Receipts are important. A receipt is your proof of purchase for goods or services. Receipts are important to consumers, if we, at some point need to complain about the goods or services that we’ve bought.
Receipts are also important to businesses, as they work as documentation for a given purchase. This means that receipts are an important part of the compiled documentation assets needed for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing. If a business cannot present full documentation for all purchases and expenses, it cannot comply to the bookkeeping act. And according to the Danish bookkeeping act, it is well known that receipts must be kept for 5 years from the end of a given financial year.
In Denmark we are blessed with legislation that allows accounting records and related documentation (for example receipts) to be stored digitally. This have been the case for several years and in 2015 the law was amended, so it was made possible to store digital accounting assets abroad without dispensation or notification to authorities. This has made it easier for businesses to work with cloud-based software and it has also created favorable conditions for the work with digital receipts. And let get one thing straight; there’s no doubt that 100 % digital receipts are the future.
Digitization of receipts
One way to digitize paper-based receipts is to utilize technology, both hardware and software, to handle the task. Amongst other things, this is what Acubiz’ expense management solution does when a user utilizes smartphone camera technology and the Acubiz software to capture and digitize a receipt, enrich it with data and store it in the cloud so it can enter the accounting process in the business.
Another way of thinking digital receipts is to go around the paper and print part. In other words, 100 % digital. For many transactions, receipts are already delivered without paper involved. For example, this applies to online trade, where the receipts come as HTML code or PDF-based. There are also certain POS solutions that offers the delivery of PDF receipts if the customer leaves an e-mail address in the system. It is, however, debatable whether these types of receipts can be considered as 100 % digital, as format and readability can vary quite a lot. Also, in many BtB processes, invoices are delivered through EDI format.
When it comes to purchases in physical stores, we still need to see broad digitization. There are already solutions in the market that deliver this functionality, both in domestically and abroad. For example, we have Storebox, who can deliver digital receipts from a portfolio of merchants and retailers. In addition, we see that some retailers offer the delivery of digital receipts themselves, typically if the customer sign up for their loyalty program. We also have the global tech giants, Apple and Google, who have entered this space with their payment solutions.
Infrastructure and eco-systems is the key
In my opinion, the offers within this area is still quite fragmented and big-meshed. In other words, it’s currently limited how many merchants and retailers that deliver 100 % digital receipts when a purchase is carried out. It’s conditioned by factors such as whether the specific merchant/retailer is connected to a solution, whether the given payment card works with the solution, the functionality of the POS system, whether a wallet is used for the payment or if the payment is processed through Apple Pay or another payment platform. Put in another way, I believe that it’s a question if the delivery of digital receipts is supported across the whole payment infrastructure. And when we talk card payments, the applies across all domains in the process (acquiring domain, interchange domain and issuing domain).
I haven’t got the definitive answer, but for 100 % digital receipts to deliver real value for the business life, for example by enabling a fully digital receipt flow for employee expenses, there’s little doubt that the net must be finer meshed. I must be honest and say, that if it’s primarily from Føtex, Netto, Bilka, Matas etc. that digital receipts can be fetched, then the concept will not have enough value for business users.
That’s why I believe that the key lies within the payment infrastructure as well as I believe that common standards for digital receipts must be defined. If we look towards one of our neighboring countries, Sweden, it’s apparent that a standard for digital receipts has been defined. Maybe it’s a question about increased political focus on standardization within this area that we need, before we’ll receive a positive answer from all retailers, when we ask the question; “Can I have a digital receipt, please?”