Discussion Papers

Thomas Baldry

Substitution der Briefpost durch elektronische Medien in privaten Haushalten
Nr. 161 / Juli 1996


Letters and postcards compete with other media and, more specifically, with new electronic media. The replacement of postal communication by other media will here be defined as substitutional competition. The focus of the following empirical research is the analysis of the type, direction and volume of substitutional competition on letter mail services from the viewpoint of private households. Based on the results a short-term forecast of the effects on postal letter volumes has been derived.

According to the survey, 94% of private households are equipped with a telephone. 45% own an automatic answering machine, 6% a fax machine, 16% a personal compu-ter, and 2% a data modem. 1.9% of all households employ online services and 0.9% use E-Mail. The two segments with the highest ratio of telecommunications equipment are self-employed people and school children/students. Every second self-employed person owns a fax machine and a computer, every seventh uses a data modem. Households with a sufficient level of telecommunications equipment generally generate a greater volume of mail in comparison to the households with no or limited telecommunications.

Under the assumption that a scenario of optimal media penetration will hold and that there is no additional, exogenously generated communication traffic, postal substitution of letter mail initiated by private households will result in an annual reduction in volume of 4-6%. It is to be noted that the substitutional effects caused by the business sector are excluded from this scenario.

Households show quite moderate purchasing plans concerning new telecommuni-cation media. In the not so distant future, 5% plan to buy a fax machine, 17% will look for a computer and 7% for a data modem. These numbers also include substitutional purchasing, which has a bigger share in all purchasing plans than first-time buying. Generally, existing owners of modern telecommunication media strive to keep up to date with new generations of equipment.

The empirical research has generated two major findings: Firstly, the average potential of postal substitution, which is determined in particular by the level of diffusion of telecommunication media and the attitude private households show towards these media, is not very high. Again, self-employed people and school children/students are two exceptions. Secondly, the awareness concerning new electronic media is well developed and basically supported by a positive attitude. The forecast of future substitutional competition indicates a notable move towards electronic communication although this is based on the activities of innovative segments. These segments cover 30% of all households.

Finally, for the evaluation of the presented results and interpretations it should be borne in mind that the majority of private households are not at all familiar with the question of postal substitution.

Only German language version available.

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