Canada Post strike an interesting case study on consumer habits

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canada Post had a strike for the past week or two, an event hardly significant in the larger scheme of things, but the effects on consumers has been extremely interesting. There has always been a large group of people that were not particularly averse to paying bills and doing a number of other things online but still kept on doing so through regular mail out of habit, but the strike managed to push a huge number of them over.

From this article for example:

In the two weeks since the lockout began, financial services provider ING Direct saw 350,000 customers switch to online billing -- which will save the company millions of dollars this year when factoring in postage, stationary and personnel costs.

The article notes that very seldom do customers who begin using services online ever go back to paper again.

This article has even more numbers: Shaw Communications also had 70,000 people (ten times the usual amount) sign up for online billing last month, Enmax had a dramatic increase with 5,000 customers enrolling online, TD Canada Trust and Rogers Communications had a large but unspecified increase as well.

Scarcity alone is not enough for such a change to take place. There must be 1) scarcity or high prices, 2) a large group of people that were on the tipping point already, and 3) extreme ease in switching from method A to method B.

High fuel prices (#1), for example, may make people want to switch to smaller cars (#2), but without #3 (a cheap enough alternative that sips fuel) it won't happen. And of course, some people will just choose to go without driving altogether if possible if prices are exceptionally high.


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