Is it time for e-mailed receipts?

Discussion
Feb 09, 2015

Retailers first began experimenting with e-mailing receipts to customers and foregoing paper in the early part of this decade with Apple starting the trend. About a third of stores now reportedly offer the option, but only a few actively promote the practice and even fewer use it as a marketing tool.

According to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, only 10 percent of the more than 500 top North American retailers they polled currently offer electronic receipts with personalized suggestions. Still, 35 percent more plan to implement the offering within 12 months and another 35 percent plan to add e-receipts with personalized offers within one to three years.

E-mailed receipts promise an environmentally friendly alternative to paper, a savings on paper cost for stores, and a way for customers to avoid losing their flimsy paper receipts.

In its study, BRP said offering an electronic receipt after an in-store purchase gives customers "the piece of mind that they’ll have a copy that won’t be lost from the time they leave the store to when they get home." In addition, stores can offer suggestions for potential purchases based on past purchases, "elevating the customer’s current and future shopping experience."

Still, reports over the arrival of e-mailed receipts over the years often come with a warning that stores are largely looking to gain access to shoppers’ e-mail inboxes. Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group, told USA Today in 2011, "It’s a subtle way of saying, ‘How can I invade your personal life but not offend you at the same time?’"

One expressed concern is the subsequent arrival of floods of emailed coupons and other deals, although retailers are said to be getting smarter about appearing as spam.

An article earlier this year by the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Forth Worth also warned that retailers could sell e-mail addresses to third parties. Apple, Macy’s and Nordstrom all told the station they only use customers’ e-mail addresses for their own marketing purposes.

Why haven’t e-mailed receipts become more pervasive? Do you find consumers have become more or less apprehensive over the last few years about providing their e-mail addresses to retailers?

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26 Comments on "Is it time for e-mailed receipts?"

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Keith Anderson
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Inertia and an uncertain ROI have held e-receipts back, as they do for many new technologies.

Still, there are major potential benefits on both sides—savings, transparency, personalization, lower environmental impact.

Consumers have gradually become less apprehensive, but retailers still need to respect consumer preferences and make sure there’s mutual benefit to sharing their information.

Max Goldberg
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

The article does a good job of stating the current situation: Retailers say they want to offer electronic receipts, but few do, and consumers aren’t clamoring for them for fear that retailers will inundate them with emails and/or sell their email addresses to other retailers. Communicating with consumers is a matter of building trust. Too few retailers have adopted this practice. Consumers know it and have become more apprehensive about sharing their personal information.

Dick Seesel
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

As a consumer, I’m often given the option of e-mailed or paper receipts. Curiously, outside of Apple I usually opt for paper receipts. I actually like the format (they make returns easier) and I do not want to share my e-mail address more broadly than necessary.

Getting a mailbox filled with unwanted e-mail is one issue, but in today’s “data breach” climate, retailers are going to have to work harder to build consumers’ trust before e-mail receipts become a more widely accepted alternative.

Zel Bianco
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Shoppers have been linking their phone number to loyalty cards for years, so I am having trouble seeing how an email address is going to be more invasive. In fact, marketing emails are far less annoying than a customer survey phone call in the middle of dinner.

I think one of the key reasons receipts have been slow to gain popularity is that people are reluctant to spend the time entering their email address when it is generally faster to just print a receipt. As Apple Pay and similar resources become more commonly used email will become the default method of delivering receipts.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

E-mail receipts are a win-win. They are more environmentally friendly, more healthy for employees, and lower cost for retailers. For consumers they are easier to archive and find when you need them.

It’s very true that consumers are fearful of their e-mail addresses being misused, but the reality for retailers is that collecting an e-mail address to send a receipt DOES NOT meet the CAN-SPAM requirements for opting-in to marketing e-mails.

The big impediment to implementing e-receipts is the high IT costs of the initial implementation for retailers struggling with legacy in-store technologies.

We’re very early in the evolution of the e-receipt. For now, the majority are simply triggering an e-mail, but the real value is in offering shoppers a digital locker for all their past purchases. Imagine a grocery shopper being able to convert her last receipt into a shopping list for her next trip. There are all sorts of new use cases that will make life easier for shoppers.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I concur with Mr. Beemer’s statement to USA Today. Every time someone asks me would you like your receipt emailed to you, my answer is no. I receive enough email and definitely do not want more from various retailers who offer that option. I am sure that is the same logic that many people use when making the same decision.

I understand the potential security blanket that comes from having it emailed, but the downside outweighs the likelihood that I will lose an important receipt. Any important receipts get put in my wallet and not in the bag with the purchase, lessening the risk of them being lost.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

This is a direct result of the culture of the stores that offer the service. If the staff doesn’t promote the offering, shoppers will never know about it. Apple and other stores do a great job of creating awareness of this and other services. I also find that the general public has far less apprehension with giving personal information to retailers than the media and vocal minority of privacy groups would lead one to believe.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

So many plusses and an equal number of negatives are in play here. Yes, there is a reluctance to having your email out there for the hacker world to have another “open door” to give them access to your personal information. Yes, it slows down the checkout process (only once) to write the email address. Yes, it is less paper to be handled, filed or destroyed.
I can’t help but think of my wife who keeps all receipts for an unlimited time. It has saved her much money, especially when the previously purchased items have gone on sale for a price lower than what she spent originally. It will take years, if ever, for her, and those many like her to accept this as a standard practice. Some banks do it now. But every time I go to the drive-up for a transaction I ask for the printed receipt. Maybe I am a lot more like my wife. She has trained me well.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

E-mailed receipts are a natural evolution of moving to a more paperless retailing environment. Many consumers have already given their e-mail addresses to retailers in order to receive coupons and notice of sales, etc. The mailing of receipts gives the retailer another communication opportunity to thank and reward customers as well as a chance to open communications with one-time shoppers and convert them to regulars.

Dan Raftery
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

This may be a case of too little too late. Benefits of e-mail receipts are pretty skimpy, especially when paired with the risks. Anyone who wants the values described in the article can get them other ways, particularly when the retailer has a robust loyalty program. And too late—e-mail boxes are jammed.

David Biernbaum
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

E-mail receipts will trend upward but not as fast as we’d all like it to happen. There are two purposes for receipts: 1. Security blanket for returns. 2. Tax records. Consumers still have a degree of mistrust that the receipt will be mailed successfully and timely, unless they can see the e-mail immediately on their mobile devices while standing at the checkout lane. Once the majority of consumers gain confidence with the speed and accuracy of the e-mail receipt, I think we will have a 70 percent paperless receipt society by the year 2020.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

The only brick-and-mortar retailers where I regularly opt for an e-receipt are Nordstrom and Office Depot. I think for most people, the initial need to key in an e-mail address on a tiny pad or read it to an associate is a turn off.

I personally think e-receipts should be an alliance between the credit card company and the retailer as a value add for the credit card company to drive transaction volume. If I have a choice between a credit card that automatically sends me the receipt from the retailer, and one who doesn’t, I am more likely to use the one that does. The credit card company already has my e-mail address, and I trust my credit card company not to spam me more than I trust the retailer.

To their credit, both retailers from which I have opted for e-mail receipts have not spammed me afterwards.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

The issue is better explained based on the retailer’s target market. Younger consumers accept e-mail receipts and older consumers are less likely to. With all the retailer data thieves, consumers have to save the register tape or the e-mail to make sure their billing statement is accurate. E-mail receipts may have the advantage here. They can be placed into a hold folder until the statement is processed for payment. More consumers are giving retailers an e-mail account just for retailers. Once you give them your e-mail, the flood of messages starts. I get an e-mail daily from Staples and others. Then weekly they delete the messages without having to work with a spam filter which might cause one to miss an important e-mail.

Tina Lahti
Guest
Tina Lahti
2 years 10 months ago

They haven’t become more pervasive because most retailers don’t offer them and those that do don’t talk about them. My husband was shocked when I forwarded a Home Depot e-receipt to him and explained that I had my e-mail address tied to my account so that I get an e-receipt every time I use my credit card in the store. He goes to Home Depot 10 times more than I do and has never been offered an e-receipt. We already give retailers banking information when we pay at the register. Relatively speaking, sharing an e-mail address is not a risk.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
2 years 10 months ago

E-mail receipts do not appeal to many consumers for reasons already mentioned. If the customer has actually taken the time to go to a brick-and-mortar store to shop and to have a personal interaction, then retailers should at least be able to happily give them a paper receipt on-the-spot to document the transaction.

Often the issue is not about giving the e-mail address to retailers, either, because in many cases they often already have it. It’s buyers wanting an immediate receipt to verify that the item and amount are accurately recorded and having it to keep with the box the purchased item came in, or with the registration/care/warranty information—or to compare against their credit card statement when it comes each month. Retailers putting the onus on customers to track and locate an emailed receipt in their crowded inbox or folders later is hardly good customer service.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

On this one I can only speak as a customer. I find e-mail receipts a pain since I have to give them my e-mail address every time I check out. Not worth the time and effort.

Alan Lipson
Guest
Alan Lipson
2 years 10 months ago
In some ways, these are two separate questions. As to the second question about sharing e-mail addresses, the concern is largely around the consumer not wanting to be bombarded with e-mail from the retailer. This can only be addressed through properly designed and executed loyalty and marketing programs. The first question about receipts is simply a function of the retailer taking the time to invest in the appropriate resources to link their real-time transaction systems to be able to generate the receipt e-mail. My question however, is why does the receipt even have to be e-mailed? As others have stated, make this a benefit of the retailer loyalty program and provide me with a digital locker of all my transaction activity. In the initial phases, both physical and digital receipts should be provided to the customer. As the customer gets used to the digital locker and feels more confident that the receipts are dependable and accurate, the customer should be able to opt-out of physical receipts and only request them when needed, i.e., whether it… Read more »
Rusty Neff
Guest
Rusty Neff
2 years 10 months ago

Yes, I want to give a company more of my personal information because what’s the worst that could happen? Oh wait…we can see what happens. The retailer has lax security and the information is stolen.

You can print me a paper receipt, and when you ask me for my email address I will tell you it’s none of your business. And if that’s a problem for you I will take my business elsewhere.

Jeff Hall
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Though there are upsides to e-receipts, as already outlined, we find consumers still reluctant to provide personal email addresses. Recent security breaches of retailer customer databases erode faith even further. The inconvenience factor is amplified when you have to give your email every time in order to get a receipt.

Phil Rubin
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

E-mailed receipts make total sense for retailers and for consumers, especially in categories that involve more considered purchases. However, like anything else involving relationships, it has to be based on trust and accountability. Consumers should get an explicit quid pro quo that the retailers will be responsible with their data and provide some measure of value in exchange. The value for the customer should at least be using the data to be more relevant in future exchanges, whether communications (e.g., email) or transactionally (e.g., for returns and merchandise exchanges).

There are fewer and fewer consumers, with the certain exception of those featured on “Hoarders,” that actually want more paper versus the ability to access and retrieve their shopping history digitally.

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
2 years 10 months ago

I need my receipt because I may have to return the item. I don’t want to pray your system can find it when I’ve just spent ten minutes in line.

Vahe Katros
Guest
2 years 10 months ago
Receipts are not the end, they are the beginning. They are the beginning of the product’s usage, warranty, care instructions, upgrades, instructional videos on usage, recalls, etc, etc. No doubt these ideas have been embodied in the ARTS’s XML standards for the receipt and that’s because they are obvious. So there is another problem, consider the following scenario: Person A: I love Macy’s!Person B: Why?Person A: Because of their receipts!Person B? Receipts?Persona A: Actually, it was because of their receipts that I found out that my favorite brand was going to discontinue a product. When I first got the product, I received an electronic receipt and checked a box that said: notify me in time to buy more, if we plan to discontinue, they have a whole bunch more notifications that are useful – all on the receipt. It is one thing to imagine this, but the painful side is to execute and the above example takes work. Who is going to do that work? What’s the ROI? If retail is detail, then what’s up… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

It’s just a matter of time. We are approaching a tipping point where the emailed receipt will become the norm versus an exception. Receipts are needed in business to track and record expenses. Retail customers need receipts for proof of purchase. E-receipts will allow for better record keeping and the customer won’t even have to keep the receipt. Two thoughts about e-receipts:

1. GREEN!
2. Convenience

Arie Shpanya
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I think emailed receipts are going to become the new standard. Paper receipts are easy to lose, making returns difficult. I think the ease of e-receipts make shoppers less apprehensive about providing their email addresses.

For retailers, having all of those email addresses is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they have a captive audience for marketing purposes, since that person has already made a purchase at the store and is more likely to return. But on the other, they need to make sure that they use and protect them appropriately.

Ed Dunn
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

How many years does Netflix have my view history? How many years does Amazon have of my purchase history?

I can log into Amazon right now and retrieve “digital receipts” while there is a debate about brick-and-mortar offering receipts raging on.

I do not support email receipts as a stand-alone server making me tap out my email address on a point-of-sale swipe machine. The email receipt should have been done on the loyalty card provided to me and stored in a place I can retrieve the same way Amazon offers.

Graeme McVie
Guest
Graeme McVie
2 years 10 months ago

If emailed receipts at Apple are any indication then it could be an approach that catches on, but it may take some time within the grocery sector. There are many benefits to emailed receipts for retailers—in addition to saving on the expense of paper based receipts it would provide another vehicle to deliver personalized and relevant offers as part of a service that shoppers have opted into. For shoppers the value proposition could be a little less obvious than when Apple provides e-receipts (proof of purchase and warranties are more relevant for Apple products) but as more shoppers become more engaged with retailers through email programs, website accounts and smart phone apps then adoption rates should increase.

Retailers should make customers more aware of the availability of e-receipts and make it easy for customers to opt-in and select this option. E-receipts are one more example of how retailers can demonstrate to shoppers that they are looking to improve the shopping experience.

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