Pockets stuffed with receipts, but you can never find the one you want? Young entrepreneur David Alexandre Salvail co-founded Zeipt to offer businesses and consumers a tool that could make physical paper receipts a relic of the past. The good news is that their digital equivalents save time, money and the planet.
When David Alexandre Salvail’s young fintech team went out to ask shoppers what they thought about paper receipts, the overwhelming majority (79 per cent) described them as a waste of time and resources. In fact, they routinely binned nearly three quarters of them. Which probably explains why, when it came to finding the one they really needed, they couldn’t – or, if they did, it was too faded and crumpled to be of any use.
‘We are confused as to why we are still printing paper receipts’, concluded Zeipt, the startup Salvail co-founded. Aren’t we all?
It takes more than 53 million trees to make the thermal paper receipts churned out by point of sale machines each year. What’s more, recycling rates are pitiful, according to The State of the Global Paper Industry Report, at just eight per cent of all the thermal paper produced. You could have filled up the Empire State Building 213 times with the amount of water required for its manufacture in 2018, and its production contributes the same level of carbon emissions as 3,808,000 cars.
The environmental damage caused by paper printouts, combined with their inherently poor functionality was the inspiration for Zeipt, which not only seeks to make them redundant, but to redefine the very concept of a ‘receipt’; to turn them into digital ‘channels for communication’ that provide so much more than proof of purchase. Having successfully partnered with Nordic payment giant Nets, Zeipt is just beginning to demonstrate the potential of its concept. Open banking is key to its development.
“Without open banking, I don’t believe you could digitise receipts to the scale that we aim to digitise them,” says Salvail. “We want to be an enabler. We don’t want to create another app, we don’t want to be in the face of the consumer or the retailer, but rather provide a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and tools for physical retail to be able to seamlessly send receipts and for digital financial services to be able to automatically receive them. From there, they can offer additional services to their consumers as they see fit.
“Open banking is able to integrate services in a retail environment that makes the purchase flow and consumption more seamless. Through closer collaboration between retail and digital financial services, you can start creating experiences for consumers that are quite unthinkable today, that merge finance and consumption in a seamless way. And we can talk for hours about all the other cool stuff that you can do. Our goal is to make a receipt not a manual object that’s sent in a pdf, but a dynamic object, a channel for communication.”
It’s all part of the transformation of payments. To quote KPMG: “In a new world of open banking and APIs, the greatest value exchange taking place on payment systems will be found in transactional data rather than the transactions themselves… data has the potential to transform the payments industry value chain.”
So much more potential
Zeipt’s ambition is that, for every digital payment, there will be a digital receipt transmitted to a customer’s personal financial management (PFM) app with their bank. But it’s the level of detail that attaches to it that’s important.
“Let’s say the retailer wants to add information about the blue suit you bought today, such as where it was produced and the environmental footprint of its production. When details of the purchase, including brand and store, reach your PFM tool, it might say ‘I think maybe you should start buying your suits at such and such a store, because an equivalent blue suit there could save you £20’.”
Zeipt could also help retailers target the missing millions who are not part of their loyalty schemes.
“Loyalty schemes cover around 15 to 20 per cent of a given customer base,” says Salvail. “The other 80 to 85 per cent are just customers. So, even if I went to the same shop three times, they don’t know that. Our goal is for retailers to connect spending to a customer, so that they can say ‘oh, David was back here. He buys milk and hot dogs on Wednesdays. We’ll knock 10 per cent off milk and hot dogs on Thursdays for him.”
Salvail sees other obvious applications in the retail renting and upcycling economies, giving consumers huge detail about a product’s history through the receipt.
“It merges retail and finance in a way that gives you, as a consumer, oversight of your information. And I can do stuff with that information, as well,” say Salvail.
A problem for us all
From making the sending of receipts for business expenses quick and easy, to creating a fuller overview of what a customer is spending on, and giving financial services the ability to offer advice on the products and services they are using, Zeipt gives consumers more purchase data in an actionable fashion. Banks, meanwhile, can reach the consumer through more relevant interfaces.
The Zeipt agenda is inspired by reducing waste – both in terms of financial cost in the retail value chain and in cost to the planet, the latter of which is communicated via the Zeipt Project.
“Our Zeipt.com website is for people interested in working with us; explaining how it works, how much it is going to cost, etc,” explains Salvail. “The Zeipt Project sheds light on the impact of receipts.
“If you break it down, each receipt costs a lot. In Norway alone, there are almost two billion transactions that demand a receipt.”
Zeipt has calculated that a typical hardware shop, printing 100 receipts a day, could save €500 a year in print, paper and handing costs. Scale that up to a chain printing thousands a day and the economic argument quickly stacks up alongside the environmental one. All those tiny little print-outs aggregated together could have a dramatic impact on a corporate’s ‘green bottom line’ and ethical investor sentiment.
“We’ve talked to consumers, we’ve talked to retailers, we’ve done in-depth research on the resource side, on the impact side, and also shed a positive light on the players that want to join us in solving this,” says Salvail. “They can be our competitors as well as our partners, because this problem is bigger than Zeipt.”