Is it time for checkout receipts to go?

April 11, 2013

Paper receipts have pros and cons—it’s time to ask shoppers what they want.

Checkout receipts can be pretty good marketing tools for supermarkets.  They can reinforce the savings a shopper just scored on her purchases.  They can show loyalty rewards.  They can print redeemable coupons at the end of a transaction.  They can thank customers for their business.

On the other hand, many contain BPA.  They clutter people’s pockets and wallets.  People can lose them, and lose any printed reward values—unless they’re also in the system.  They can slow checkout lines when a cashier has to replace a roll of paper. POS printers can be noisy and irritate shoppers and cashiers.

So, to paraphrase comedian/game-show host Howie Mandel, print or no print?

The Lempert Report feels the answers depends on a retailer’s objective.

Stores that go paperless, like Apple, could e-mail digital receipts to customers.  Then they’d have the e-mail address and possibly permission to engage customers with deals and recipes (based on purchase history), plus other materials sent via e-mail.

Stores that keep printing receipts could integrate messages on them that reinforce an image or appeal to certain kinds of shoppers.  For instance, print baby food tips for fairly new moms. Suggest a chat with the store’s catering chef before the holiday season rush.  Or to emphasize health and wellness, tell of a local run or health fair coming up, or perhaps an evening class by the pharmacist on managing diabetes.  Share in community support—list the upcoming games of town teams the store helps sponsor. 

The best approach, we feel, is to be ready for both, and give shoppers their choice.  While e-books are soaring, plenty of readers love the feel of a book in their hands.  It’s the same with receipts.  Give people what they want.