Is the future of receipts digital?

14 July 2014

Brenton O'Callaghan

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

A while back I talked about eliminating the lowly paper receipt from our lives in my blog post Improve my POS experience - stop giving me receipts! Since then I have been thinking about this concept a bit more.

How would we as a society move towards this utopian world where one wave of my hand means I’ve paid for my items, received a receipt and recorded all the information about that transaction in a lasting and convenient way?

Quite obviously there would be a lot of moving parts that would all need to be heading in the same direction for this to work but if something is not challenging, then it’s not worth doing I say!

So what am I really talking about here?

Right now, if we look at our credit card statements we see how much, where and when we spent money and nothing more. But what if, when I purchase a fizzy drink, a chocolate bar and a side of salmon for £23.56 using my credit card from my local retailer, I can then log into my bank or credit card account and see not just that I spent the money at that retailer and when I spent it but also exactly what I bought right down to the side of salmon cost? Surely that is a vastly improved experience all round.

Now some retailers like Apple and others are trying to roll-out similar experiences across their network usually using email as the carrier of the receipt however we need to think bigger. For this to be a success we are going to need to see an industry standard way of doing this that can be adapted throughout both big and small retailers alike.

There are so many advantages to having this information covering each party of the transaction:

Benefits to the consumer

  • No more paper receipts
  • No more searching for receipts for warranty - it is stored on your account for future reference
  • Easier analysis of what you have been buying
    • Not just category analysis of where you shopped but rather product level analysis
  • Smoother end-user experience

Benefits to the vendor

  • Potential for more in-depth standardised analysis of customer spending habits
  • Potential for loyalty programs through agreements with the credit card providers or banks
  • Direct path to contact customers if necessary.

Benefits to the bank

  • Previously and largely unavailable granular spending habit data now available for analysis
  • Potential partner deals with vendors for
    • Setting up loyalty programs
    • Offers
    • Advertising
  • Increased customer activity with the bank via the receipts portal and potential for increased brand loyalty if the bank can offer a better USP than others
    • Better spend analytics or offers etc.

What could this look like?

So anybody who knows me knows that I like to create something tangible when proving concepts like this so I set about trying to put something together. Putting together mini-poc projects is a lot easier these days with a plethora of cloud platforms being available to just try this out on.

For me my innovation enabler at the moment is SAP HANA (because no blog post is complete without mentioning HANA of course ;)). But in all seriousness, as a platform to encourage innovation and enable the creation of end-to-end solutions there is no better.

The working title for my PoC is “MyBills” which is not the first name it had with the first having the accroym “PoS” for point of sale on it however wisely I was advised by a number of people that this may not be the best naming convention.


So MyBills built on SAP HANA comprises of three aspects

  1. The transaction data for the user stored in HANA
  2. This is then exposed using HANA’s oData functionality through the XS engine
  3. A shiny UI put on top created using industry standard and responsive HTML5 and CSS.

What I ended up with is a version of what could be the end-user portal showing all my recent transactions fully functional with SAP HANA’s in-memory analytics built in.

With the ability to drill down into each transaction:


And the ability adjust my account:



And of course let’s not forget the real time analytics:



For the sceptical readers of which I am usually one wondering if SAP HANA is actually the enabling platform I am touting. All I have to say is that the combined effort to build this end-to-end was about 6 to 8 hours over a couple of nights. Not bad for an enterprise platform!

Call to action

So my call to action here is simple. Let’s do it! I am certain that I’ve not even scratched the surface with the challenges of doing this - but challenges can be overcome! We need to make this change, it is coming, so why not do it right from the start, standardise it and bring our retail experience smack bang into the 21st century.

If anybody is interested in seeing this live or finding out more about how this was built please do feel free to get in touch.

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About the author

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

Enterprise technology strategist and emerging technology evangelist

I'm a globally experienced SAP expert based in Ireland and I’m currently responsible for creating and bringing our SAP Innovation & Leonardo practice to market. My day job involves helping our customers to solve actual business problems in a rapid fashion using tools such as design thinking, SAP Leonardo and much more. I'm also responsible for exploring how emerging technologies and concepts can be applied within our customer base such as Machine Learning, Blockchain, DevOps and AI.
I've a background in computer science and have spent the last 9+ years in the SAP space across a wide range of industries across EMEA and North America. I'm a big believer that the best consultants have a mix of technical knowledge, industry experience and empathy and that is what I bring with my team to my customers. It's all about bringing about positive and relevant business change with the best possible technology.
Outside of work you can find me supporting the Irish Rugby team and the Boston Red Sox as well as my new found hobby - golf!


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