retail news in context, analysis with attitude

A couple of days ago, MNB took note of a story from the New York Times reporting that paper receipts seem to be slowly but surely going out of fashion, as more and more retailers “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.”

Now, Fox Business looks at the other side of the issue, reporting that there still are a lot of retailers out there that only offer physical receipts, and many “are still staunchly holding to their ‘no receipt, no return’ policies.” Fox writes:

“Robert Antall, a managing partner and retail consultant at Consumer Centric Consulting, says for some companies it comes down to cost. ‘It's expensive. You've got to create a database and you have to keep every transaction for a long time. It uses up huge amounts of disks pace,’ he says. ‘In a large chain, they'll typically keep a database of purchases in a central location.’

“Meijer, a supermarket/department store chain with200 locations, accepts items for return within 90 days when accompanied by a receipt, according to its official policy, but the company can also look up credit card purchases within seven days. The short window likely reflects a limited amount of transactions that the company needs to store.
‘It's just the way our computer systems are set up to read right now,’ says Frank Guglielmi, public relations director for Meijer. ‘We find that our customers don't have any problems with it’.”
KC's View:
I have no doubt that, for lots of reasons, many stores will only offer paper receipts. But I also think that, for lots of reasons, retailers need to start thinking about making the transition and at least offering it as an option. It’ll save on paper. It’ll make them look cool and relevant to a generation raised at the Apple Store and on Amazon.com. And, it’ll give them a database from which to work to provide targeted and relevant promotions and communications, creating a sense of community.

And, as I said the other day, even those that offer paperless receipts should not only offer paperless receipts:

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.

I also want to make one other point. In the current competitive environment, retailers that are not making every effort to identify, define and then establish open lines of communications to their customers - in as targeted a way as possible - are making a serious mistake. If retailers have learned nothing else over the past few years, it should be that every single customer is in play, and retailers from a wide variety of venues, using a wide range of technologies and resources, are gunning for them.

Lack of knowledge, and an inability to act in a targeted way on specific knowledge, should turn into an enormous competitive disadvantage.