January 2017

Insight: Digital Receipt Technology

Steve Slough, Managing Director

More and more high-street retailers are investing in digital receipts as a way to capture customer data in store and become more environmentally friendly.

In the coming years customers should expect both less and more by way of their retail experience: less paper clutter, less questions at the till and more by way of engaging and rewarding digital options.

This is driven by the fact that tech adopters are continuously growing in numbers and aptitude and whereas 5-10 years ago some of our ‘elder’ relatives could barely use a TV remote, now they’re updating their Facebook status, sending tweets and playing Candy Crush, either via a desktop, a laptop or mobile device. ‘Millennials’ wouldn’t be without some kind of connected device and there has never been a better time for retailers to leverage the technology behind digital receipts and make them an essential part of a customer’s connected world.

As with any new solution, early-day digital receipt implementations have taught retailers it isn’t just about getting email addresses and adding them to a marketing database but also that there should be a strong blend of three key benefits: improved customer experience; cost savings and enhanced customer services.

Improved customer experience: As the retail sector moves to next generation platforms, digital receipting in the future can improve the customer experience by providing straight-to-app receipts and crucially, by way of saving time at the till, allow customer identification via fast NFC tap or an in-app barcode scan. Add onto this the ability to offer ‘eReturns’ where customers can schedule a time and location via an app or web portal to return their goods – and the store as a result can be prepared with a refund or swap. Or, indeed, the ability to convert a dynamic digital receipt to an online purchase should the customer not be able to get to their favourite shop. Overall, there’s never been a greater range of customer facing benefits stemming from digital receipting.

Cost savings: Some retailers may think of digital receipting as a ‘sunk cost’ but, when implemented correctly, it can actually save money. What in the past would have been an expensive, highly technical task is no longer the case as new integration methods are simpler and, as a result, more cost effective. Post implementation, the ability to save paper and associated year-on-year costs should, you would think, be a key decision factor but is often neglected. The good news here is that second generation digital receipting solutions can also control printers by either not printing a receipt at all or alternatively offer a condensed ‘short receipt’. When you then add on reduced receipt paper waste and the cost of disposal then there a number of important cost-saving factors – whilst at the same time adding to a retailer’s environmental credentials too.

Enhanced customer services: It’s not lost on retailers that returns handling is an important customer performance factor to their business – but also a significant cost. Any savings on staff time in dealing with a return or item query are important, but equally, improvements to the customer experience are valuable too. What’s not understood is digital receipting can help on both counts as customers have the ability to retrieve their receipts electronically but also, with minimal technical effort, customer services staff can access real-time receipt history and trends. Trend analysis is in fact a key element of new receipting platforms as background processing can not only identify irregularities (fraud profiling, for example) but also provide customer services with the ability to ask relevant, informed questions.

So how digital receipts help boost brand loyalty among customers? In one word, outreach. A typical paper receipt ends up in the bin so I use the term outreach to identify the ability for a retailer (and consumer brands too ultimately) to keep alive a receipt and its customer relevant data. This could be via promotion and offers via email or a loyalty app and from a pure communication perspective to notify customers of recalls and end of warranty periods. These are simple ‘should do’ customer experience steps that would be automatic if a product was bought online but isn’t provided for the vast majority of bricks and mortar shoppers. Until such a time, especially for omnichannel retailers, high street shoppers will not benefit from a consistent brand experience.

The concept of digital receipts has been around for a while, why are some big UK retailers only just making the investment in it now? Perceived systems complexity. Implementing digital receipts with the latest generation platforms is relatively simple but in the past IT functions have had their reservations –down to other infrastructure projects, PCI risk factors or simply budgets. However, with a view to strengthening the customer experience, marketing departments also now understand that new approaches such as ours can steer away from PCI/PII issues and, with little or no risk, be implemented and dovetail where needed with existing central systems.

Which retailers are best suited to offering digital receipts? With our fast customer NFC tap and scan hardware options, large supermarket chains can benefit. These locations need to minimise till friction and with an ever-keen eye on the customer experience asking for an email address at the till just isn’t viable. However, it’s not just about store size or number of locations but improving the customer experience to retain loyalty. We use ‘high footfall’ as a category as irrespective of spend, speed at till is absolutely crucial in meeting sales targets In that respect, the likes of pound shops and convenience stores are also eligible.

What other in-store tech innovation do you expect to see a lot of in 2017? I expect to see a shift of gear in scan and shop with a move particularly to customers using their own app. It’s already happening and is a natural progression not just from a technology perspective but also for younger customers too as they’d welcome the additional user flexibility and speed. Oh, and with retailers ever-keen to keep shelves full of the most popular items, watch out for stock check robots in the aisles.