What do receipts say about your business?

Receipts. We hate them at tax time, but we sure do love them whenever we need a refund!


Today, many retailers are doing things differently when it comes to receipts, offering customers the option to receive them in a traditional paper form, or as a digital file that can be emailed. These are clearly not your grandma’s receipts.


But what does that mean for you—and your customers? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons to go digital:


1.  Saves them time, saves you money.


Given the option to receive receipts via email, more and more consumers are taking advantage of it. Research shows that 90 percent of consumers prefer to have digital over paper receipts, and half of consumers would purposefully buy from a retailer who offered digital receipts. They no longer have to worry about lost receipts, they have less paper to handle, and digital files are much easier to store, search, and retrieve. No more digging through shoeboxes!

For you retailers out there, the trend toward electronic receipts means saving money on paper, and doing business in a more eco-friendly way. It also gives the perception of a tech-savvy business—particularly important when marketing to the coveted Millennial demographic. According to Susan Myrden, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Maine, millennials tend to have a preference for emailed receipts—and they are mystified when retailers don’t offer that option.


TAKEAWAY: It turns out that simply the act of offering an e-receipt option could actually persuade more customers to shop with you.


2.  It’s what they expect.


The choice and convenience afforded by digital receipts in the retail arena is now beginning to be expected by customers of businesses in other industries, most notably banking.  In 2013, financial giant Bank of America joined the movement toward digital receipts, offering its customers a digital option for ATM receipts.


TAKEAWAY: If a leader in the traditionally conservative finance industry sees clear business value in e-receipts, you should, too.


3.   Privacy is still a concern.


Former chairman of Tesco Lord MacLaurin says that “eReceipts have the potential to have the biggest impact on retail since the introduction of loyalty cards," leading to the end of paper receipts altogether. But some people still like paper receipts and are a bit wary that going digital might come at too high a privacy cost. As a shopper, it basically boils down to this: if I give you my email address for a digital receipt, don't sell or misuse my personal information. In other words, don't assume that customers who want e-receipts also want your promotional messages—it's a major pain for consumers and plain old bad practice.


The good news is "people will reveal a huge amount about themselves if they see a clear gain." Much like loyalty cards, shoppers are more likely to opt for digital receipts when they can see what's in it for them—and when retailers are transparent about what they do with customer data. Offering incentives such as discounts and opt-ins for future sales or special events can convert more people from paper to e-receipts.


TAKEAWAY: Use your customer information wisely—and be open about what you do with it. And remember: opt-in is always better than spam!


4.  They help you get personal (and people seem to like that).


In 2012, we conducted a survey of retail consumers, asking them how they felt about electronic receipts. Over half of the respondents told us that having a digital receipt as a part of their shopping experience was important to them, and 66% stated that they were happy to receive personalized offers delivered electronically.


TAKEAWAY:  When sharing promotions with customers electronically, do your homework, and always target the deal to the audience.


5.  Every receipt is an opportunity to keep them coming back.


According to Jack Dorsey , CEO of Square and chairman of Twitter, receipts are a powerful communication tool for retailers. He states, “The future is currently in an artifact that we use and interact with every single day, which is this paper receipt.” Dorsey maintains that a receipt is not just a piece of paper or an email; it’s a powerful communication tool that should be used to add value and keep customers coming back—whether it’s online or in the store.


TAKEAWAY:  It’s time to give old-school “bounce-back” incentives a new twist, using digital receipts instead of coupons or discount cards.


Today, mobile computing dominates both technology landscape and today’s lifestyles, consumers are no longer surprised by the option of electronic receipts; in fact they are expecting it!


As business transitions from paper to electronic, the best way to bridge the gap and serve consumers on both sides of the receipt issue is by offering easy options. In the past, that meant investing in two solutions from two different providers: one for paper, and one for digital. Not the most cost-effective way to go, right?


Today NCR is the only company offering a single solution that provides both paper and digital receipts. This makes it easier for businesses to get ahead of the trend toward digital, while offering consumers the convenience and choice they demand. And that’s the best of both worlds.


Are you seeing a trend toward digital receipts in your business? How have you been dealing with the transition from paper?