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What would you be willing to give up for a month to eliminate all paper mail?

cloud storage digital records online bill paying worried exhausted man with paper bills
forestpath / 123RF Stock Photo

Paper mail, do you love it, like it, or hate it? A new survey conducted for digital document storage platform Inlet Digital asked more than 1,500 U.S. online consumers about their online habits. When asked what they would be willing to give up for one month to stop receiving all paper mail forever, chocolate and drinking alcohol were the two most popular choices among those who would deprive themselves.

People often talk a stronger technology game than they play. In this case, the discrepancy indicates that conversion to solely digital documents has a place of mind not yet reflected in real-world behavior. More than half of the respondents, 51.6 percent, said they were “somewhat” to “very comfortable” storing copies of important documents in the cloud.

However, when they were asked about the types of documents they were likely to store online, 62 percent said photos, but only 3.1 percent picked financial statements like bills and 1 percent chose Social Security card or birth certificate. We’ll grant that photos are important, but so far it appears few actually store important documents other than photos in the cloud, based on the survey findings.

The latest survey for the Unites States Postal Service, published in 2015 based on 2014 data, showed a similar discrepancy. While only 37 percent said they paid their bills by mail, 91 percent still wanted to receive paper bills in the mail. The desire for paper bills among online bill payers likely indicates wanting the security of backup documentation.

Artificial Intelligence-enabled voice assistants also showed up as a technology in transition in Inlet’s survey. The results could be interpreted in several ways. The question asked how likely the survey participants would be to trust Alexa, Siri, or another assistant to pay bills on their behalf.

Most people were not on board with using voice assistants to pay their bills; 48.2 percent said “never” and 36.1 percent selected “somewhat unlikely.”

Given the novelty and still-early market penetration of voice assistants, the fact that 12.1 percent said they were likely and 3.6 percent checked “very likely” is a surprisingly positive response that correlates closely with another recent study by Parks. A recent Parks Associates report stated that 12 percent of homes with broadband service had smart speakers with voice assistants in the last quarter of 2016.

For the question about giving up something for a month in order to stop getting all paper mail, the choices in decreasing order of selection were: “I wouldn’t give up any of these things,” 62.1 percent; chocolate, 11.1 percent; drinking (alcohol), 10.8 percent; Facebook, 8.3 percent; Netflix, 4.8 percent; smartphone, 2 percent; and Wi-Fi 1 percent. So even though chocolate and alcohol were the most popular abstentions, the greatest majority wouldn’t deny themselves any of the choices.

Shift Communications conducted the survey exclusively for Inlet in late March. The 1,514 survey participants were weighted in proportion to the latest U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey for age, gender, and region.