What Exactly Are Digital Receipts and Why Should Retailers Care?

Contributed by David Salisbury, VP of Sales and Marketing for Star Cloud Services.  

Over the last decade, a gradual change in the shopping experience has occurred. After making a purchase at a local market or favorite retailer, customers are now frequently asked, “How would you like your receipt today?”

The answer to this simple question can have profound implications for the retailer. While it appears the question focuses on paper or another medium, retailers that move their customers to digital receipts can achieve significant increases to revenue and shopper loyalty.

When posed this question, many shoppers might opt to receive their receipt via email so they don’t have to deal with keeping track of the physical paper. Some might forego a receipt altogether, knowing the slip of paper will simply end up in the trash.

The Future of Receipts

Receipts have certainly evolved throughout the years; some receipts now include brief surveys, while others prompt shoppers to log on to websites to receive new offers. These enhancements have allowed retailers to use receipts to increase customer engagement. Technology advancements have only accelerated the receipt evolution, changing how retailers deliver receipts. With the uptick in digital receipt options, gone should be the days of sorting through shoeboxes filled with miscellaneous receipts come tax time.

Printed vs. Digital Receipts – What’s The Advantage?

Printed and digital receipts are not actually in competition; instead, they complement each other. In certain cases printed receipts are either preferred or necessary, while in other instances, digital receipts are much more effective.

For consumers, it helps to identify the occasions when a printed receipt would be more useful than its digital counterpart. These are typically ‘short-term’ situations – receipts that only need to be kept for one month or less. Transactions such as grocery purchases and personal expenses like restaurant meals are included in this category. Since paper receipts are likely to fade or get lost over time, they are the perfect short-term solution while purchases are verified against a bank or credit card statement.

Digital receipts prove to be much more advantageous as long-term solutions, such as when proof of purchase may need to be presented at a much later date or where the items purchased are of great value. Examples of this would be any expenditures that need to be reimbursed, such as purchases made on behalf of an employer, anything that would serve as a write-off come tax season, and receipts for major purchases like appliances and electronics. Digital receipts are the most useful in these scenarios because, stored in an app or cloud service, consumers are able to access them at a moment’s notice, without fearing they will be thrown away, lost or fade over time. 

What About Email Receipts?

Email receipts have become the standard solution to supplement or replace paper receipts, but they come at a cost. To a retailer, email receipts open up the possibilities for email marketing. But consumers now view email marketing much like they do junk mail that ends up in their mailboxes – unsolicited, unwanted and unhelpful. Email marketing has as much potential to drive customers away as it does of creating loyalty.

With digital receipts retailers can still engage with their customers, but on an opt-in basis. When customers can receive and store digital receipts but keep their anonymity intact, everyone wins. Retailers still gain valuable insights into who their customers are, but don’t sacrifice loyalty by bombarding them with constant email marketing.

Digital Receipts for the Future

Digital receipts provide a hassle-free way for consumers to keep track of their spending habits, verify transactions and prepare for tax season. More importantly, for retailers, they hold a wealth of insight, providing transactional data that allows them to tailor their marketing and promotional efforts toward target markets and specific customer wants. Digital receipts help retailers get to know their customers better, leading to the ultimate goal of increased customer loyalty.

Star Micronics subsidiary, Star Cloud Services was built to bring IoT solutions to retailers by enabling the more than six million Star Micronics POS printers in stores today to become cloud-connected devices. Star Cloud Services has the unique ability to transform shopping receipts into valuable digital transaction data. With that data, retailers gain deeper insights that help them better engage, activate and retain shoppers.

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