The receipt revolution!

I am mad about receipts. As I have written before:

– The receipt is the perfect example of a broken experience, as defined by Seth Godin.

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Look at any typical receipt and you would have a hard time understanding most of it. Batch numbers, RRN, Terminal Id, Merchant #, and other random pieces of numbers and letters. In most cases the product name is not even recognizable and the merchant name is broadly defined. If you try to remember where you bought a product, how much it was etc, chances are al receipt will not help you because it is not designed for the customer.

But improving the receipt is not just about making it more clear, sending it by email, putting it on the web… Making receipts an experience may become a key aspect of mobile payments. The question is : what needs to happen when payments disappear?

One of the goals of Square (and Card Case is a first step in this direction) is to change the payment experience:

“This is truly the most seamless way to pay,” said Megan Quinn, director of products for Square. “It becomes more about the interaction between customer and merchant and that relationship rather than the actual act of the payments. We want to make payments fade away. People don’t appreciate that; they enjoy making a purchase and feeling like a regular at places they shop.”

Square’s “magic” has nothing to do with its dongle but is with its capacity to be the first coherent and complete link between the merchant and the customer. Controlling the all experience is key to extract the most benefit from the payment graph : always accurate product catalog, real identity, metadata on payment (localization, time, previous payments and patterns), all these elements create a rich data set for each payment, that can benefit both the merchant and the customer. In the middle of this, as a memento of each purchase made, is the receipt. But a purchase is not/ should not be a static event. If your best customers are regular customers, you need to maintain a constant relationship with them and they may be interested as well in engaging more with your business. Receipts could become implicit social graphs.

The first and most obvious use of social in receipt is for guarantees, support and repairs. No more digging around for a piece of paper when your computers fail, no more search for cryptic reference numbers (most people have a printer at home, not a HP Laserjet P2015-G). This becomes even more important for companies that aim at sustainable product management such as Patagonia: Patagonia Asks Its Customers To Buy Less.

“We realized that what was really needed was a mutual responsibility between company and customer for the full lifecycle of stuff,” Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s environment VP. “So we would try to reduce the amount of stuff that people buy, fixing products if they were broken, and asking people to clean out their garages and closets, so that if you have clothes you are no longer using, you put them back into circulation.”

Receipts are also the best resource to create community of users around products. These communities already exist, in a relatively unstructured way, in forums, blog posts … a central point of reference per product would help structure this content, link it together or link to a platform maintained by the producer. Receipts could also be used in collaborative consumption to track the use of a product when it is reshared, recycled with others.

In VRM, intelligent receipts could play an important role, as it empowers customers with data that represent their relationship with a merchant. This information could be leverage by them to reverse their relationship with merchants.

Using this data is not new … some digital companies have been doing it for some time. Tripit is a good example. It mines data contained in flight / hotel receipts to create a travel plan or even share this information with others. In theory, it could also mine price data to determine if you are overpaying for your trip.

Interest in receipts is growing and several companies are trying to position themselves in this market. Onereceipt, Lemon, Slice are all trying to aggregate users receipts and transform them in usable data. Most focus on expenses management for users, but I am not sure this is the best angle to adress this market.

Hopefully these will be soon definitely something of the past.

Snap & Deliver vs. Pick & Go: the future of mobile payment?

The last few weeks have been really interesting if you are following the ongoing battlefield of mobile payment. Paypal, Square notably have made big announcements on their vision the future of payment. Behind all these players, there is an elephant in the room that doesn’t say much: Amazon.

Online retail as been making constant progress and seems to have a lot of room to progress even further more.



Mobile Commerce is “lifting off” (to take Mery Meeker’s wording)


More importantly, search while shopping in retail stores is becoming a tool for price transparency and retail competition. The saying that Amazon has the best showroom of all retailers is becoming a reality. Search and its proxy for products (barcode scanning and Prime) is becoming the new mobile checkout. No stop at the counter, no cashier, no paper receipt:


Note: the same survey also indicated that 50% of USA smartphone users have used their smartphones to find a nearby store. So while mobile Internet is helping drive foot traffic to local stores, it is also helping make pricing info more transparent for the consumers


=> Snap & Deliver


On the other hand, the recent update to Square Card Case as well as Paypal’s proposal for its future of payment show what I think is viable alternative for retailers.

With Card Case, Square offers one of the only (the only?) fully integrated experience from the retailer to the customer. They control the “wallet” experience, the POS experience as well as the entire data chain in the middle: payment information / product information and all relevant metadata around it. It is therefore significant that their first upgrade took the core decision of making the payment disappear.

“This is truly the most seamless way to pay,” said Megan Quinn, director of products for Square. “It becomes more about the interaction between customer and merchant and that relationship rather than the actual act of the payments.  We want to make payments fade away. People don’t appreciate that; they enjoy making a purchase and feeling like a regular at places they shop.”

From GigaOM : With Card Case, Square launches hands free payments on iPhone

Paypal offers a similar vision, even if it seems less realistic in its Future of Payment vision (see at 1:45)

Rumours have also been surfacing that Apple could propose a similar checkout system soon. BGR has a detailed “exclusive” on the future solution: New Apple Store app launches Thursday; here’s how it will change Apple’s retail operations

“Here is how this will work: after you find the item you want to buy, like an accessory, you launch the Apple Store app on your iOS device and there will be an option to buy a product in the store. You scan the product with the camera on your device in the app, click purchase, and it will charge whatever credit card is associated to your Apple ID. You then just walk out of the store.”

=> Pick and Go

 Apple has slowly transformed its in-store experience toward less square footage for retail and more for support / classes / events. With Apple Genius running around with Ipod equipped for Credit Card acceptance, they seem to be able to combine delivering the Apple experience while maintaining a strong retail activity. The other possibility to buy online and pickup in-store should help drive foot traffic.

For businesses that are facing increasing competition from online retailers via the mobile web, this seems like a possible solution for their future in-store experience and mobile payment solutions.