How many paper receipts do you have stuffed in your wallet? We’re discussing the benefits of digital receipts in regards to both financial visibility and the environment. This episode features Roisin Levine, Head of Banks at Flux who is working with retail partners to move receipts digitally into your banking app.
Rich Williams: We live in a generation where you can access almost anything and everything on your phone. So, why when you buy something do you get handed a small bit of paper as a receipt?
Hello, I’m Rich Williams, host of the Payments Podcast. Today, we’ll be discussing digital receipts, and their evolution, with Roisin Levine, Head of Banks at Flux. I think a good starting point would be to address some of the changes we’ve seen in recent times. How do you think consumer expectations of payment and banking technology has evolved over the last five years or so?
Roisin Levine: So, I think one of the most obvious changes has been the adoption rate of mobile banking. So, six, seven years ago, only 20% of people, maybe less, actually banked using their mobile phone. Right now, that number is more towards 50%. The forecast is that two to three years from now, 70% of people, so, the vast majority, will actually bank via their mobile app.
So, big changes there. What it means is, people have the expectation that within their mobile phone, they have a really nice neat view of all their financial data, so, their transactions, and they also can actually do the things that they would usually have done on their desktop, or potentially if they walk into a branch. So, that means moving money, and doing everything else that they would expect.
Flux really plays into that. So, that world that we understand is that mobile is kind of the way forward, and that’s why we decided that we would have digital receipts that live within the mobile banking app, so, it slots right next to the transaction view, it’s an added layer of kind of enrichment of the data you already see, and it doesn’t change the experience at all when you’re paying at the till at your favourite merchant. It’s simply an addition to what you already see in your banking app.
Rich Williams: Great. So, looking more specifically at paperless receipts, how have these not only impacted consumers and businesses, but also the environment?
Roisin Levine: Right now, it’s kind of a shocking statistic. There’s about 11.2b receipts that are produced in the UK annually. So, to give you a kind of idea of how much waste that is, about 90% of them go completely unused. So, that means they go probably in the bin next to the till, most likely, lost in a coat pocket or potentially in the back of a bag, or whatever it might be. It means that those are kind of discarded straightaway after the transaction has happened.
Something that I didn’t realise, and a lot of people don’t know, and I didn’t know it before I kind of researched on Flux is that 50% of receipts are actually thermal coated paper. So, that means they have a substance called BPA on them, and that means they can’t actually be recycled. So, when you see recycled bins full of receipts, actually half of them likely can’t break down and be recycled, therefore you’ve got all this waste that is happening.
What we’re saying is, well, why bother with the waste? Let’s actually kind of jump in and create a digital experience, where you’re tapping your card, you get that kind of mobile banking app that’s already telling you a transaction has happened, well why not have that receipt then delivered straight into that bank account. It makes perfect sense to everyone.
Rich Williams: So, the environmental impact is clearly undeniable. What other advantages does receiving receipts digitally give to a user?
Roisin Levine: So, the environmental impact is definitely one thing, and we see a load of customer advocacy for that fact. I think people buy into a campaign we have running at the moment, which is ‘Beat the receipt’. We’ve had loads of signatures for it, we’ve had lots of retail partners say, “We want to get involved.” Partly they see this as sometimes part of a wider initiative they might have to be more environmentally friendly as an organisation.
So, to give a few examples, you see refillable cups now being incentivised by coffee shops, you see the banning of plastic straws, and then receipts is kind of another element of that. So, both customers and merchants really like that, and they like the fact they can have an impact, but I think beyond that, it’s actually the fact that you’ve got this speed and convenience of suddenly having everything in one place, you know?
We’re used to being able to login, see our whole world of financial data, through our banking app, and actually having your receipt there, next to that transaction level view means that one, it doesn’t get lost, two, you can pull it up at any point. So, if you have a really generous refund policy, like some of our partners do, Schuh, for example, has a 12-month refund policy. It means months after that has happened, you’re not kind of digging around trying to find the receipt, you’ve got it right where you’ve kind of left it.
So, those are really kind of convenient and great things. There’s lots of other benefits that I think our bank partners and our merchant partners see which is the liberation of this data, previously unknown to them, which was actually, what the online world has had for many years where they know exactly what someone buys, and they know when they come back and buy something else, or what sort of things they buy with one thing.
Actually, if you’re an offline merchant, all you really see is sales. So, what we’re starting to do is link up what someone actually is doing, their purchase behaviour, with them as an individual. So, we can see how often they come back to that coffee shop, what’s their favourite item there? It’s not just a kind of, you spent £7 in X shop, it’s actually, you like soy flat white, and you like a blueberry muffin.
It’s beginning to say, okay, well what kind of personalised offers can we provide you with, if we know that information about you? So, giving them rewards and loyalty, I guess things that can help them make better decisions and purchases, that’s what we’re all about.
Rich Williams: Shifting focus slightly for a moment. How do you see this type of technology working for business to business payments?
Roisin Levine: So, at Flux we believe we can be a huge advantage to business owners. A lot of business owners at the moment keep track of the transactions that they make through their small business, by having a shoebox full of receipts, or a drawer full of them. Actually, if we have those sitting in a digital format in their bank account, that makes that whole process much easier.
There’s also lots of other clever things that we’re looking to potentially do which is, we have VAT receipts and we have VAT amounts. It means that we can potentially look at calculations and VAT reconciliation. There’s also a huge amount that we can help with in the expensing space.
So, rather than having to pay on card, take a paper receipt, take a photo of that, or use sort of OCR technology, well if that receipt straightaway lives in your bank account, and then goes shooting off to your expensing software, or accounting software, that whole process is made a hell of a lot smoother. That’s where we really see value being added.
Rich Williams: You mentioned banks earlier on? It would be interesting to find out whether banks are actually willing to get on board with this, and what benefits they may see in doing so?
Roisin Levine: So, banks are willing to get on board, which is a good thing, because that’s actually where we find our customers. So, because we live in the banking apps, we’re really accessing their customer base. So, those that use mobile banking. Banks are hugely excited by Flux, we’ve had a really, really good response so far, which is why we’re live with quite a few banks already. There’s lots of others that want to work with us.
The reason banks like it is, well one, they totally understand that this is where the future lies. So, digital receipts makes perfect sense in a world where everything else in that payment chain has happened digitally, and they’re putting all their efforts and resource into digitising their business.
At the same time, they also know that understanding more about their customers, driving better offers, better relevancy to those offers, and also providing their customers with an extra level of experience and view on their bank, can actually help them create engagement levels. It means that actually when people come to their bank account, they’re suddenly recognising transactions they might not have recognised previously.
So, I think we’ve probably all been there where you see something on your bank account, or bank statement, and you think, I don’t remember paying for that. Banks have that all the time. They have lots of phone calls, calling up and saying, “I don’t recognise this merchant, are you sure this was my payment?” or whatever else. It costs the bank a huge amount of money actually to do that.
So, what we can say is, “Well if you click into that transaction now, you can see exactly what you bought.” So, it might be that it was six sambucas at 4:00am, well suddenly that might jog a memory, okay? Actually, you don’t then need to call up your bank, you don’t have the bank kind of going, “Well we’re not really sure what that transaction is either.” Everyone understands, because you’ve got the item level data there, which you’ve never probably had before.
Rich Williams: Where do you see the future going, in terms of paperless receipts, and liberation of this data, as you called it?
Roisin Levine: So, Flux’s plans is to scale, and by scale, I mean, we want this to become the norm. We want you to be receiving a digital receipt more often than you’re receiving a paper receipt. So, for that to happen, this has to, I guess, play out through all merchants and all banks, ultimately. So, that means winning far more partners on the bank side, and far more retailers, and that’s across all different verticals.
So, we want to work with online merchants, like we’ve just announced Just Eat. We want to work with fashion retailers, we want to work with food and drink, but we want to make it so… a bit like contactless, kind of, the adoption rates shot through the roof, slowly but surely, everyone recognises that having a contactless card, becomes the norm. Actually, it’s kind of confusing now, when you’re actually asked to put your pin in for something that’s under £30. The same way we see Flux being adopted.
Actually, everyone begins to realise that a digital receipt can live in your bank app. Then we have people saying to their retailers, or their favourite merchants out there, why don’t you have this? Then actually it becomes something that is widespread completely.
Rich Williams: Fantastic to speak with you today, and thanks again for joining us Roisin.
Roisin Levine: Thanks very much.
Rich Williams: This is a very hot topic right now. With not only the perception of digital and mobile, but also the environmental factors, which are becoming more and more important for brands to take a stand and opinion against. To find more information about Flux, and their paperless receipts, head over to their website, tryflux.com, and we’ll include a link in the description for this podcast.
That’s unfortunately all we have time for today, but in the meantime, you can listen to more episodes and all things payments, at the touch of a button, using your preferred provider. See you all next time.
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