Paper Receipts vs. Electronic Receipts - Episode 2

14 April 2011 05:38 PM CDT

As promised, here I am with more to say about receipts. I can almost hear the fans screaming in the stands ...

As stated yesterday what I want to see is a simple, elegant, digital solution that will finally eliminate paper receipts and usher in a new era of e-receipts. I envision a world where all you have to do is log in to an e-receipt service provider's website to access an entire digital record of all your consumption. That day has not arrived yet. Right now you may be saying to yourself, who cares? Well, here's why I care.

If there were a central location to monitor, track, and aggregate all of my consumption behavior you would have a pile of data worth a lot of money. With that data you can do really incredible things. The tip of the iceberg includes stuff like plotting a map of my expenditures, aggregating purchases made at a specific location (not just at a particular retailer), identify what items I purchase most regularly (not just where I shop most regularly). All of this information can come in handy with regards towards maintaining warranties, identifying trends in consumption behavior, etc. I buy a lot of groceries at Kroger and every time I checkout I swipe my loyalty card. Kroger knows an awful lot about what I buy and how often I buy it. They then can take that data and target me for specific coupons and/or promotions on products I buy. Why can't we figure out a way to do this for EVERYTHING we buy? I want that data! With data like this you could start offering promotions/coupons/deals to people backed by actual, relevant information and behavior.

So far, there is no single entity offering a service like this. There are, however, several trying. Intuit, maker of Quicken, TurboTax, and acquirer of, had a program called QuickReceipts. The only retailers they had in their system were Best Buy and The Container Store. And, Intuit just announced they'll be pulling the plug on the program this upcoming April 30. I guess retailers may be hesitant to offer their consumer purchasing data to a third party service provider. That's a shame. If a big player like Intuit couldn't make it happen it must mean it's challenging. Or, maybe they were doing it wrong.

There are also several apps in the Apple App Store that offer consumers the ability to easily and quickly digitize receipts. Most of them are comprised of a system where you use the phone's camera to take a picture of the receipt and then manually input the relevant information. Most of these apps are intended to help manage business expenses, particularly for tax purposes. There's also a company called shoeboxed that offers digitization of receipts. You mail them your receipts (or email copies) and they manually input the relevant data into a database for you. Again, most of the focus is on business expenses and taxes. Also, shoeboxed charges a monthly fee.

Finally, there are at least five companies (that I know of) endeavoring to offer an online digital receipt solution. All five aim to work with retailers so as to offer a single location for all of your receipts. I haven't been able to decipher who among this pack is in the lead - they all seem to be at similar stages of development. You can check them all out below:



Seamless Receipts


Global Lane

So, that's what I have to say about receipts today. Tomorrow (or in my next post, whenever it comes to me) I'll discuss a hardware manufacturer who offers a receipt scanning solution for personal use. Oh it's gonna be so much fun!!! :)