eBill: A Digital Invoice Is More Than a PDF via Email

eBill: A Digital Invoice Is More Than a PDF via Email

Invoicing in Switzerland is increasingly moving away from paper. But not every invoice that comes to us electronically offers the same degree of added value. Read on to discover how eBill takes advantage of the possibilities offered by digitalization.

Invoices are of great importance in Swiss payment transactions, in the economy, and within society. This is evidenced both in the high transaction volume, and in the broad establishment in the Swiss payment culture. There’s been a trend toward digitalization of invoices over the last ten years. More and more payments are being initiated electronically. But are all these invoices also fully digital?

An Email Invoice Is Not eBill

In June 2023, the research institute GFS Bern conducted a survey about eBill. It  revealed that a large majority of the Swiss population know eBill and its correct name. Comparatively rarely, eBill was confused with the QR-Bill or the email invoice (6% and 5% respectively).

What Is eBill?

Invoice recipients receive eBill invoices securely and directly in their e-banking application. They need only check and approve them for payment directly online. In contrast to this, in the case of an email invoice, recipients have to enter the payee details and a long reference number. Alternatively, the invoice can also be scanned in – but the media gap remains, as both email and e-banking applications need to be opened.

In Switzerland, eBill is the easiest way for invoice recipients to pay their invoices, and for invoicers to send them. With eBill, all steps involved in the login and payment processes are handled electronically, and without any paper documents. Furthermore, there’s a relatively high degree of automation, which enables recipients to pay their invoices with a click of the mouse, or to set up standing approval for automatic payments. Automatic archiving provides additional convenience.

Alongside the eBill in Switzerland, there’s also the QR-bill. It replaced the traditional payment slip on September 30, 2022. The integrated Swiss QR code in the payment portion contains all the relevant information for both invoicing and payment. In order to process the payment, however, the recipient has to read the code using a mobile device or a scanner. The invoicer can send the QR-bill either electronically (e.g., as a PDF via email), or in paper format through the mail.

According to the aforementioned GFS study, seven of ten people use eBill to pay their invoices. Nonetheless, eBill invoices still constitute the smallest share of all Swiss digital payment transactions. In e-banking, most invoices are currently paid by entering the IBAN manually, followed by standing orders and scanning the QR-bill. It takes time to change habits. However, the comparatively low use of eBill is also due to a lack of awareness and insufficient understanding of the added value that comes with eBill. We’ll fill in these knowledge gaps and explain the added value of eBill in the paragraphs that follow.

What Added Value Does eBill Provide to Invoice Recipients?

Many people confuse eBill with receiving an invoice via email. These are two completely different things. When someone receives an invoice via email, they have to sift through the specified payment information and then manually transfer it or scan it in using another device. Mistakes can creep in when manually entering the account number, reference number, or payment amount. In many cases, recipients print out the invoice during this step.

With eBill, this source of mistakes is avoided since everything happens automatically. The invoice is automatically read into the e-banking application, and the recipient only has to approve the timely payment with a single click. From a technical perspective, eBill therefore involves a system solution that enables a digital end-to-end process.

The automated process not only avoids mistakes, it’s completely paperless. In addition, with eBill there’s no danger that the invoice will accidentally end up in the spam folder and be forgotten, which can result in late payment fees. Furthermore, since eBill was introduced, there have been no incidences of fraud. And eBill will continue to be offered to invoice recipients at no cost.

eBill offers another advantage. After payments are processed, the invoices are stored on the platform for 730 days, and are saved automatically in your own electronic folder after the invoice has been approved. 

What Added Value Does eBill Provide to Invoicers?

Companies that regularly send mass mailings such as monthly invoices to their customers by post often receive special conditions, but postage and paper are still a very expensive cost factor.  Email invoices can compete in that regard, but rely on a channel that is sometimes impacted by spam. Sometimes an invoice gets lost in the shuffle, which can’t be in the interest of the invoicer.

Sending an invoice always constitutes a point of contact with the customer, who is part of the entire user experience. Traditionally, there are separate customer contact points for the bank and the invoicer. In contrast, eBill offers a single contact point for all three parties in the invoicing process in the e-banking – the ideal customer experience.

What Added Value Does eBill Provide for the Environment?

Each year, more than a billion invoices are sent in Switzerland, the majority of which are still sent by post. According to the latest data, 27,625 tons of CO2 equivalents were emitted in 2022, which corresponds to the CO2 footprint of over 2,300 people living in Switzerland. Already in 2021 a study by carbon-connect AG on the emissions effects of all standard payment types in Switzerland showed that the purely digital solution offered by eBill is the most sustainable alternative compared to email and paper invoices. That’s because eBill offers the greatest potential to save on CO2 emissions.

Another sustainability factor that shouldn’t be underestimated is past due notices. On average, for roughly every ten paper or email invoices mailed out, one past due notice will be triggered. With eBill, the ratio is less than one reminder for every thousand invoices sent.