e-Receipts: What's Not in Your Wallet?


Jim Davidson

My wallet is an inflated heap of a few wadded bills and a pile of folded, fading, and crumpled receipts. The good news is I may not even need a wallet in the near future.  Two technologies are becoming more widely available to help me not only cut the clutter but also make my life easier and more streamlined. Near Field Communication (NFC) enables a customer to pay for an in-store purchase using a mobile device.  NFC is currently available on many mobile devices with plans for the technology to be included in many upcoming product releases.  There are rumors that the next iPhone will be NFC capable which would really help to push this technology to the mainstream.

A second technology closes the purchase loop by emailing receipts to customers for an in-store purchase. Collecting email addresses in-store can be a hassle for both the cashier and the customer.  It can be a challenge for the cashier to communicate the value proposition of joining the email program especially if checkout lines are long. The customer may not know what to expect if they provide their email address.

e-Receipts distill this exchange.  The customer can easily understand what they will receive and the cashier can succinctly ask “Would you like to have your receipt emailed to you?”

Apple has been sending receipts via email since 2005.  While they were definitely pioneers in this customer experience, their e-receipts now appear dated and disconnected from the Apple brand experience.  A two sentence plain text email thanks the customer for shopping and links to a customer experience survey.  The 8.5×11 formatted pdf receipt takes a “just the facts” approach with minimal branding and no marketing messages.  It is definitely not easy to read on a mobile device.

Apple e-Receipt EmailApple e-Receipt Email

Having the option to receive a receipt via email is becoming more common with companies like Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Sears, Nordstrom, and even Whole Foods offering the service.  Marketers are starting to understand the value of carrying the in-store experience to the customer’s inbox.

Let’s look at the risks, benefits, and best practices for e-receipts.

Keep it Secure

Paper receipts have helped to reduce fraudulent returns saving retailers a lot of money each year. Printed barcodes, transaction IDs, and even imagery on the back of the receipt make them difficult to reproduce or modify. Digital receipts are easier for someone to modify.  Customers can add products that were not purchased or change prices and then print a receipt.  Additionally, customers could print multiple copies of the receipt and attempt multiple returns.  The best way to avoid these issues is include a barcode in the email that links to the transaction in your commerce platform. Combining this with other unique identifiers can add another layer of fraud protection.

This e-receipt from Gap includes a barcode and other values which could be transaction identifiers.

Gap e-Receipt Email

Clickable Calls-to-Action

Printed receipts often contain information such as customer service surveys, coupons, and news about upcoming promotions.  e-Receipts can provide similar opportunities but make it much easier for the customer to interact and take advantage of other offers.  Similar to the Gap example, Old Navy includes links to different product categories that can encourage a recent purchaser to extend their shopping experience online. Sister brands are cross-promoted in a vertical banner and in the footer.  Links to Facebook and Twitter are clickable and mobile alert opt-in is promoted as well.  General customer service information such as a customer service phone number or links to customer service FAQs could be included to decrease the need for the specific store to provide the support.  Many of the best practices for transactional messages outlined in Bronto Marketing Strategist, Fawn Young’s “Do Your Transactional Messages Check Out?” post can be applied to e-receipts.

Old Navy e-Receipt Email

Set Opt-in Expectations

Getting the email address from a customer is easier when asking for an e-receipt but it is important to clearly state whether the customer is only going to receive the receipt or if they are opting in to receive promotional emails as well.  This will require store staff to be trained and scripted to inform the customer what they are opting in to receive.  Always include a link in your e-receipt asking the customer to sign-up for your email program.  The e-receipt does provide a nice customer experience but it is considered transactional.  You will need an explicit opt-in from the customer in order to send promotional messages to them.

You can also include a sign at the register that explains the value of signing up for your email program and how their email address will be used.  Avis has a section of their site dedicated to explaining the benefits of their e-receipt program and asking customer to enroll.

Avis e-Receipt Landing Page

Timing is Everything

Walking out of a store without a receipt makes many customers uncomfortable.  e-Receipts should be deployed as quickly as possible after the purchase has been made.  Letting customers know that they will soon receive their receipt via email can help calm a customer’s nerves.

Here are a few more benefits of using e-receipts:

  • Cost Savings:  With customers getting more comfortable with e-receipts, expenses for receipt paper, ink, and maintenance can be reduced.
  • Accessibility: e-Receipts can be easily searched in a customer’s inbox.  This helps if they need to make a return or want to repurchase an item.
  • Digital Archive: They don’t fade, tear, and can’t be misplaced.
  • Environmentally Friendly:  Paper use is reduced.

Implementing e-receipts will require a combined effort between your commerce platform team, you internal technology team, and your email service provider.  Making the transition will not only make the in-store experience more streamlined, but you carrying the customer cross-channel can help grow your email list and drive sales.

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research



XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code class="" title="" data-url=""> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <pre class="" title="" data-url=""> <span class="" title="" data-url="">