As Fashionista readers begin their Christmas shopping, they may be faced with the following question: “Would you like us to email you your receipt?”. The list of retailers offering digital receipts, rather than their paper counterparts, is growing rapidly, with the likes of Apple, Debenhams, Topshop and Argos all offering them today.

Stack of receipts piled high on white background

On the face of it, the attraction of digital receipts is obvious. For a customer, it is about ease of use. You do not need to worry about losing it, and you can display it on your smartphone whenever you need. They are also proving incredibly useful for when proof of purchase may need to be presented at a much later date or where the items purchased are of great value. The value for retailers is that they may now be giving themselves access to a whole new bank of customer data. By capturing a shopper’s email address, retailers are able to directly “engage” with customers, such as by sending them promotions. Retailers may also be able to link shoppers’ in store purchases with their store account, and so learn more about a shopper’s overall spending habits. Retailers may therefore be able to see if a strategically placed online advert or personalised promotional offer, tailored to that specific customer, results in a purchase. Other data which is identified by digital receipts include basket size, frequency of visit and total spend; data which would otherwise be lost for bricks and mortar retailers.

However, retailers need to be careful about how they collect, and what they do, with customers’ personal information. Last week the ICO published a reminder  to retailers that customers have the right to know what is happening with their data. It emphasises the need to get a customer’s clear consent to receive direct marketing through some sort of positive action. Customer consent needs to also be informed i.e. customers need to know exactly what they are agreeing to. Will their information be sold to third parties? Will their email address be used to send them adverts? If so, a customer must be told at the checkout. Staff at the tills, being a shopper’s primary contact with a retailer, will need to be fully trained so that they can explain to customers the consequences of providing their details for a digital receipt.

Shopping mall blur background with bokeh

Digital receipts are quite clearly a powerful tool, through which retailers can learn more about their customers.  However if the plan is to use customer data for anything other than providing a receipt, retailers will need to make sure that they find the time to explain this to customers (even during the hectic Christmas shopping period!)




By: Rose Falconer
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