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The Push to Paperless

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Holding onto paper receipts, warranties or return policies can be a never-ending chore for consumers. Retailers, too, find it difficult and time-consuming to access the receipt information residing within their sales and financial systems. “Their systems were built to sell products and track purchases, not serve the data back in a form for analysis,” says David Crossett, CEO of Ready Receipts.

A new solution from Ready Receipts provides an online location where electronic versions of receipts can be stored and retrieved digitally. The solutions “act as a bridge” between retailers and consumers, Crossett says. The company’s Receipt Assurance provides consumers online access to their receipts, and also will be able to stream purchase information to personal finance tools.

Online retailers working with the Magento shopping cart software will be able to offer this service just by having customers download a plug-in, Crossett says. (Ready Receipts is steadily adding the ability to work with other brands of shopping cart software.) The plug-in takes a copy of the receipt and transmits it to Ready Receipts’ secure servers using the ARTS Digital Receipt XML standard. Ready Receipts is PCI-compliant and doesn’t transmit or store credit card data.

When retailers offer Ready Receipts, the purchase confirmation online shoppers receive includes an option to transmit the receipt to their Ready Receipts account. Even if the shopper hasn’t signed up for the service, the system saves the receipt in the event the shopper does so at a later date. Receipts are matched using e-mail addresses.

Reporting trends
Bricks-and-mortar retailers can also work with Ready Receipts, although the process is a bit more involved. While the merchants can offer their customers Receipt Assurance for free, merchants will need to pay to gain access to the receipt data. The cost varies based on the retailer’s revenue and the analytical tools they choose. Most implementations are completed in a matter of days.

Ready Receipts’ analytical tools remain in development, although the system currently can provide retailers with receipt data in raw format. Crossett envisions a portal through which retailers can run various product or brand reports that provide shopping trends over time. For instance, if a grocery store manager wants to know the impact of sending the store’s customers a coupon for $2 off Tide detergent, the analytical solution will allow the retailer to see not only the amount by which sales increased, but the percentage of the increase that came from customers who already purchased Tide on a regular basis -- that is, the extent to which the promotion cannibalized existing sales.

Also in the works is a more sophisticated analysis tool that will allow retailers to develop promotions for particular customer groups. For instance, they might want to offer a coupon offering a 10 percent discount to the bottom fifth of their customer base, while simultaneously providing their top quintile of customers a larger discount.

“It boils down to the retailer giving different deals to different customers, like the airlines. Everyone pays a different price,” Crossett says. “Retailers should be able to do that.”