2012.28 | eReceipts Redux

A number of retailers with some foresight now offer e-receipts or  transactions without receipts.  I am encountering more and more requests from retailers to enable this capability at the point of sale, and that is the direction we should be going as a retail industry.

As a consumer, the option for electronic receipts is not moving fast enough for my taste and I’m certainly not alone.  The amount of paper that any of us receive or are offered at every transaction on any given day is out of control.  Paper receipts made sense when there was no other mechanism available for validating a sale – that is no longer the case.  We don’t need a receipt for a donut – or anything else for that matter – all of it can and should be handled electronically.

Some may say that a paper receipt is key for returns.  How many people are organized enough to keep receipts or even be able to find those receipts in the giant pile they may have.  Even for those who keep a receipt for a big ticket item like an  LCD TV for five years for warranty purposes, the print fades away completely over time as most retailers don’t spend the extra for archival paper that will last for as long as high ticket electronics.

In the age of mobile computing, there are no excuses for having only paper receipts at every retailer.   While I think most people have come to the same conclusion, I do encounter some who says that the paper receipt is going nowhere any time soon.  Let’s consider what’s driving the end of receipts.

Consider paper and how society’s relationship with it is changing with the explosion in the availability of cheap computing and the internet.

Newspapers -The electronic delivery of news has changed many things about the business of reading the news.  In my neighbourhood, the places where the rows of newspaper boxes once stood are now vacant.   Would anyone have thought all of that paper would stop moving?  Why would we print millions of pages and throw them all in the trash or recycling less than 24 hours later?

Bills – The phone bill, the electric bill, the water bill, the tax bill and all the rest of them used to come in the mail.  Every biller I deal with has pushed for electronic delivery over the past few years.  I only receive paper bills when I have no option.  Convenience, speed of delivery and environmental impact are driving paper bills to the periphery.

Books– Amazon UK recently reported that their eBook sales have exceeded the sale of regular books.  Traditional paper books will never be replaced, but there are times where it is more convenient to download a book whenever and wherever a reader wants it.  Why not let readers carry their whole library with them?  (Bonus: No paper receipt at purchase!)

Office Paper – For many years, the idea of a paperless office was a joke, and there still is a fair amount of paper that floats around the office.  What has changed is the printing of personal copies of presentations, the use of brochures, and the usual demands to have reports printed every time.  While it does still happen, my experience is that the requests for paper are decreasing considerably.  When I meet with customers, most are  more interested in a copy of the file we reviewed electronically.  Many of them even take notes on tablets now.  Even business cards are becoming less common.  If a prospective client or partner is interested in working with me, I’ll enter their email address right into my mobile right then and there, and then we pass the pertinent details automatically in the signature files of our emails (better yet via LinkedIn).  No need for paper to enter into the transaction.

More retailers should mirror these societal changes to paper by providing transactions without receipts.  As with any solution, there need to be benefits for both parties – the retailer and the consumer.   There are challenges, but also consider the benefits:

Retailer

  • reduced paper usage = reduced cost/transportation/storage/environmental impact
  • reduced printer requirement (use of shared printers) = potential hardware & support savings
  • no more roll changes = increased uptime at point of sale
  • ability to connect customers to every transaction to get them a receipt = more customer information to drive a better understanding and direction on how to sell more
  • fewer forged receipts = reduced fraud
  • no need to change sales terms on receipt rolls = reduced waste/administrative effort
  • upsell space on receipts = increased sales
  • ability to link items on receipt to company website to drive upsell on related items = increased sales / closer customer relationships

Consumer

  • no tracking of paper receipts
  • no paper to carry around or remember
  • no faded thermal receipts for warranties
  • easier tracking and filing of receipts
  • simpler no receipt returns

Make no mistake – paper is not going away completely.  There will still be book stores, there will still be greeting cards, there are still newspapers, and there will be paper receipts.  All of this is consumer driven.  Consumers should have the option to transact business in the manner of their choice where it is feasible.   If the choice is a paper receipt – that need can be accommodated.   It is the electronic transaction record that needs addressing.  It’s an area of retail ripe for change, and the timing is right.

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