- Sun Aug 21, 2005 8:34 am
How do you take a 'receipt tracking card' mainstream?
Obstacles to the receipt tracker:
1. Compatibility of receipt formats or pay systems.
2. Convincing customers to voluntarily allow for highly detailed info to be collected (and possibly analyzed) on their purchases.
3. Convincing customers they should carry yet another card in their wallet or purse.
The receipt card idea will have to jump from obscurity to mainstream usage with a helping hand from the major credit cards and/or banks. Banks or credit cards will have to offer receipt tracking as a card holder service. And once the first institution offers the service, competition will take care of the rest.
The banks and credit card companies own the retail transaction systems are already in place and most info that appears on a receipt is already being collected. Customers already have the credit or bank cards in their wallets. Bank and credit card companies already know everything about you, so they are trusted (earned or otherwise!). In other words, its nothing new for consumers, banks or credit card companies -- it would just be presented to consumers in an easy to use and reliable format. Consumer just need to know that they can access receipts at tax time, to return a product, to prove a purchase or even to present as legal evidence.
The credit cards and banks just have to provide that info to customers free and on demand -- electronic receipts would just evolve into another expected service by card holders that can be viewed from a PC, laptop, PDA, iPod or cell phone.
The biggest problem would be all of the redundant paper receipts printed out by cash registers, credit card transaction gear and ATMs. But, don't fret -- the shattered dream of the 'paperless office' doesn't mean computers didn't revolutionize the way we work. And, as comfort with electronic receipts grows, paper receipts would slowly fade out. You'll notice the same effect if you work in an office with mixed generations -- baby boomers usually have to print everything off in order to work on it or discuss it, but most people under 30 only print stuff when their boomer boss says the have to!
The development of a receipt tracking function for your bank card or credit card leads to other obvious developments:
1. A unified cell phone and credit card device.
Assuming that cell phones, PDAs, iPods, cameras, gps devices, and personal organizers (ie. all hand held devices) are on a progression towards a single unified device, then this unified device could include a credit card/bank card/receipt tracker function. To make a purchase you would just swipe your device or press a button to 'call in' a transaction or payment. The call could be made from just across the counter at the local pharmacy or from your sofa to the pay for the pizza you just ordered over the phone.
Heck, you could even slap a Visa logo on phones! Banks or credit card companies would likely establish a preferred relationship with cell phone manufacturers and carriers, much the same way banks and credit card companies got together a couple of decades ago. While these relationships harm customers in the long run by stifling competition, restricting choice and keeping costs high, a relationship between Mastercard and Ericsson may provide that extra measure of confidence/comfort that consumers need in order to be able to embrace a unified cell phone and credit card.
2. Another nail in the coffin of hard currency.
The anonymity, convenience and reliability of cold hard cash still can't be beat. However, as the benefits of electronic payment increase, cash will eventually fall out of use. Receipt tracking is just one more nail in the coffin of cash.
You can't track receipts when you pay in cash and while thats sometimes desirable, it will also be a bigger drawback to cash when electronic payments provide an automatic electronic receipt for every transaction with no hassle.
As an example, Paypal is already taking us down this road. It is making smaller and smaller electronic transactions cost effective. This is one area where cash is still king, (ever stood behind someone paying for a happy meal with their credit card?) but paypal is showing that it may not always be the case.
Also, low cost electronic payments permit a new concept -- micro-payments. The concept of electronic payments for only a few cents are not new, but a viable method of executing those transactions on a grand scale is not on the immediate horizon.
3. Anonymous electronic payments?
Is there a reliable way to allow for anonymous electronic payments? Why do banks or credit card companies have to share your identity with a retailer? If the card issuer guarantees payment and confirms your identity and your ability to pay to its own satisfaction, why does a retailer care who you are, or have a right to know who you are? They get paid, period. But of course, they are cut out of the loop of collecting and analyzing your buying habits. For one, credit card companies and banks have amazing leverage with most retailers and could just take over ownership of customer information. Alternatively (and more realistically) it would depend on developing a reliable way to share that customer data in a way that protects the rights and privacy or customers.
If the concept of anonymous electronic payments develops, it is likely to be in tandem with the development of reliable low cost identity verification technology, so that the signature check is done away with.
4. International issues -- the rate of adoption of various markets, the potential development of a global e-currency (good luck!). The generic reponse to this is -- first things first. Lets land on the beach head before we start arguing about how we are going to win the war.