Rapid Access International, Inc.
Apple Computer and other large firms in the US have been early adopters of a system to provide “paperless” receipts to their customers through software that generates “e-receipts” or digital receipts and sends e- mails of the final receipts to customers as a digital record. Many customers like this new system of managing personal and business records since it cuts down on the paper clutter and the problems of keeping large files of paper receipts. It cuts down on the use of paper and also removes the problem of having to stuff paper receipts in the wallets and handbags of customers. It is an efficient way of removing extra clutter and taking up a lot of room. It also reduces the number of trees that need to be cut down to manufacture the paper for production of the receipts.
Companies that have introduced these systems in the US include Kmart that launched its paperless receipt system a year ago as well as Sears, which added its digital receipt system in 2010. In the case of Sears and others, they also tied the receipt system to a loyalty program to award customers with points automatically in a type of centralized database. It is much easier under this system for the customers to manage their receipts online and also to track points they are accumulating in point systems and loyalty programs.
Nordstrom (large US Department Store) also has adopted the paperless receipts and offers an email option for receipts to its customers. In addition, Nordstrom sales clerks can process and check out customers on the sales floor with the ability to swipe credit cards using an iPod touch device from anywhere in the store. This provides customers with convenience and efficiency and digital receipts program is working well for Nordstrom.
With the introduction and adoption of Smartphone technology among a large number of US residents, email receipts will likely become a new standard for Americans. Smartphone technology is being experimented with as a form of an electronic wallet allowing the customer to pay for transactions by waving their smartphone next to a store terminal to pay for goods and services. Google is a leader in this area with the testing of its “Google Wallet.”
The industry association in the US that tracks this type of consumer behavior is the Association for Retail Technology Standards1 and they are promoting the adoption of standardized email receipts so the customer can track all their receipts in one online location and also track information such as warranties or membership rewards in point programs or loyalty programs.
1 The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) is an international standards organization dedicated to reducing the costs of technology through standards. Since 1993, ARTS has been delivering application standards exclusively to the retail industry. ARTS has four standards: The Standard Relational Data Model, UnifiedPOS, ARTS XML and the Standard RFPs. It is a division of the National Retail Federation. Membership is open to all members of the international technology community, retailers from all industry segments, application developers and hardware companies. The association’s website can be found at:
MicroStrategy has been a leading company in the digital tracking and mining of consumer and customer behavior for several years. Companies like Costco have used MicroStrategy to track customer purchasing data to generate more sales and to profile customer behavior through data mining of POS (Point of Sale) data. With the new market trend towards digital receipts, several new players are now entering the market and some are small or emerging companies. We believe the digital receipt software market is a new area where Japanese firms can enter the US and European market with innovative new products or ideas.
Several new players are entering the market in the US with technologies to track and verify digital receipt information. Ready Receipts is based in Idaho and is a digital receipt management company. The nice feature about Ready Receipts is that the company does not require consumers to input contact information at the point of sale and instead only needs retailers to provide the receipts. This has helped to gain market acceptance for the company’s products and services for personal customers as well as retail vendors.
One of the top payment processing vendors is Hypercom Corp. They along with firms like Transaction Tree, Inc. announced a “go green” initiative to give multilane merchants using Hypercom's Optimum L4150 payment terminals the ability to replace ink and paper-based receipts with paperless email receipts.
Not all customers like to deal with digital data. There are still customers who want a hard copy of a receipt in their hand at the time of purchase as evidence a product was bought and paid for. Especially with an older or aging population, the need for hard copy paper receipts is still there since many of the older generation do not use or have access to computers to manage online or digital records of purchases.
This trend is slowly changing in the US with adoption of digital receipt programs by major retailers.
In addition to the customers potentially resisting the use of digital receipts, some companies are also against the idea. There are still several companies in the US that print off original copies of receipts with a lot of additional information such as coupons for future sales, savings information for each transaction (how much money was saved through membership in the stores loyalty program, for example), legal information such as the return policy, etc. For these companies, the amount of paper a customer can get as a receipt can be really overwhelming. Grocery stores seem to be a big part of the market that is resistant to the change to digital receipts (Whole Foods is the exception in this case).
In the US, gas stations (that provide self-service pumps for its customers) allow the customer to choose if they want a receipt or not and many customers choose not to get a digital receipt since it will show up on their credit card statement as a proof of purchase and that is sufficient for their needs.
So far, there has not been a validated estimate of the cost savings for digital receipts, but there are cost savings and environmental benefits according to one of the digital receipt companies called allEtronic (an estimated 9.6 million trees are cut each year for receipts in the United States. The e-receipts industry presents marketing opportunities for retailers. Gap, Nordstrom and many other stores, for example, add the customer’s e-mail address to a mailing list for follow-up offers.
In many cases, the receipt or no-receipt option depends on the product or service being purchased. When we interviewed the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), they said large purchases such as a flat-screen television or a stereo system are the kind of purchase a client will want to get a receipt for in case there are any problems or the item needs to be returned. On the other hand, if the customer is buying gas or groceries or a cup of coffee, it is not necessary to have a detailed receipt printed on paper, the digital receipt or no receipt is acceptable in that case.
American retailers are slowly migrating to the digital receipt standard and it is definitely an emerging trend in the US and global economy.
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