Digital receipts are becoming ever more prevalent throughout the UK, as increasing numbers of stores ditch paper receipts in favour of a more environmentally friendly alternative.
The eco credentials of digital receipts aren’t the only reason that stores are shunning paper receipts, however. Digital receipts also provide invaluable opportunities for data collection, enabling companies to improve the customer experience through careful analysis of customer data.
The benefits of digital receipts are clear, but many retailers have been slow to switch to the new technology required to deliver digital receipts across their stores. As a result, we’ve seen the launch of campaigns like Beat the Receipt, which intends to draw attention to the devastating environmental impact of paper receipts.
Beat the Receipt urges stores to scrap paper receipts and reduce waste, and many high street stores have already signed up to the paperless pledge. The campaign has now begun to make a real difference, with some countries even starting to legislate against paper receipts.
We decided to find out more about how UK retailers are using digital receipts, and how consumers are responding to the technology.
We undertook research into a number of different industries, exploring how a range of sectors use digital receipts to serve their customers. The study examined 25 major retailers in sectors such as fashion, food/supermarkets and electronic/department stores. Read on to find out more about what the study unveiled.
Digital receipts in the UK
Our research found marked differences in the takeup of digital receipts across different industries. While some industries, such as fashion, are ahead of the curve in ditching paper receipts, others, such as food and beverage companies, have been much slower to adopt the new technology.
The survey found that 76% of the stores analysed offer paper receipts. A high percentage (84%) offer digital receipts, while 60% give customers the option of both paper and digital receipts.
The research found that 4 in 25 stores (16%) now provide customers with paper receipts only. Interestingly, a greater percentage (24%) of stores have started to rely exclusively on digital receipts.
Fashion retail outlets are far more likely to provide customers with digital receipts. Of the stores analysed, just one (Primark) does not yet offer customers the option of digital receipts. The majority of fashion retail stores surveyed also still allowed customers to request paper receipts, however. The research shows that 9 of the 13 fashion companies surveyed have this option in store.
Supermarkets are less likely to offer digital receipts, but a handful of companies have already begun to offer customers the option of digital receipts at the checkout.
Of the companies surveyed, six out of seven provide the option of paper receipts for both online and in-store purchases. Over half of the supermarkets analysed offer the option of digital receipts, but stores such as Tesco, Aldi and Asda are yet to introduce this option for customers shopping in their stores.
When Will Paper Receipts No Longer Be Available?
The introduction of digital receipts has provided a real alternative to paper receipts, allowing many companies to give serious thought to the question of ditching paper versions altogether. But despite the clear benefits of digital receipts, many brands are reluctant to stop offering paper receipts to their customers. There are a number of reasons for this.
Many customers, particularly those in certain demographics, are used to receiving a paper receipt and enjoy the peace of mind a printed receipt provides. Some might be unwilling or unable to access digital receipts, so a complete switch could see them abandon a store in favour of one that still provides the type of receipt they might be looking for.
Some customers find paper receipts helpful in terms of budgeting, and with the cost of living crisis hitting household budgets the importance of careful spending cannot be understated. While digital receipts are also beneficial for those looking to keep an eye on their spending, many rely on paper receipts to do so and would be hesitant to change tried and tested methods.
Paper receipts are also used by many businesses for the tracking and management of expenses. In-house processes often require a printed copy of a receipt, or an original paper receipt, to ensure spending has been allocated correctly. While it’s possible to switch to digital receipts for such purposes, the widespread use of paper receipts for expenses could well mean a continuation in the printing of paper receipts in stores for some time to come.
The Environmental Impact of Paper Receipts
Paper receipts are enormously harmful for the environment, and that’s why many countries are focusing their attention on speeding up the switch to more eco-friendly options.
The carbon footprint of a paper receipt is considerable, with each receipt emitting an estimated 2.5g of carbon during its lifetime. This includes all stages of a paper receipt’s production, together with any time spent in transit from a production facility to a warehouse and then eventually the store where it’ll be used.
Receipt paper can’t be recycled, either. Over half of paper receipts being printed today contain a chemical called Bisphenol-A, or BPA. Many are also coated with Bisphenol-S (BPS), another chemical which is used to enhance the appearance of the text and make it easier to read.
The presence of chemicals in printed receipts means that the receipts cannot be recycled. If they were to be recycled with other products, they could cause widespread contamination of recycled items, resulting in untold damage to the environment as harmful chemicals began to circulate unchecked.
The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis
In some countries, bans are being introduced to speed up the switch to digital receipts. But external factors such as the cost of living crisis have delayed such transformative measures in countries throughout Europe and beyond.
France, for example, had planned to introduce a general ban on the automatic printing of paper receipts at the start of this year. But this has since been pushed back to the beginning of April 2023, with the country’s Commerce Minister, Olivia Grégoire, stating that the postponement of the ban was down to the ongoing cost of living crisis and the impact of rising inflation.
Grégoire said that “reactions from retailers and consumer organisations have shown that the receipt remains an important way for many French people to control their spending and check on prices, especially at the moment.”
Digital receipts are on the rise, and as they become commonplace we can expect to see a decline in the use of damaging paper receipts. While there are certainly obstacles to the advent of digital receipts, particularly for certain industries, it’s likely that concerns over the environmental impact of paper receipts, combined with the data collection opportunities of digital options, will begin to persuade consumers and businesses to make the switch.
If you’d like to find out more about digital receipts and how they work, get in touch with the team at eyos retail.