Monday, December 7, 2015

Invisible Digital Receipts
By Mark Johnson – CEO Receipt Reliance Pty Ltd

The payments space is seeing an extraordinary amount of innovation taking place. Now there are many ways for consumers to pay for goods and services and it's still evolving. One thing many payment providers are striving for is the best customer experience possible; the least amount of friction the better. In fact the word 'invisible' is now being used to describe the ideal payment experience, the objective being that no sooner you've indicated that you wish to purchase something than it just happens in the background. Wouldn't it be great if the final part of the transaction, the receipt, was invisible too?

Arguably, the most common way to receive a digital receipt is via email. Apple pioneered this method back in 2005 and is still doing it. With this idea in mind, receipt companies have emerged with add-on solutions whereby after some software integration at the POS, consumers are required to give out an email address in order to receive an 'e-receipt'. POS vendors themselves are now following this lead and building customer email address capture and email receipt issuance into their software, often delivered as part of a maintenance upgrade.

While email receipts have started to gain traction, they haven't taken off as might have been expected and are just one of several methods trying to gain market share.  Consumers are wary about giving out personal information knowing they run the risk of their inbox being inundated with unwanted marketing material, as well as concerns about  fraud and phishing scams, and at the end of the day they are still responsible for the storage and management of their receipts.  

Another type of digital receipt solution that has begun to gather pace is cloud based receipt storage accessible via an app on your PC or mobile device.  What is transformational about these new cloud based solutions is that many are now embracing POS/data integration where the app talks with the merchant's POS system to collect the receipt.

While this is an important step forward, it raises another issue that may not have been fully appreciated; If a lot of cloud based solutions with POS/data integration start to appear, won’t they still present the customer with the dilemma of multiple logins etc and perhaps some consolidation tasks for filing receipts from different cloud based apps into one place? Not to mention the loss of valuable screen real estate on your mobile device, tablet and/or PC as you would have to download multiple merchants' apps just to get a digital receipt!

The objective is to simplify our lives and it's just not practical to expect consumers to download a new app each time they visit a different merchant. It could be argued that perhaps digital receipts should not be app related at all; that what is required is a common method, rather than a common app.

If we have POS/data integration with merchant receipt linked to the bank payment transaction via banks' own payments pipes or via a bank accessible cloud storage location, the customer will win. They will win because whether its cloud or bank pipes, the customer need not worry that they don’t have a particular merchant's app; they will just go to their familiar banking portal (app or internet login) and the receipt will be there, no friction and no lost receipts.

Think of it this way:

·         Digital receipt app per merchant    = many merchant receipt apps per customer device
·         Digital receipt via your bank portal = no merchant receipt apps on customer device

There are some companies moving in this direction but they only have part of the equation.  While they have the POS/data integration triggered by a bank card payment, they are lacking the link to the bank payment transaction and thus not taking advantage of all the value that doing so offers. They also require the disclosure of your payment card details which creates another point of vulnerability should the Digital Receipt company suffer a data breach. Others have provided for digital copies of paper receipts and email receipts to be matched and/or manually linked to a bank payment transaction but again the opportunity is there for error, fraud and friction because it relies too heavily on customer input to make it work. Having a digital receipt captured and then stored by your bank at the time you make an EFT payment avoids all the above concerns.

The adoption of a digital receipt solution like this may take time however I feel that any reservations some merchants might have will be resolved by natural competitive market forces; merchants, and banks, will not want to miss the opportunity to attract new customers and strengthen their existing customer base. When EFTPOS was first introduced in the US in 1981, merchants and consumers were initially slow to accept it, however that soon changed and today it is widely used around the globe. I think the same will happen for a digital receipt solution such as this. When consumers and businesses experience the convenience and added value it will afford,  the only thing they will be asking is 'why has it taken so long?'.

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