Electronic Receipts Gain Traction

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

E-receipts, promising for both retailers and customers, finally seem ready for prime time.

Retailers and other businesses spend billions of dollars annually printing tiny pieces of paper, a.k.a. receipts. People stuff these slips of processed tree into purses, pockets and cup holders in cars. In most cases, they disappear into shoeboxes and landfills, never to be seen again.

What a waste.

But finally, after years of fits and starts, it appears that e-receipts are poised to take off. A few companies, including Apple and Lamps Plus, have provided electronic receipts for the last few years. Now a wave of other retailers, including Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Gap Inc., Patagonia, Office Depot, Sears, Wal-Mart and Avis have begun offering consumers the option as well.

The advantage for consumers is the ability to search through receipts on their PCs and have them available for warranty claims and tax reporting. The New York Times reports that payment processing systems firm VeriFone has seen a significant uptick in demand for e-receipts over the last year or so.

Besides cutting ink and paper costs for retailers, e-receipts change the dynamics of business. Among other things, it’s possible to configure stores in new and innovative ways, alter the way sales people interact with customers, and streamline returns. Instead of customers queuing in lines it’s possible to complete a transaction wherever and whenever it’s convenient.

Not surprisingly, a number of vendors are attempting to get a foothold in the burgeoning e-receipt market. For example, recent startup Seamless Receipts offers a system for tapping into personalized marketing and social media through electronic receipts that land in a recipient’s inbox. The goal, says founder and CEO Keith Cowing, is to improve the customer experience and drive branding.

Others, such as MyReceipts, establish secure websites where customers can view their receipts.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 60 percent of U.S. retailers will offer e-receipts within 5 years. In addition, Forrester Research notes that with mobile commerce expected to grow by 39 percent to US $31 billion by 2016, consumers will increasingly expect electronic receipts. In fact, as mobile payments and transactions become widely used, whether through Google Wallet or any of a number of other systems, e-receipts are likely to become the norm.

This article was originally published on 2011-08-17
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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