business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that “to the rubbish pile that the Internet is creating, alongside the road maps, newspapers and music CDs, add one more artifact of consumer life, the paper receipt.

“Major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom, Gap Inc. (which owns Old Navy and Banana Republic), Anthropologie, Patagonia, Sears and Kmart, have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites. And more and more customers, the retailers report, are opting for paperless.”

According to the story, “Many people like keeping searchable records on a computer — e-receipts come in handy during tax season, make some returns a snap and are a tidy addition to the e-purchases already stored on countless hard drives. Others see the paper versions as an anachronism, wasteful of resources and as irrelevant as printed bank statements and mutual fund reports.

“And face it, paper receipts can be annoyances, burrowing into the bottoms of purses, getting lost in glove compartments or fattening up wallets — only to be pulled out and puzzled over long after their usefulness has expired.”
KC's View:
I love this line from the Times story:

“Beyond the cost savings and environmental benefit (an estimated 9.6 million trees are cut each year for receipts in the United States, according to allEtronic, a digital receipt company), the e-receipts present marketing opportunities for retailers. Gap, Nordstrom and many other stores, for example, add the customer’s e-mail address to a mailing list for follow-up offers.”

If people want paper receipts, they can have them. If people don’t want targeted emailings, they should be able to avoid them with little fuss. And marketers ought to be judicious about how they use this opportunity - the emailings should be occasional, relevant and meaningful.

But this is a great option to have. I’d take it in a second from any retailer that offered it.