Digital receipt: How the idea of the receipt apps failed

Sallie Anderson
Alternatives to the printed receipt: There are many solutions for digital Receipts. (Photo: Sunshine Studio / Shutterstock)

The discussion about the digital receipt is still not over. A multitude of technical and UX obstacles have stood in the way of the vision so far.

It was almost exactly a year ago when we – before a pandemic started all other economic and social issues displaced – disputed the then newly introduced receipt obligation. They found many dealers to be exaggerated and poured buckets of receipts in front of their shop counters to show what unnecessary, ecologically unjustifiable madness all this was. Politicians and tax authorities found it quite sensible if many small amounts, which according to calculations add up to billions in Germany alone, no longer bypass the tax authorities.

A compromise that seemed acceptable to everyone could be the digital receipt. In February of last year, we reported on a large number of startups and initiatives that help customers get digital receipts, use this opportunity to provide retailers with customer data and, ideally, also include customer loyalty issues. Most of the time, they had a household finance planning tool with them that the customer should be able to use to record all other documents.

Receipt apps: No standard in sight

But no matter whether Epap, Green Bill, Anybill or Wunderbon – none of the startups we are about wrote in a year, really made the breakthrough in retail. Of course, the tailwind from the discussion about the requirement of receipts has done the company well and has led to more downloads. How many users have the most successful of these apps, however, cannot be clearly stated – because usage can be defined very differently and hardly proven. In one case, downloading and installing is enough, with other providers it’s about usage in the last 30 days. All in all, industry experts go from perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 users from the respective apps – no more.

But they The initial spark required for this in the form of an app, which a large number of dealers agreed on, has so far not been achieved. The reason for this is – this was also foreseeable for us a year ago – the high entry barrier in the form of content that requires explanation. Very few customers will install such an additional app for their receipts, very few cashiers can even explain to the customer why they should do this (they often fail to accept more complex cashless payment methods).

Next chance: Merchant apps as an ecosystem

But some retailers from Rewe to Edeka to Lidl have their own apps at the start. Customer apps with a comprehensive ecosystem, mind you, which offer everything in one, from online trading and displaying special offers to personalized coupons and vouchers – and precisely the digital receipt, which tells the retailer a lot about his customers on a customer account basis. The fact that this is so probably also has to do with the data sovereignty that the chains would like to have over the buying behavior and the preferences and interests of their customers.

And then there is another function that such an app can implement: Payment. Because if the months of the pandemic in Germany brought about a change in local retail, it is that more and more people are paying more and more cashless, mostly contactless – and voluntarily, without corresponding incentives or discounts. This is where those who want to switch to digital receipts should start.

TSE: 3 big letters, a new challenge

But that was not the end of the obligation to receive a receipt either: Because the “Cash Register Ordinance” in retail is a second stage that all cash registers must be equipped with a special security chip, the so-called technical security device (TSE). This means that the cash register is not manipulated – and that every receipt contains a cryptographically secured code. The implementation of this regulation should actually be completed by September 2020 – at least that was the plan at the beginning of last year. Thanks to Corona, retailers now have until the end of March 2021 to implement the obligation. Failure to comply, however, can result in fines of up to 25,000 euros.

One hears from trade experts that not only Due to the special situation, there is still no question of a nationwide implementation – and that affects by far not only small retailers, but also large chain stores. So if large retail chains are still implementing these processes anyway, they should think about a larger surcharge – a solution that relies on a digital solution with fallback instead of annoying receipts.

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