I’m in the idea stage of making an app that allows users to receive digital receipts rather than having the point-of-sale system print out a paper one.
When users save paper (and oil and water - used to make paper receipts) each time they receive the digital receipt, they are awarded points which can be accumulated to cashed out for rewards. Digital receipts can be forwarded via email or saved in pdf format to be printed later if needed. This also prevents users from being in contact with the harmful BPA from thermal receipts.
There are similar digital receipt solutions in the market at other ends of the world, however, not in my country.
I would like to start off from grocery stores first because they are the ones that generate the most receipts. Problem is, I have no technical knowledge in creating this app and providing the solution for the POS system to connect with the app.
The business will be monetised in 2 ways
I am an undergraduate in Marketing and I would like to know what kind of skills my co-founders should have like technical and programming knowledge.
I would appreciate other feedback as well. Thank you so much!
I'd like to offer a different suggestion -- to pivot on your business model: First the bad news - there's a ton of digital receipting companies already out there. The good news is there's a ton of digital receipting companies already out there.
As I understand it, the real problem that you are trying to solve is localized to your country/region. So rather than focusing on learning to code or finding tech folks to program another solution or app entirely from scratch, research and select the best value existing digital receipting solution out there that is -compatible- with the POS hardware for the stores in your region. Even if NO digital receipting services ANYWHERE service your country, you could find the best one / most compatible in the "closest country" to yours and structure a deal to help them expand to your area and market it. Maybe find a really solid but small-to-medium sized / "hungrier" digital receipting company and negotiate a volume discount with them for their services, contingent upon you bagging a larger grocery store chain. In other words, play to your strength and use your Marketing skills to rebrand/mark-up and resell those services (either for them directly or as your own partnered independent entity). After all, they've already gone through all that tough pain of developing the technical infrastructure. Just find the best fit for you and your country and use their services to meet your needs while it helps grow another good service/company - it's a win-win and saves you a lot of time and headaches!
EDIT: I'm sure you've looked at some companies but just keep at it and deeply compare services. Just trying to offer different thinking about solving the problem. If your country uses verisign / visa / mastercard traditional POS - you can focus on supplying small local stores with those cheap digital receipting kiosks, or the existing phone app+accessory like "Square" where you can swipe cards for digital receipt --then build up enough momentum / capital to overtake or partner with large scale grocery CC providers. Find a company with the human capital / services to capable of updating big grocery internal POS with in-house app that sits on top of cc service to offer a emailed digital receipt (like many U.S. based retailers do).... that kind of thing. Just avoid phone apps - it's a red ocean and it's where good ideas go to die.
First of all, monetizing this is easy. You have access to purchasing behavior tied to pseudonymous identity that happens to be a point of contact. Just put some predictive analytics behind that for coupons or other promotions to drive sales. You don't need to do anything nearly as intrusive as a rewards system. Aggregate across stores and you also have people's movement patterns. The possibilities are endless. You want someone with experience in digital marketing for brick-and-mortar. As far as technology goes, if stores don't already have wi-fi, you'll have to pay for SIM-based network access, which will probably be expensive. So technical feasibility (in terms of deployment, not development) is the first thing to test. The second thing to validate is what kind of POS system is used to tabulate the sale. If it's just a list of items labeled "GROCERY" then there's nothing to monetize. Go home. Programming this is dead simple. That's not the problem.
Your idea is good, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. As I write this, I am aware of massive initiatives for overlapping products and technologies in the retail space by giant companies- Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. You don't want to develop a technology that will be swept out of the way by these or other giants without having locked down some critical proprietary component. And, you would need to be able to defend your proprietary I/P.
If your goal is to accomplish this project as an exercise for school, I think it would be interesting. But, if you were one of my clients, I would immediately have you research not directly competitive products, but larger technology initiatives in which your product will be implied and therefore likely backfilled as an afterthought by a large company. Even outside of the U.S., the implications of Apple and Samsung Pay etc. will directly impact the future of your product.
You need to:
1. Prove that your approach has demand AND is so different from other emerging technologies that you can carve out and succeed in a niche space OR
2. Prove that you can develop proprietary and defensible technology that will force a larger partner to buy YOU.
This is still an interesting idea, I worked on this problem in 2013 and there is still no clear solution for it on the market.
At first, I was thinking it’s tech problem but then I realized it’s more business.
I strongly believe that it needs to be a standard to get a "digital receipt” and it can come from government regulations or agreements from market giants.
My guess if it happens then the consumer can choose a platform for it and then this business can flourish.
As someone who know very little about programming an APP, I can only say that from my experience, focus on what you can do i.e. the idea -so long as it's an idea that can work. It's no good assuming that programmers or engineers will be able to solve the technical part. Therefore, you have to be able to see any technical problems solved within a realistic realm of possibility. So your main focus should be the connection between the vendor and the customer.
Two possible ideas
- supermarkets used reward cards - for customers to earn points. Maybe think bigger - make the reward card an APP that features a receipt option. This way, the user could go into the app and check points and view receipts and totals for the month / year;
- you open the app at check out time and scan it your phone (like a load of bread) and it sends data into the app.
The first solution is limited, in that not many people use reward cards outside of supermarkets and similar places, where customers buy a lot of small priced items. So maybe the second solution is more promising; "scan and see" approach. Pretty much every vendor uses a scanning system. For those that don't there are other ways to solve this :-)
Let me know what you think and if these ideas can help you out.
Before you go further into researching the technical side and how paperless solution can benefit the consumer, I would strongly advise that you spend some time consulting the applicable local tax laws. The main purpose of the receipt is to serve as a "proof of purchase" for both the consumer (legal aspect) and tax authorities (registering sales and collecting taxes). Many local regulations require paper receipts and you need to find a way to comply with those regulations.
In today's day and age, and tech advancement, you would think we already have such solutions. It boggles the mind that we don't. I often feel like telling cashiers NOT to print a customer copy of my credit card transaction because it's such a waste!
Huan Lin, as an idea, this is brilliant and something I think we should have in the market. I think there are some iterations of it, although I'm not sure if it's an actual solution or if it's an ad-hoc, manual solution when a store runs out of paper. The last time I stopped by SF, the retailer was not able to print a receipt for me. I couldn't remember if it was because they ran out of receipt paper or there was a hardware problem, but she did ask me if I wanted the receipt emailed to me instead. So you might want to see if there are already companies who are doing this? Like, does Square have this option to email receipts from their POS?
I want to say your monetization ideas are sound. But I honestly don't know if you can justify "saving" money for paper by paying for e-receipts. Unless you're trying to market "going green" to the retailers instead. As for the banner ads, I think that has merit. Because we have ads behind our receipts in Malaysia so I guess companies will pay for it. But I don't know how effective it is because I almost never look behind the receipt, let alone the actual receipt itself.
For me, I would consider building an entire POS system and including e-receipts as a feature. So, more of a system solution rather than just an app. But that's like going up against Square's POS system. So that's a bust.
But I do like Luke Bonner's idea of tying it to the store's loyalty card/account. That might be a great solution. But still doesn't solve the problem for ALL shoppers. Maybe you can charge shoppers to print receipts. As in, if you're a member of the store's loyalty program, you get your receipts online. And if you're not a member of the store's loyalty program, you can't get your receipts online, therefore you need to pay for it. I would think retailers would go for it because they get more signups for their loyalty programs.