Magazine Article | June 1, 2002

Digital What?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

You've automated system after system, but one area of your retail operation remains paper-based. Digital receipts release retailers and customers from paper trails.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2002
Stephanie Roussel-Dupre

As retailers, many of us have spent the last decade working to improve operational efficiencies for our companies. When technology was employed to improve a process, it often focused internally. We have seen the deployment of large data repositories used to improve stock movement or margin performance, manage shrink, and better understand our customers' needs. However, technology has often stopped short of going directly into the hands of our customers for their benefit (and ultimately ours).

But recently, we have seen technology used to enhance the customer experience through self-checkout or kiosks. A new technology on the horizon is digital receipts. On the surface, the concept of a digital receipt leads some to ask, "Why?" A closer look reveals that this technology can help companies internally by improving operations and externally by providing customer value. The receipt process is one area where companies and customers are collecting limited electronic data and still using paper to conduct business.

Eliminate Paper From Accounting
When considering electronic receipts, the decision will directly affect the accounting environment. Of course, the very nature of accounting demands both complete and accurate transaction records that are easy to retrieve in a timely manner. Electronic receipts provide associates with a clear and complete history of all transactions in the same format as presented to customers. Go one step further and add signature capture for credit card drafts, and you now have a complete record of the credit transaction that includes the purchase data and customer signature in an easy-to-retrieve electronic format. Consequently, dispute management can be handled in a more timely fashion while reducing internal costs. If retailers provide account charge privileges, the digital receipt coupled with signature capture provides a quick and easy way to assemble the complete transaction history for proof of purchase. This history is also available to financial institutions and business customers via electronic delivery over the Web. In all cases, the hard savings are seen through the elimination of paper.

Customers Record Receipts Into Digital Books
Digital receipts can provide additional value when we begin to understand the potential for delivering transaction information to our customers. This new technology allows retailers to add a number of benefits to their loyalty card programs without strictly relying on discounts to provide the value. The technology can benefit both consumers and small businesses, but the value proposition is quite different for each. The consumer benefits include purchase history, online product registration, receipt presentation for refunds and warranty work, embedded links to manufacturers of the purchased goods, recall notices, and a delivery mechanism for related product promotions.

For retailers that sell to small business customers, a digital receipt that includes information on all purchases made can be delivered through a secured Web site connection. The digital receipt now provides the customer access to their purchase data, which can then be delivered to various accounting programs such as Microsoft Money, Intuit QuickBooks, Microsoft Great Plains, or cost of goods management programs. This eliminates the need for customers to keep and record paper receipts, providing measurable timesaving to small business owners.

With any new application, a critical factor is insuring that software development is based on standards to insure system interoperability; digital receipts are no exception. Major retailers and software vendors have been involved in developing the digital receipt standards based on an open POS platform, using the NRF/ARTS (National Retail Federation/Association for Retail Technology Standards) data model as a repository, as well as the newly published ARTS IX Retail digital receipt XML (extensible markup language) schema for defining digital receipt formats. So, as retailers move forward looking for creative ways to enhance their customers' shopping experiences, they also need to ensure customer value. We believe digital receipts will provide us with both.