Could receipts prove the solution to understanding consumers?

The world is going digital – at least that is what we are all being told by every newspaper. Most websites I go on have a lovely little button that says ‘keep me logged in or remember me’ making my life easy and simple.

David Parker is the founder and CEO of Polymath Consulting. Polymath Consulting has now delivered over 50 projects for clients in prepaid cards and emerging payments. The company’s current work includes projects in the Middle East, USA, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Parker has an indepth knowledge of payments and payment cards and is known for his work with prepaid cards, mobile money/mobile wallets and and Mpos. Parker has previously worked for companies such as The Gaming Bourse, The Pepper Corporation and Saatchi & Saatchi (Saudi Arabia).


The world is going digital – at least that is what we are all being told by every newspaper. Most websites that I visit have a lovely little button that says ‘keep me logged in or remember me’ making my life easy and simple.

I am about to fit a new bathroom, so I spent Christmas trawling around the web looking at bathroom and shower units. It is amazing how suddenly every advertisement being served at me is for bathroom stuff. As much as I hate it I have to admit, I also find it useful. They serve me advertisements for things I am currently interested in based on previous behaviour. What could be more logical, simpler and good marketing? I don’t mind as long as some of the ads are actually interesting and useful to me.

So why is this relevant to banks? Most of the time banks send me information based on what they think I want, through some clever profiling or that I might have ‘stated’ I am interested in at some point in the past. The latter of course does not work very well as I was not for instance interested in bathrooms until the week before Christmas when we made the decision to do the work and in two weeks I will have purchased what I need – so timing is everything.

But surely my payment institution is the company that knows best what I am buying as they see all the transactions? Well, actually not. As many of us know only too well, all a bank sees on the majority of card purchases is the Level 1 data, the total spent. So if I spend £300 at Tesco the bank doesn’t know if it was a big shopping bill or a new TV for the bedroom. This means my bank, who should know me actually often knows less than the online provider who has cookie-d me as a visitor to their website… and more importantly in the timeframe that I am in.

But all this could be about to change. As we all move to a world of ‘digital’ where retailers want our email addresses for CRM and Mobile Wallets rule, our receipts will also move more and more digital. Receipts of course don’t just offer Level 1 data but Level 3 and beyond, full details of what I bought when, where, down to the smallest detail.

Now we are seeing new companies like, Expensify and Slice launching. These companies in various ways offer you a ‘Receipts Vault’ where your receipts can be held, stored, ready to be accessed when and where you want so you can monitor purchases, track returns, manage warranties; and personally the most important thing for me just enable me to be able to find a receipt when I need it.

What a bank gets of course is data, more data than they could ever have dreamed of. They know what I am buying, where, when, how many. All the information enables the bank to send me relevant, timely offers for me today, not what I stated was of interest to me yesterday.

For me these receipts can be made to work harder .They can be tagged by project or event, making it easy for me to run reports and MI on specific activities, such as a client project or my wife’s Christmas shopping. Some of the solutions allow me to automatically re-order goods. The last time I ordered XYZ coffee, wouldn’t it be much easier to go the receipt and press re-order? That saves the trouble of checking where I got the best deal from last time and what specific product it was.

So receipts could prove the solution to truly understanding consumers for payments organisations, but banks may need to hurry. If I work with numerous banks and wallet providers would I need more than one receipt vault, I doubt it thus I foresee over the next 12 – 24 months as a "race to pass" for the receipt vault by companies looking to start storing and managing customers receipts. All very nice, but what of course they are getting the real ability to understand who I am, what I am buying real time.