March 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

State of the economy could push up the time frame on digital receipts

Digital receipts are easier for merchants to retrieve and could eventually serve as an e-mail marketing link between retailer and customer.

Digital receipts from merchants are only in their infancy but they offer broad opportunities for merchants, especially if the economy continues to deteriorate, says George Wallner, chairman of Hypercom Corp., one of the leading manufacturers of card-reading terminals. Digital receipts store not only an image of the paper receipt, but also all the information on the receipt in a retrievable format. The receipts are stored on a server either maintained by the merchants or outsourced and accessed via the web or a private network. Copies of receipts in disputed transactions can be retrieved electronically very quickly, Wallner says.

“In times of economic weakness, retrieval requests go up, by people wanting not to pay or at least wanting to delay payment,” Wallner says. “Merchants with small margins will not want to suffer these additional chartgebacks.” Outsourcing maintenance of digital receipts can cost as little as $10 a month. Under many of the e-receipt programs now being contemplated, merchants will be able to e-mail receipts to their customers. Hypercom is offering digital receipts through its ePic Internet-enabled POS terminals. Eventually, a merchant will be able to use customers’ e-mails for marketing campaigns, although some observers believe that is still far in the future.

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