MIAMI -- At the outset of 2011, Broadridge Financial Solutions said it would start marketing a new type of digital uber-mailbox service in conjunction with Pitney Bowes, the postage meter company.

Pitney Bowes had developed a “digital delivery service” called Volly, that its chairman, Murray D. Martin, said would allow  financial firms “to better communicate with their customers, using the channel they prefer” without forcing them to jump “from website to website.”

The idea is to consolidate and simplify how electronic mail is received and contents dealt with. With Volly, digital mailboxes will not be identified by usernames, passwords, email addresses or domains. Just like mailboxes on posts in the ground, they will be identified with names and street addresses. Period.

Why?

Over the past 15 years, roughly 85 percent of American households have begun paying bills electronically, said Robert Krugman, vice president for digital strategy for Broadridge, at NICSA’s 30th Annual Conference and Expo.

But only 11 percent receive bills that way. “The reality is it is a dismal failure,’’ Krugman said.

Why is that?

The “physical experience” is woefully lacking, he said. Here is his rundown:

“Physical experience is you pull into your house. You walk into your apartment building. You go to this magic box called a mailbox. You open it up. Everything’s there. A lot of stuff goes right in the garbage. But everything’s there.

“We’re going to replace that with this great new service called e-delivery. And here’s what we’re going to ask you to do:

“Can you go to 20 different websites, register a username and password with all different rules? Remember what those passwords are? Then we are going to send you these cryptic alerts that say a document is ready for you to read. You open this document and ask, what in the world is this?

“Click on that document. Go to that web site. Log in. Print out your bill. Go to the computer. Log on to your bank. And pay it. Isn’t that better?

So, he said,  “I don’t think it’s all that surprising that digital delivery is where it is today.”

With Volly, digital mailboxes will not be identified by usernames, passwords, email addresses or domains. Just like mailboxes on posts in the ground, they will be identified with names and street addresses. Period.

In countries such as Denmark and Finland, such systems have achieved 95 percent adoption rates. In Germany, 2 million households recently signed up in the first two months. 

But Volly is slow to get off the ground here. Broadridge and Pitney Bowes planned to put marketing weight behind the digital delivery and online action service in the middle of 2011.

That, of course, hasn’t happened. To make this work, Volly will need to have a large lineup of utility companies, communications companies, cable companies, department stores and other billing firms lined up to make such a service competitive. Banks such as Citibank and Bank of America already basically provide one-stop shops for receiving and paying bills on their sites, for instance.

Krugman acknowledged that the venture underestimated the time it would take to get such billing firms on board. Now, he says, marketing of Volly will begin in the fourth quarter. And the companies expect a signup rate of 7 to 20 percent of households reached, in the first 18 to 30 months of marketing.

For financial firms, this could turn account statements into interactive “touch points” with customers, interesting them in other services. Or the digital delivery of proxy statements could increase voting on shareholder matters.

But that remains to be seen, once the marketing of the digital mailbox begins.

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