they often involve paper use when they don’t necessarily need to. Since they’re already so popular, it wouldn’t be a difficult step for the immense amount of credit card use, even just in the United States, to become paperless.


Obstacles to Mainstream Paperless Adoption

We’ve already touched on a few of the reasons that true paperless environments have not caught on yet. Experts have used a term to describe the kind of move that customers have to make in order to accept processes as entirely paperless: discontinuous innovation. The term means that adopting paperless systems requires customers to change the behavior that they are used to in terms of receiving, viewing, and filing bills. That can be surprisingly difficult for people to do, especially if they have been doing it for a long time. Even young adults who are presented with a new way of doing things, however, might not accept it simply because it means that they need to learn a new process, and if there are not any glaring issues with the old one, then why change at all?

Beyond that, there are a couple other reasons customers might not want to change their billing behaviors including low customer awareness of the environmental and economic effects of continuing to heavily use paper, a lack of incentive from billers for customers to go paperless, and a lack of paperless options from alternative channels like banks and credit unions. Addressing these issues will do a lot for paperless initiatives in the long run.


The Future of Paperless

Although it seems like change in regards to customer habits around paper is very slow, things are changing, and this article wouldn’t have been written if a significant number of consumers weren’t already edging for more paperless options. So, change might be slow, but it is happening. We are also seeing a new generation of consumers and a new generation of workers – who have been raised with at least some awareness of environmental issues like limiting paper consumption. As these younger people are put into more positions of importance, things will likely begin to change faster. Additionally, the methods outlined in the previous section – offering incentives for customers to change their habits and integrating paperless systems into other aspects of business – are a pretty great way that paperless initiatives might advance in the near future.