Is it time to punt paper receipts?
February 03, 2017

Most of us have experienced the frustration of desperately searching for an important receipt and being unable to find it — or possibly even worse, finding it damaged or faded unintelligibly.


Such is the nature of the paper receipt. But what if all your receipts were captured and stored on your phone? What if they were categorized and searchable, and ready for retrieval whenever, wherever?


Imagine how different your experience would be if you could just search the item name (or brand, or merchant, or even SKU) and your receipt just ... popped up.


Paper receipts are dead, long live paper receipts


At the outset, receipts might not seem glamorous, but the information they capture packs a lot of utility and digitizing them would spare us a lot of grief. Think how cumbersome it is sorting through paper receipts in the thick of tax season. Or when your warranty expires without warning and you're stuck with a laptop that turns off every seven minutes.


Inspiring frustration isn't even the analog receipt's worst crime. They suffer from inertia — static and unable to act or mobilize action from customers. As it stands, paper receipts simply serve as a proof of a transaction, but their information could be used to organize our financial lives and make them more manageable.


For example, receipts track your transactions, which describe your purchasing behavior. Having access to this aggregated data in turn influences your future purchasing behavior. That kind of visibility can clue you in about loyalty programs and rewards you're eligible for. Last time I checked, paper doesn't speak up, and monitoring all of that manually is extremely time-consuming.


Another example is budgeting. Few things create as much friction in people's lives as personal finance management (PFM). You're a responsible person and you want to know where you're spending your money. It would be great to know if your mocha frappuccino addiction is the only thing keeping you from that vacation in Mykonos. Paper receipts make obtaining insights like this exceptionally difficult and they certainly don't enable any foresight, either.


4 merits of digital receipts:

  • They're accessible. As with all mobile solutions, the digital receipt goes where you go. It occupies no physical space and it can be accessed anywhere at any time. It's a hassle-free storage solution. Say goodbye to your shoebox.
  • They're smart. Going digital doesn't only mean storing information better, it also means retrieving information better and faster. If you can't remember the name of that wine you ordered at dinner last week, just type in the restaurant name and voila. You get the idea.
  • They realize value, even if you don't. They can notify you if your purchases are unlocking rewards and loyalty programs with your favorite retailers. It's great that you spent $100 at CVS and you can redeem 10,000 points before the end of the month? Unfortunately, this information often goes unnoticed. Not with digital receipts. The digital receipt enables you to maximize how you leverage your spend.
  • They provide insight. Digital receipts add transparency and visibility to your spending: You want context to your bimonthly "IDP purchases." This context gives you a better idea of how your financial lives are performing, and help you to make better decisions to improve your future performance. Whether you're the everyday consumer, the business traveler or the small business owner, digital receipts makes understanding and managing your finances intuitive.


Where mobile banking fits in


Digital receipts and receipt management are integral pieces of our broader financial lives.


Unfortunately, early iterations of receipt management and PFM tools haven't been able to create a seamless customer experience and often make the user do all the heavy lifting. What's more is that they tend to be independent, one-off tools, which fail to engage customers long-term.


For digital receipts to take hold they need to be integrated into people's everyday lives and existing habits. How can they do that? Integrate them into our mobile banking applications. Banking apps have the most active users — more than email, Instagram and Snapchat — and they're also the first place customers go for transaction oversight. They are the natural home for customers' receipt data. After all, what's more intuitive than retrieving insight about your transactions from the very institution that facilitates them?


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