Innovation & technology

Where are you getting a sense of digital fatigue?

Oliver Egger, Chief Marketing Officer at PostMail, on the limits of digital technology and the value of a more tactile experience.

Mr Egger, as the Head of Marketing at PostMail, you are in charge of letters. Does that make you a dinosaur?

Quite the opposite. It is precisely because letter volumes are decreasing by 4 to 5% a year that we are working so hard on developments, and in recent years, we have naturally been focusing on
the opportunities that digitization offers us. We give our customers the choice between online and offline mailing, the aim being for mail to reach the recipient in the best possible way. Indeed, just because letter volumes are falling each year does not mean that everyone just wants to use e-mail, and I don’t think actual letters are going to die out. So no, I’m no dinosaur.

Why should I still bother writing letters?  Chatting online is much cheaper and easier.

Chatting is certainly cheaper and faster, but that’s the point: you don’t put in as much time, and it’s all about speed. After all, how can anyone not be thrilled to receive a birthday card or letter when you know how much time the sender has put into it? It means the letter has become a valued product.

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

I’m a fan of sending people postcards when I’m on holiday, and this summer was no exception. Handwritten letters are a rarer thing in my case, though I do occasionally put pen to paper quite happily.

Where has Swiss Post made the transition to digitization when it comes to letters?

We’ve not been sitting around idle as letter volumes fall. Instead, we are continuously supplementing what we have to offer with digital services. Our customers can manage their mail online, for instance, acknowledge receipt of mail online or create mailshots and cards online. We then assume responsibility for printing and delivery. 

What are the limits of digital technology?

Digital technology triggers optical and acoustic senses. More tactile technology, however, triggers completely  different senses, for instance the sense of smell,
or perhaps a pleasant sensation because a special material was used. When we hold printed materials, we’re a lot more aware of them, and we also respond differently to their contents. We can’t simply click away. Personally, I can’t help but notice how I often simply click away from digital content such as display ads without even glancing at them. There are just too many.

This is the digital fatigue you’re talking about. Is this a trend you can also sense at Swiss Post?

Yes, definitely. Digital technology can do a lot, but not everything. A million clicks does not equal millions in revenue – far from it. That’s something I keep hearing from business customers. What matters more is the quality of the communication. In that sense, online communication is certainly essential, but more conventional methods of communication are more valuable. You’re better off sending a high-quality mailshot than bombarding customers with a barrage of messages they don’t even look at.

Any examples?

A mailshot I receive in my private letter box, for instance, is something I’m likelier to turn over so I can have a quick look at the back. Ultimately, I devote more time to a physical product. One more thing: today, we still deliver around 1.5 letters/small goods consignments per household each day. Physical mail simply still carries a lot more weight seeing as it doesn’t get lost in the digital flood.

Digital technology can do a lot, but not everything.