What is the role of a paper receipt in a digital world?

If you have shopped in M and S recently, you may have been asked “Would you like your receipt?” Overwhelmingly, the answer to this question is still “yes” but why do we still value paper receipts in a digital world?

Tesco started trialling e-receipts back in 2015. Apple stores have been sending email receipts since 2005, yet despite a proliferation of retailer apps allowing paper-free purchase, using them is still far from the norm.

Even in e-commerce, paper receipts play an important role in documenting the transaction. Customers expect to see at least a printed despatch note in with their order.

Why do Customers Prefer a Paper Receipt?

To check the sale details
Whether you are quickly reviewing how on earth two bags of shopping came to £75 or checking your order when it arrives at home, making sure your purchases tally up is far easier in print. Just as you might print out an important document to proof read it, studies of university students have shown that information is far more likely to be fully understood and retained if read in hard copy rather than on a screen.

For accounting purposes
If the customer is claiming against tax or expenses for their purchase, they often find a paper receipt an easier way to prove the purchase than accessing and printing out the receipt online.

Warranties, Gifts and Returns
Especially for products with a warranty or gifts that may need to be returned, a printed paper receipt acts as reliable and lasting evidence of the purchase. Email receipts are easily lost or deleted and not all households have a printer.

Although a customer must provide an email address for online purchase, in store they may not wish to do so. Standing in a queue of people and reciting your email address is not always ideal, especially if your name is difficult to spell or you are still using your embarrassing teenage Hotmail address! Despite GDPR legislation, of which more later, not everyone wants to shout out their email address to a retailer, least of all to the whole queue.

How do Retailers Benefit from Providing Printed Receipts?

Whilst some of the benefits to the customer are also a benefit to the retailer, there are other reasons why branded despatch notes or a printed till roll is worth the investment.

Brand Awareness
The printed receipt provides one more opportunity to influence your customer. Branding the receipt with your logo ensures the customer is totally clear who the item came from, especially if buying through an online platform such as Amazon or Ebay.

Personalised Marketing
If you have the right sales software, adding personalised messages, such as product suggestions, or a limited time discount to your receipts, provides opportunities to upsell. M and S often use their printed receipts to give out time sensitive vouchers for their food halls.

Customer Feedback
Including a link to a survey, with a unique code identifying the sale, provides a way for companies to collect feedback on customer service. Argos make good use of this on their paper receipts.

Whilst all these ideas could of course be included electronically, it is very easy for emails to get lost, ignored, stuck in a spam folder or deleted. A branded, quality paper receipt acts as a physical reminder to take up the offer, complete the survey or order again from the brand.

What is the Future for Printed Receipts?

Recent changes in data protection legislation have made it even more likely that companies will pay less attention to email and continue providing paper receipts. The ICO makes it clear that retailers cannot simply add a customer to their mailing list because they have provided their email address to receive a receipt. With the greater fines and enforcement in place since GDPR, it will be interesting to see how many retailers persist with requesting emails for receipts. 

In summary, paper receipts don’t seem to be on track to die out any time soon. The best solution, whether you are a bricks and mortar or e-commerce outlet still remains a hybrid solution. Send the email if you can, but back up with a paper copy the customer can check and keep if they’d like to and use it to help encourage them to come back to you in future.

If you would like to discuss how to brand and add offers to your despatch notes or have any other questions about your printed receipts, do get in touch.