- Digital receipts were originally pushed by the Apple Store and a few startups as part of the sustainability movement.
- When customers opt for a digital receipt, it is sent via email rather than being printed out and handed to them.
- Some of the benefits of digital receipts are that they are less expensive and help with customer retention.
Most of us give little thought to the decidedly unglamorous and oft-maligned sales receipt.
In the early 2000s, before the explosive growth of retail mobile apps and before the benefits of email address capture became known, the Apple Store and a few startups pushed digital receipts as part of the growing sustainability movement.
The environmental benefits of eliminating paper receipts are widely known. But now, those "green" receipts have gone mainstream. The biggest reason? Digital receipts bring significant business benefits, no matter the retailer's size or type. More than that, digital receipts are transforming retail marketing.
How digital receipts work
At the most basic level, this is how digital receipts work at point of purchase:
- Upon checkout, the cashier asks if the customer would like a print receipt, a digital receipt or both.
- If the customer chooses a digital receipt, the cashier simply enters the shopper's email address and the system delivers the receipt to the customer's email inbox.
- Data from the transaction (including the shopper's email address) is captured in the digital receipt system, and all of that data can be used for current and future marketing programs.
Benefits of using digital receipts
Thermal paper receipts cost the retail industry billions of dollars annually. Because no printing is involved, digital receipts are far less expensive and reduce overhead operating costs.
The latest digital receipt technology enables retailers to include marketing messaging – sometimes personalized to the individual customer – on the receipt. Digital receipts give retailers an easy way to build email lists and gather customer data at the transaction level.
Want a more effective marketing program focused on customer retention? With the data gathered through digital receipts, retailers can identify not only the best customers, but also the type of merchandise they're most likely to keep buying.
Customers like digital receipts because, unlike thermal paper receipts, they won't fade and are convenient to store. Retailers like that digital receipts speed up the checkout process and that customers can't counterfeit or alter them, reducing the cost of fraudulent returns.
Dynamic content within the digital receipt program allows retailers to deliver unique content that is relevant to each individual customer. For example, the receipt could include items that would go well with the item just purchased or showcase related items that are available online only.
Digital receipts enable retailers to boost online store traffic and help them build social media communities. They can drive future interaction when links to your website, social media and loyalty programs are embedded in your receipts. Special announcements, like upcoming events, can also be added to the receipts.
From the transactional data captured by a digital receipt system, you can get to know your customers and their individual needs with greater clarity and accuracy, leading to higher customer satisfaction, greater loyalty and more referrals.
Drawbacks of using digital receipts
Although there are plenty of benefits of using digital receipts, these are some of the drawbacks, according to the Washington Post.
- Easier to overlook: Although they are convenient on many levels, digital receipts can be inconvenient in other ways. For instance, they are much easier for customers to miss, which may cause issues with their check balancing and bookkeeping.
- General technological skills required: Although you don't have to be a technological genius to get digital receipts, the customer must at least have a decent grasp of general technology or digital receipts could present a problem for them.
- Potential for data to compromised: As we know, doing things digitally leaves us all open to potential cybersecurity breaches. Although these are relatively rare, there is a potential for your customers' personal information to fall into the wrong hands.
- Storage issues: Unless your customer is the type of person who never deletes emails and has enough storage to keep receipts indefinitely, they'll probably lose access to their receipts at some point. This could present a problem if the product is defective or they need to provide proof of purchase. If they can't return a faulty product, their customer satisfaction is likely to go down.
Where to begin your digital receipt journey
An online search for digital receipts will return hundreds of possible vendors. Many are best suited to enterprise operations, but many others are specifically designed for small businesses, even solo operations. Unlike legacy systems, the latest digital receipt systems are extremely affordable and don't require a big integration project.
New technology allows shoppers to use their digital wallet apps to check out by simply waving their smartphones at a checkout device. Some companies are advocating for an even more seamless customer experience that integrates with mobile banking applications, allowing receipts to be stored within their bank account records.
All that said, here are a few technology companies to check out as you start the journey of digitizing your receipts or upgrading a system you already own:
- Celerant Technology offers an omnichannel solution with POS, e-commerce, CRM, inventory management, fulfillment processing, marketing automation and analytics.
- iZettle enables small companies and even pop-up marketers to set up digital receipts that open up new marketing opportunities.
- FlexEngage offers enriched receipts to build customer loyalty and drive sales, and the company's patented software allows retailers to add social media links, videos and custom offers to their digital receipts.
- Star Micronics Cloud is a cloud-based Internet of Things company that offers a portfolio of products and services to help retailers build customer relationships, including digitized receipts for retailers who own Star Micronics POS printers.