There has been a lot of buzz in the mailing business lately about digital mailboxes. There are multiple companies in the USA trying to establish a foothold in this approach to customer communication distribution. It is an idea that has a lot of people curious. They want to find out more about it. Whether the concept turns out to be widely adopted, or even viable, remains to be seen.

I say this because digital mailboxes are not exactly a new idea. I first started researching Zumbox (one of four major companies in the US with digital mailbox products launched or announced) over four years ago. Since that time, Zumbox, along with their more recent competitors at Manilla, Doxo, and Volly, have not been able to attract a great deal of interest from consumers. It is true that the percentages of customers signing up for digital mailboxes and the number of mailers who say they will support at least one of the solutions is growing. But I don't hear reports of consumers clamoring for the solution. Most people outside the document industry are probably unaware of the technology.

I have listened to the consumer benefits touted by the digital mailbox vendors and some of the claims seem to be a bit overstated. While the benefits are there for some consumers, I'm not thoroughly convinced that they represent a big enough improvement to a large enough audience for this method to really take off in the short term. Below are some of the arguments I have heard in favor of digital mailboxes.

Single Location for Mail
A single digital mailbox solution may happen someday, but it won't be the case in the near future. Therefore, the consumer convenience of having all their mail collected in one place is unlikely. If some of a consumer's bills and correspondence are posted to one digital mailbox site and other mail is posted to another site then the consumer will be required to maintain separate accounts. Alternatively, they may continue to receive paper or access biller web sites directly from companies who don't send mail to the digital mailbox system the consumer has chosen.

Paper Suppression
It seems to me that consumers who are interested in suppressing paper bills and statements have already done so. There may be a few more that opt-in to paper suppression via delivery to a digital mailbox, but only if it truly becomes a central location for all their mail. And I doubt there are many paper-only mailers who are still waiting for digital mailboxes before offering some form of digital delivery to their customers. I wouldn't expect a large decrease in paper document production, just a shift from one paperless option to another.

Eliminate Multiple Passwords
Besides the uncomfortable feeling I have about putting so many personal details in one place, the supposed inconvenience of having to remember multiple passwords to visit biller-hosted sites isn't so compelling. I already have a system for constructing unique passwords that eliminates the need to remember them individually. Some consumers may use an encrypted password manager database to keep track of login credentials. Although not recommended by internet security experts, it is also a common practice to use only a handful of easily-remembered passwords across all sites. Consumers don't really have to remember dozens of different passwords unless they choose use unique random values.

I continue to be intrigued by digital postal delivery. I've had a Zumbox since 2009. There could definitely be some advantages in this method of communication distribution someday. But I don't think we are there yet. So far, the benefits seem to be heavily weighted in favor of the billers and the digital mailbox vendors. I'm afraid there needs to be more value for the consumers before we can realistically expect their widespread interest.

Mike Porter is an expert in Print and Mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide lower costs, improve their production workflows, and plan for the future. For more information visit Be sure to sign up for Practical Stuff, the free monthly newsletter for document operations professionals.