Paperless billing costs the paper industry, but storeless shopping helps

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Citigroup recently issued a sort of ultimatum to its credit card customers: Opt in to paperless statements or get kicked off their online accounts. That’s according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal this week. In fact, the proportion of credit card customers who have enrolled in paperless billing has grown from roughly one-third to two-thirds since 2015 as companies increasingly pressured customers to go paperless. Oirlv Jewelry Display

Paperless billing costs the paper industry, but storeless shopping helps

That may save these companies money on paper and stamps, and it’s part of a long-term trend to steer consumers away from hard copy everything and toward electronic communication.

But what does this push mean for the paper business? And how does a paper company adapt to the digital world? That’s as good a question now as it was back in 2007, when a students in a business class asked fictional paper salesman Michael Scott on “The Office.”

He admitted that computers are valuable: “They are great for playing games and forwarding funny emails. But real business is done on paper. OK, write that down.”

But the paper business is in flux these days — demand for certain paper products is down, specifically in billing, said Matt Bruno with the National Paper Trade Association.

“The overall trend though, in the billing world, is to move to paperless billing. And I think that’s shifted our market,” Bruno said.

Revenue for the U.S. paper mill industry declined 4% in the last five years, according to a report by IbisWorld. Firms are doing more business online. 

But Bruno has some Michael Scott-like optimism. “We’ve seen this rapid growth in areas like packaging, right? So where one side falls down and other side goes up.”  

The other side is going up because of all those online orders we’ve been putting in. Think about that mountain of cardboard boxes in the garage. 

“E-commerce is actually really creating epic consumption of paper right now,” said Chris Tang, a supply chain management professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Paper for communication still has a place too. “For things like legal documents, they still want to serve you the paper format,” Tang said. 

Which harkens back to paper’s historic role as a tool for record-keeping, said Virginia Howell, who runs the Museum of Papermaking at Georgia Tech.

“When you have a business that lasts 100 years, there are people who don’t know, you know, how it was founded. Why are we doing the things that we do? Where did we spend that money?” Howell said.

The need for that kind of paper trail has made paper ubiquitous. Credit card statements, maybe not so much. 

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Paperless billing costs the paper industry, but storeless shopping helps

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