Think Paper Receipts Are Dying? Not So Fast...


In the last few years, the digital receipt – or ‘e-receipt’ – has become an increasingly popular way to offer customers a choice at the register. For shoppers who appreciate the ‘green’ option, it gives the sense of helping the environment. It’s also a way to gain valuable customer insights once they hand over their email address. But are they more effective as a marketing vehicle than the traditional paper receipt?

There are some retailers who take advantage of this piece of marketing real estate; CVS being an early adopter of printing offers on their receipts tied to customer loyalty accounts and purchase history. But for the majority of retailers, this inexpensive marketing opportunity is completely overlooked. Not only are paper receipts a great way of offering retailer rewards and incentives, but they are effective in driving awareness and supporting other campaigns.

Allowing brand partners to advertise on receipts can also become it’s own revenue stream. Brands like P&G, DISH, even other retailers like Burger King have discovered the value of using complementary retailer receipts as a way to reach a new audience, increase product sales or to drive traffic to their restaurants, stores or websites, leveraging a touchpoint almost every shopper looks at.

What the majority of retailers may not know, is that integrating their point-of-sale system with an advertising delivery platform can be relatively simple and inexpensive, with no extra hardware to buy or expensive software updates needed. Since your customers are already checking their receipts to verify charges or to check rewards points, why not serve up an ad or two to get them back to the store sooner, or to spend more on their next shopping trip? Targeted ads on their receipts can also enhance their shopping experience and increase loyalty to your store by offering valuable information and offers from other complementary brands or local businesses.

But what about the effectiveness of this stealth marketing channel? One company that offers retailers a cost-effective solution to print eye-catching graphic ads on receipts, inStream, recently conducted a customer survey of their value channel shoppers to determine the level of engagement and effectiveness of their SmartConnect Receipt offers printed on national value channel retailers’ receipts, with surprisingly positive results.

Of the 400+ Dollar General and Family Dollar customers interviewed, on average:

  • 71% of people say ads on their receipts are a good way to learn of new sales.
  • 65% said they are more likely to buy the product advertised at the store they received the coupon vs. elsewhere.
  • 56% say they tend to buy a larger quantity of the item advertised than they normally would have.
  • An overwhelming 4 out of 5 people said offers on receipts are convenient for them.
  • 70% said offers on their receipts were the most convenient for them, beating out other traditional marketing tactics like direct mail, Sunday circular coupons and online coupons.

So, shoppers like their on-receipt offers, but what about the brands that advertise on them? Over the years, inStream has worked with dozens of national brands that have run various SmartConnect Receipt programs for years. One such pet food company had great success delivering a highly targeted tiered offer based on whether or not the shopper was a loyal user, or a competitive buyer, and if they were loyal, how many cans of cat food they purchased. The competitive buyers received a high-value offer to incent trial, and the loyal users were rewarded on a graduated scale from saving $0.75 to $1.50, depending on how many cans of cat food they bought. The rate of redemption went up with every tier, up to a whopping 22% on the highest value offer of saving $1.50 if they bought 20 cans or more on their next shopping trip.

inStream retailers have also enjoyed a high level of success by delivering their own internal bounceback offers to bring shoppers back more often, and to get them to increase their average spend. Dollar General, inStream’s longest running retail partner, has consistently run weekly bounceback offers on their receipts, along with third party ads since 2010, that have translated into millions of dollars in annual revenue, effectively paying for the program and then some. With inStream’s generous revenue share on third party advertising, SmartConnect Receipts has become an additional profit stream that Dollar General factors into their yearly budgets as a reliable source of revenue.

This is what Dave Stewart, VP of Marketing at Dollar General has to say about their SmartConnect Receipt program,the Dollar General-inStream relationship is a powerful partnership which helps us provide our customers with the shopping experience and value they seek. inStream provides the technical expertise and promotion programs to help us increase store visits and sales through customized promotions, discounts and offers that keep our customers engaged.”

Customers enjoy the convenience and the savings of their on-receipt offers. Brands enjoy incremental sales and loyalty with ads on receipts, and retailers enhance their shoppers’ buying experience while being able to count on the revenue stream of delivering not only their own bounceback offers, but third party ads as well. You already produce a receipt for every transaction. Turn every receipt into a mini billboard to speak directly to your customers and watch your marketing ROI and customer satisfaction soar.

Dekkers Davidson is Chairmain & CEO of inStream, based in Wellesley MA. To find out more about inStream, visit