Is the paper receipt dying?

Discussion
May 24, 2016
George Anderson

It’s been a long road for shorter receipts at CVS. Going back to 2009, the chain has been singled out by publications, including Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, over its long and wasteful paper receipts. Two years later, CVS announced plans to shorten the length of its in-store receipts tied to its ExtraCare Rewards program by about 25 percent. Now, the company has announced that its ExtraCare members will have the option of receiving digital receipts rather than printed versions at the checkout.

“We are excited to roll out the much-anticipated launch of digital receipts. We heard loud and clear that while our customers love receiving coupons and special offers, many wanted a paperless option,” said Helena Foulkes, president, CVS Pharmacy, in a statement. “This feature lets our customers continue to make personalized choices as to how they engage with us, and will let our members choose to say ‘So long!’ to the long paper receipts at check-out.”

The assertion that CVS customers love receiving coupons has been the basis for the chain’s resistance to shorter receipts for years. Back in 2011 when the LA Times piece was published, the chain argued for longer receipts because members of the ExtraCare program liked to “feel the reward.”

With the new program, ExtraCare members will receive their receipts via e-mail. They will also have the option of requesting a printed version. CVS claims to have 70 million active members in the program.

Helena Foulkes in a surprise appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live – Photo: CVS Pharmacy

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Generally speaking, do consumers today prefer long receipts with coupons to shorter paper versions or digital ones? Do you see printed receipts going away in the near future?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I see a day in the not-too-distant future when most of the paper around our transactions will disappear."
"Paper receipts are going away in the future. So much of our daily purchase transactions do not require a receipt. "
"Macy’s has a good program... The downside is that many people don’t want to give out their email."

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23 Comments on "Is the paper receipt dying?"


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Max Goldberg
Guest

Somewhere a grove of trees just breathed a collective sigh of relief. CVS is going to cut their receipts. It’s about time. Maybe the chain will next tackle their ineffective loyalty program, the one that begot the long receipts. Retailers can save money and appease consumers by reworking their receipts to reduce paper usage. This can be accomplished by adding fewer extras to receipts or by encouraging a completely digital checkout process using smartphones for coupons, payment and loyalty programs.

Joy Chen
Guest

Paper receipts are going away in the future. So much of our daily purchase transactions do not require a receipt. Additionally, many on-demand services like Uber and Drybar have already moved to no receipts. Digital receipts will be the way of the future.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Perspective on receipt format appears to be age related. Many older consumers still like to hang onto paper, while younger consumers work almost exclusively in the digital space. Besides the trees that might be saved, the greatest advantage to customers is that the receipt will always exist in the digital space. No need to fill file boxes with dated, crumbled receipts. Going forward I see a dual system which gives the customer an option of paper or digital similar to the supermarket question of “paper or plastic” bags.

Al McClain
Staff

Retailers really need to be proactive at this point in doing away with paper receipts. Make the switch to digital and let consumers opt-in if they want to keep unneeded paper. Left to their own devices, many older shoppers hang on to paper due to inertia.

David Dorf
BrainTrust

I don’t see paper receipts going away, but there will be fewer. Email is a great alternative, but who wants to give an email address at the register? Emailed receipts work great when there’s a loyalty program, but we need an alternative for non-loyalty. Perhaps we can use NFC to both pay and get a digital receipt.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

I guess this is a start but far more wasteful and excessive in the pharmacy world are the paper bags and instruction sheets stapled together in a wad with NO other option offered. I would like to have the option of forgoing all of that. How about a recycling program for the bottles themselves, and even safe disposal of unused prescriptions, which have been known to wreak environmental havoc?

J. Peter Deeb
Guest

CVS is not the only retailer with long paper receipts. I use Staples for my small business printer and supplier and I not only get a long, complicated receipt but I also get separate coupons, and sometimes rebate paperwork, that is a foot long! The ability to receive digital receipts and coupons allows me to store what I want for easy record keeping and discard any unwanted information or coupons on items I don’t use. I see a day in the not-too-distant future when most of the paper around our transactions will disappear.

David Livingston
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

In 100 years people will look back and wonder why we were so wasteful with our resources. Paper receipts, fast food wrappers and bags, cups, diapers, boxes and containers. The use of such things will look ridiculous.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I can answer for myself. I dislike the long receipts. If I am a participating loyal customer, my email address is already in the retailer’s system. I should only have to say “email it” and I can decide later whether to keep it or delete it. I suspect that, as the overall demographics evolve (today’s generation becoming the consumers of tomorrow), fewer consumers will require the printed copy and, therefore, I do see printed receipts going away. As for when …

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Paper receipts are definitely going away but it will be some time before they disappear completely. Macy’s has a good program where their customers can choose the receipt type (paper, email or both). The downside is that many people don’t want to give out their email.

I agree with Carol on reducing pharmacy waste. CVS and other pharmacies should be working towards reducing prescription bags and instructions sheets in addition to their long receipts.

Kim Garretson
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

I agree with most of the BrainTrust that paper’s days are getting shorter. But I also think it’s worth thinking about/investigating innovation in digital receipts and the customer experience, both at POS and after the sale. When I was one of Best Buy’s liaisons to the venture capital industry earlier this decade, we started to see venture-backed startups innovating in this space. Most stayed in business less than two years. And today, if you search “receipts” at Crunchbase.com, which tracks investments in startups, you’ll see quite a few companies, but a quick review on my part didn’t reveal any that are “rockin'”. One reason might be there are so few POS vendors today that they control the keys on the switch to digital, so they aren’t keen to work with startups. And maybe they aren’t keen to add the costs and complexity into their own systems until they are forced to do so. Again, this is speculation as I am not a POS expert.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

This is well overdue. Let’s see how many others will jump on this bandwagon and help save the trees from wasteful losses. Car rental companies (spelled Hertz) are now sending digital receipts. But they still give long, mostly unread forms when you get the car and a small receipt when you return. Most of this is overdue. let’s get others to join in and see what else can be done in this now-digital age.

George Anderson
Staff

One of the benefits of using my Target REDcard is that I don’t need a receipt for returns. I hand customer service the card and the system finds the item to be credited automatically. Seems as those this the type of benefit that CVS and other retailers should be playing up if they want current paper receipt users to make the switch to the digital version. Imagine, never having to go searching for a paper receipt ever again.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest

From a personal experience, paper receipts are just more to deal with and I usually destroy them after a few days anyway. eReceipts can be better managed, organized, kept or discarded on my schedule.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I personally always opt out of a receipt at Whole Foods when they ask (I am not returning fruits and veggies) and at Nordstrom Rack when they offer e-Receipt, I always take it. Personally I think it makes more sense because you can tie the customer data better to online from the store with their email address through the receipt anyway. Saves trees, and my wallet and pockets have less junk.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

This is an oddly phrased question, linking together rather different things. Maybe a better question would be “are receipt coupons any use to you?” And the answer to that would be “when they are few in number and have broad use.” (No 5% off your 15th can of attic freshener when you buy 14).

As to the other question: no they aren’t going away any time soon. As long as a sizable minority of people demand them — and that will be for some time — they’ll be around … and no argument that they’re costing .0003 cents/transaction will change that.

Robert DiPietro
Guest

I can hear the tree NOT falling. The longness factor of the receipt is not a way to demonstrate value. Printed receipts will go away in the future and that will be described as a win-win. Faster checkout and less waste for the consumer, and customer email acquisition and cost reduction for the retailer.

James Tenser
BrainTrust
Reports of the demise of the paper receipt are exaggerated, I’d say. While yard-long CVS receipts deserve some ridicule and I’m just as happy getting a text from my bank ATM, the discussion here overlooks a very significant area of innovation that will extend the relevancy of paper receipts — perhaps for many years. I’m talking about a new generation of IoT receipt printers from Epson and Star that talk directly to the cloud. Both makers had the devices on display at the NRF Big Show in January. Here’s the gist of what they can do: Capture every detail of every transaction that is normally found on every receipt – items, prices, coupon and promotional redemptions, time, date, location, loyalty card number, mode of payment (but not the credit card number). Communicate in real time via WiFi to a server in the cloud where the data is instantly parsed and added to the analytical platform that powers management dashboards and reporting. Respond in milliseconds (while the receipt is being printed) with targeted information and graphical… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest

I’d give my email to any retailer who will send me a paperless receipt ONLY IF I could trust them to NOT barrage me with daily communications on stuff I don’t buy, need or want. But that’s not likely based on today’s practices of “bombing” shoppers via digital tactics.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
4 years 7 months ago

For many retailers, this is a great vehicle for creating better customer addressability and ensuring there is a clear digital record of a transaction. For the customers, it does the latter and allows them to more easily save their receipts. Win-win. And for the planet, what do we do with most of our receipts other than (hopefully) recycle them?

Interesting as always how some brands (e.g., Apple, Anthropologie, Nike, Nordstrom) have done this for a while and yet the majority of the industry is just now adopting this.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Kermit the Frog said, “It’s not easy being green!” When it comes to receipts, we are looking at a receipt-less society. It will benefit us environmentally, and we no longer will have to save our receipts for proof of purchase. The retailers will have a good record of our transaction.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Contributing Editor, RetailWire; Founder and CEO, Vision First
4 years 7 months ago

Trees, recycle bins and customers waiting in line to check out can rejoice! The long (and time consuming printing of) receipts is a big waste and turn-off, especially when many of the “custom” offers are not relevant.

david salisbury
Guest

1. The receipt is only valuable if it’s to be used for expenses or returns, and as its printed on flimsily thermal paper, it has no longevity anyway, so you are going to need to make either an archival paper copy or digital version. So why not simply get a digital version in the first place.

2. Coupons that are relevant have a value (CVS is not targeted), delivering them on paper is cheap and effective and these coupons are very portable (check out your mail box to see how this is not going to change over night) delivering coupons via digital is even cheaper, and overall a better experience.. provided that the redemption process is not complicated by having to show a phone to a cashier.

3. Any digital solution that slows down or inconveniences the shopper is bad. Tying the receipt to pre shopping experience such as Uber, Amazon, or to a credit/loyalty card, as per square ft CVS makes sense.

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Braintrust
"I see a day in the not-too-distant future when most of the paper around our transactions will disappear."
"Paper receipts are going away in the future. So much of our daily purchase transactions do not require a receipt. "
"Macy’s has a good program... The downside is that many people don’t want to give out their email."

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