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An inside look at U.S. vs EU analog to digital adoption

Published on August 9, 2011

Strategy Partner Oscar Dubbeldam sees all sides of the international business coin that is printing. Oscar offers his insight into the adoption of digital over analog and how the two markets compare.

Cary Sherburne::  Hi.  I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Oscar Dubbeldam from Strategy Partners in The Netherlands.  Welcome.

Oscar Dubbeldam:  Thank you, Cary.

Cary Sherburne::  So you’ve got some interesting research and insight into some of the differences between U.S. habits of consumers and those in Europe, especially around the transition from paper to electronic communications in the transactional world.  Do you want to talk a little about that?

Oscar Dubbeldam:  Yeah, sure.  It’s always interesting for us in coming to America and to reach out and see how more or less the American market is developing, and what the trends are and if they are applicable to Europe.  So one of the first remarks I made this morning was that 15 percent of the American households are adopting more or less the electronic billing Internet banking because they don’t trust more or less the Internet or electronic bills.

Cary Sherburne::  And that’s 15, 1-5?

Oscar Dubbeldam:  15, yeah, 15 percent.  If you take that to Europe it is more or less the other way around.  So we don’t receive more or less invoices or bills any more.  Everything is by electronic banking.  Everything is by ultimate debits, etc.  So that’s an interesting remark which translates then to a whole lot of additional things as I said.  Yes, so in America, sending invoices, sending paper invoices is still very important.  In Europe, it’s not any more.

Cary Sherburne::  So I’ve heard statistics from some of the research firms that, you know, 95 percent of all transactional mail is opened and read, but if 95 percent of nothing is…

Oscar Dubbeldam:  Yeah.  And I don’t really believe those statistics, at least not for Europe.  Maybe I’m not a good example but I don’t read my invoices any more because I already know what’s inside.  It’s there through the Internet banking.  The statement is at the end of the month.  Every day I go to the Internet banking and I can see what’s happening on my statements.

Cary Sherburne::  That’s a really interesting difference.  And maybe we can talk a little bit about social media, how you see that being used differently in the United States versus Europe.

Oscar Dubbeldam:  I’m not sure how it’s really used in the U.S. but it’s heavily used in Europe as a marketing instrument.  So really, companies are exploring the worlds of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and our own social media like Hyves in The Netherlands, to promote, to market.  We have famous brands in beer who promote their brands on Facebook and really got millions of followers and friends.  Of course, in the end that translates to marketing type of documents, so there’s still a lot of print happening but that’s done in the marketing environment.

Cary Sherburne::  So it’s interesting because here I think in the U.S. I mean some of the major brands like Coca Cola or something like that, you know, they’ve got a lot of things going on.  But for the average business they’re still struggling with how do I monetize this, how do I use it as marketing, because, you know, it’s kind of—I mean they just don’t know what to do with it.

Oscar Dubbeldam:  A lot of companies are forced to learn very fast.  And we have one nice example last year of a telecom provider in The Netherlands where a famous actor in The Netherlands had a terrible experience with a telecom provider.  So he started shouting it around on Twitter and in two weeks’ time more or less everybody was talking about his bad experience.  So the telecom provider had to learn very fast.  And that’s not just one example but it’s happening everywhere.

Cary Sherburne::  Yeah, that’s great.  So I really appreciate you sharing the perspective because sometimes here on this side of the pond we get a little ethnocentric if we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the rest of the world.  Like you told me earlier, you know, you need a different marketing strategy for Europe.  You just can’t sort of do what you’re doing here and pop it over there and expect it to work.

Oscar Dubbeldam:  That’s for sure.

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