Several digital mail providers compete for their share of the digital transactional mail business. Manilla has just sent out e-mails to pre-registered consumers to inform them that “the Manilla private beta has officially launched”. Alas, the “private” Beta phase is not so private after all and Manilla tweeted the launch, advertising a $5000 sweep-stake amongst new sign-ups.

By signing up with Manilla one gives “Consent to Cease Receipt of Hard Copies……including, but not limited to, bills, notices, statements and offers, from the applicable Account”.  In other words: Eventually paper mail will stop for each account turned over to Manilla. Turning off the paper mail stream is entirely at the discretion of the account provider (Comcast, Citibank, etc). But what if you ever decide that you would like to go back to paper mail? According to the Manilla Terms of Use, “Manilla does not control the practices of Account providers”. Switching digital accounts back to paper statements might turn into a little hassle.  Consumers may end up contacting each bank or utility provider separately to have them send paper statements again.

Zumbox, another provider of digital transactional mail, takes a different approach and gives the consumer the free choice to stop or start receiving hard copies by mail. While receiving statements and bills digitally, the consumer will continue to receive hard copies of their mail. Once consumers feel confident enough with the quality of the digital mail service they may turn off the paper stream for each individual account. Interestingly, Zumbox provides the consumer with a convenient option to turn the paper streams back on at any time.

It is very unlikely that consumers, once they have gone digital, will revert back to paper. But consumers do like options.  Being able to switch back easily may make Zumbox a more attractive choice for the more cautious, or anyone having a hard time with letting go of paper mail. Only 15% of U.S. consumers have gone digital so far, most of them having to manage multiple online accounts.

ePostalNews just wrote an interesting article about Manilla stating “… Manilla’s technology overcomes a major hurdle faced by its competitors: it works whether or not Manilla has a formal relationship with the biller”. Postal Sanity believes the same to be true for Zumbox, especially since it has partnered with Kubra and DST-Output.

Doxo is yet another contender for transactional digital mail. They had an exclusive Beta last year and currently are accepting invite requests. And finally Pitney Bowes has announced Volly, which has yet to start operations. May be they shouldn’t have spent so much time suing Zumbox (pending case since Oct-2009).