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Tech & Processes

February 27, 2024

7 mins read

What’s the point of PoS receipts?

by Emmanuel Paul

Ever stood in line at your local supermarket, watching as receipt after receipt gets printed out for each customer? Ever wonder where all those slips of paper end up? In many Nigerian stores, they often land in the waste bin close to the security at the entrance. But have you ever stopped to think about why we still get them, and what role they play in our daily lives?

These slips of paper, especially from our everyday transactions at the Point of Sale (PoS) machines, are more important than we might think. They're not just for customers but also for businesses and banks. Even as everything moves online, I've noticed that paper receipts are still the go-to, even though digital options are available (companies like ours offer this choice).

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Ezekiel, our head of distribution, shared his insights for this story. Together, we'll explore why PoS receipts are still around, why they matter to everyone involved in a transaction, and peek into what shopping could look like in the future without them. First, how did we get here? 

Historical context on receipts

The journey of the receipt through history is fascinating. From the earliest days of trade, merchants and customers have used receipts for record-keeping, and trust-building. As buying and selling changed, so have receipts. 

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Point of Sale (PoS) Terminal receipts

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Global Milestones

  • Sweden: Often leading in digital innovations, Sweden saw a major shift towards digital receipts in the 2010s, with many retailers and banks promoting digital transactions to move towards a cashless society.

  • Japan: Known for its meticulous record-keeping, Japan introduced electronic receipts in major retail chains in the late 2000s, blending tradition with technology.

Today, digital receipts are offered by businesses globally, from small stores to multinational corporations. However, the transition isn't uniform, with many consumers and businesses still preferring or requiring paper for various reasons.

Why PoS paper receipts are still a thing

Receipts, whether digital or paper, are important to help businesses and customers confirm and reconcile every transaction they make. It’s what you present to the bank if there’s an error or a dispute. Most importantly, it’s required by law. Even though you can get these receipts digitally, there are still practical reasons why paper will still be a thing. 

Practicality for Businesses

Paper receipts help businesses stay efficient and prevent fraud.

Imagine a cashier in the middle of a high-traffic festive shopping season, with several, mostly impatient customers, waiting in the queue. The cashier can quickly verify the printed receipt without inspecting the PoS device closely or checking an email for each transaction. 

If the PoS is configured to print a second receipt only for successful transactions, the attention-stretched cashier can quickly spot a failure if a second receipt doesn’t come out. It reduces the risk of errors or customers trying to play a fast one. It also helps both customers and merchants keep a record of the transaction.

Settlement

Network glitches can sometimes prevent the bank from settling the merchant. When this happens, the merchant can provide physical evidence that the bank’s systems may have missed. This is even more important in Nigeria, where banks can settle merchants instantly. 

For Consumers

The cashier is not the only one stressed in that busy shopping traffic we just pictured. Customers standing in queues waiting to checkout amidst the sensory overload can be draining, and they could miss important details. 

Evidence of failed debit and for invoicing

If a customer has a failed debit, the receipt can help them seek redress at their respective bank. If the transaction is successful, the receipt is still important for record purposes. Especially if said customer is helping someone else with that transaction. 

Accuracy

It happens, sometimes accidentally, that the cashier enters N10,000 instead of N1,000. Instant receipts allow the customer to check that they paid for the right products at the right amount, and that there was no mix-up. 

Reaching everyone

Not everyone can access a smartphone or the Internet, but everyone shops. When merchants give customers a record of their purchase, it’s a simple step towards ensuring everyone is included in the financial system. 

For service providers

PoS device adoption

As you’ve probably guessed from our historical timeline, not all PoS terminals can issue digital receipts, so paper allows some financial institutions to comply with the law. 

Backup for service disruption

If network glitches prevent receipts from sending to the merchant's email, paper can be used as a backup. 

The above benefits capture a typical Nigerian shopping experience, and while digital receipts have their benefits, paper receipts offer practicality for a typical merchant and consumer. It’s instant, easy to use, and dependable. Interestingly, Nigerians are not alone in preferring paper receipts. 

On the global stage 

Different countries have varying levels of preference for receipts. Surveys conducted in 2022 and 2023 might surprise you: 

The United States

About 72% of American consumers prefer paper receipts to digital receipts. They do this because it makes them feel safe and certain. Those younger than 44 tend to lean towards digital, while those between the ages of 16 and 24 don’t even care for receipts at all. 

Europe

Surprisingly, 54% of European consumers prefer paper receipts, and 27% have no preference at all. Most of them cite some of the practical scenarios we listed above as their reason for opting for paper receipts. 

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How we approach PoS receipts

We’re all about giving businesses and customers the tools they need to create financial happiness, so we employ an innovative approach to PoS receipts that focuses on benefits to the user. 

Fueling digital adoption with reliability

We built our site reliability services to maintain 99.99% uptime. When we added instant settlement to the mix, confidence, fewer and fewer people (merchants or customers) saw the need for paper receipts, which are most important for disputes. As a result, merchants opt for our smaller terminals that don’t give receipts, which is usually cheaper.  Network glitches happen often, but we make sure this never happens on our systems 99% of the time. In the unlikely event of downtime, we work on rectifying the transactions during the affected period. 

Tapping into culture to digitise people

Digitisation is a gradual process, and we first tap into the existing culture by giving people paper receipts, which they’re comfortable with. Some merchants don’t want paper receipts, others can’t do without them, and we cater to all in a way that suits their operations. 

Accessibility

We allow merchants to download these receipts from their apps. Digital receipts might exist, but some do not allow merchants access to these receipts whenever they want. We provide end-of-day reports summarising daily transactions, making it easier for merchants to verify sales against receipts.

Sustainability

Paper receipts take their toll on the environment, and we’re making steps to cater to the current user habits while providing more sustainable digital options for merchants. This work extends beyond transaction receipts, and it saves costs for the merchants. 

Bringing it together

Globally, paper and digital receipts play a big part in how people interact with money, from cities to remote villages. This blend helps bridge the gap, ensuring no one's left behind as the world moves more online. However, as long as there’s Internet and power infrastructure failure in Nigeria, and payment rail failure, paper receipts will remain a thing. 

Ultimately, it’s all about finding the right balance with innovation, and we're committed to doing that every day. If you'd like to be a part of our journey, there's room for you. Visit our careers page to get started.

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