AB 161, the proposed California bill to mandate e-receipts as a default option at retail, does not seem to be on the fast track. But the measure, introduced last January by Rep. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), has drawn praise from environmentalists because it could help reduce the non-recyclable, endocrine-affecting chemicals that are found on paper receipts.
But what would such a bill mean for businesses other than more regulatory headaches? Are there are any benefits for marketers — say, the added impetus to capture email addresses?
An answer of sorts has been provided by Mailjet. It studied 30 High Street fashion retailers in the UK and found that 15 supply physical receipts for every single purchase, in a country where 11.2 billion paper receipts are printed each year.
But the other 15 brands do offer e-receipts, writes Beatriz Redondo Tejedor, head of content at Mailjet, on business2community.
“Among the best in class, Uniqlo, Dorothy Perkins and Evans proactively promote sending customers e-receipts via signs or tablets in-store,” Tejedor reports. But “in all other cases, e-receipts were only sent after the survey testers specifically made the request,” she adds.
Despite that, some brands are making good use of e-receipts — for example, by including surveys with them.
“New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, Evans, Wallis and Urban Outfitters all offered rewards and incentives in exchange for feedback on the in-store shopping experience,” says Michyl Culos, head of marketing communications at Mailjet.
In addition, several brands link to social media.
"Under the 'multichannel marketing' category, JD Sports scored full marks for including a phone number, email and dedicated support Twitter handle, alongside social media and app links," Tejedor notes. “Debenhams and French Connection also received top marks for including store locators as well as social links.”
Don’t think this a wide-open opportunity for brands to build email lists.
“A hot topic associated with e-receipts is how to harmonize them with data privacy,” Culos continues. “This includes clearly informing clients about how their data will be used, but also ensuring they are not automatically opted into any other marketing communications or sent any unsolicited emails for which there is no specific consent or legitimate interest.”
Some brands including Evans, Wallis, Uniqlo and Dorothy Perkins offered in-store signs on their data use, and others — JD Sports, Mango and New Look — also offered information in e-receipts.
But there’s a difference between transactional and promotional emails. The study found that some brands not only failed to provide clear information about data use, but some "followed their e-receipts with unsolicited marketing emails, an activity that might put them at risk of non-compliance with GDPR," Culos notes. In some cases, customers had to ask about usage at checkout.
Of course, there is no environmental problem with commerce receipts.
Culos concludes: "Moving to paperless is a large project for retailers, and it would be a shame for them to fall short by simultaneously taking a step forward for sustainability and a step backwards for data protection."