If we were to create an FAQ listing some of the most frequently asked questions we encounter about product registration, one item would immediately go to the top of the list:

Do consumers still fill out and mail in those paper registration cards? What will happen if I do away with paper registration cards and just go with online registration only?

Manufacturers are frequently surprised by the answers to these questions. Yes, consumers do still fill out paper registration cards – in fact, the paper form accounts for the majority of registrations in many product categories, in some cases as much as 70% to 80% of the total. There is quite a bit of variance across product categories, which is explained primarily by the nature of the product itself – for digital cameras and other technology-oriented products paper may account for as little as 40% of total registration volume, while appliances and other low-tech products tend to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. As for the second question, evidence suggests that consumer behavior is not very flexible when it comes to product registration. Consumers who would normally respond via paper seem to be reluctant to migrate to online registration if the paper option is not available. This chart shows what happened when one manufacturer eliminated the paper card from their packaging and attempted to steer all of their registrations online. Results will vary depending on how effectively the online registration alternative is promoted in the package, but we encourage any manufacturers who are considering eliminating the paper card to anticipate a significant reduction in overall registration volume.

We also encourage manufacturers to approach this as an ROI-driven decision. You can estimate the cost to acquire a registration using a fairly simple formula:

(Unit production cost/response rate) + processing cost = total cost per registration So if it costs $.03 to print and insert a paper registration card and the response rate to the card is 5%, and if the cost to process the registration is $.15, the total cost to acquire the registration looks like this:

($.03/5%) + $.15 = $.75

With this information at hand, manufacturers can make much more objective and informed decisions about the potential value of paper registration cards. In the example outlined above, manufacturers who can generate more than $.75 of value over the lifespan of a product through direct sales of accessories, consumables and replacement parts, or through ongoing communications designed to promote brand loyalty and drive future purchases, would be well advised to continue distributing registration cards with their products. For perspective, this is equivalent to making a $75 sale to one out of every 100 consumers in your database. In the absence of those opportunities to generate value, the expense may simply not make sense.