12 Ways to Growth Hack Receipts to Make Them Better

By Jason Peck on September 30, 2014

Of all the things that people get and then instantly throw away, paper seems to be the common link. For example, there's toilet paper, parking tickets and receipts, the worst of the bunch. At least toilet paper is useful.

Cash Receipts

This box of receipts could actually help grow your business. Photo credit: ben_osteen via photopin cc

Receipts don't have to be so worthless, though. They can be great tools to help you grow your business. Receipts can be hacked for growth, fun and profit. Receipts, especially digital versions, can be great vehicles to delight your customers.

Why digital receipts?

For starters, they aren't going to be thrown away immediately or placed in a drawer and never looked at again. Digital receipts can also be easily shared with your customers via your website, text messages or email. You can also share receipts with your customers via a cloud storage solution. Or you could do this via MyCanvas, which is free if you're already using GoCanvas to capture information about work you're doing, things you're selling or people you're selling to.

The most powerful benefit of digital receipts is that they can be customized for marketing and growth hacking purposes. Here are a few ways to hack your receipts and make them much more useful to your customers.


1) Add a coupon or loyalty offer

People love coupons. 92% of American consumers use them. Give the people what they want and include a coupon or offer in your receipts. This could be a simple get 10% off your next order or service performed. Or it could be an exclusive offer with a photo/link to get a new product or service before the general crowd, as a thank you for being a great customer.


2) Include details about what was done/purchased

Most receipts have line items for what was purchased and how much each item/service costs. But why stop there? If you provide a service, you could include more information about the work, such as what was done and why, the technician's name and photo, and before and after pictures. This might not matter as much to a retail store, but to a company focused on providing the best, most personalized service, this would be a great touch.


3) Show other products/services your customers may be interested in

I ordered a the Kindle version of a book recently on Amazon. At the bottom of the receipt email, Amazon promoted other popular Kindle books and a link to buy gift cards. I clicked through on the popular Kindle books link and have a few ideas for the next books I'll read. Amazon does a great job of getting people to say yes, purchase and then keep saying yes. I'm not sure why more companies don't do this, but it seems like a great idea.


4) Add a link to schedule a follow-up appointment

In some cases, such as at a dentist's office, people often schedule their next appointment in person, before even leaving the office. In other cases, wouldn't it be cool if you got a receipt and then were just one click away from scheduling a follow-up appointment? Maybe the receipt would even suggest a time frame or date range that would be appropriate. “Don't want us to send you 8 direct mailers reminding you to schedule another appointment in 6 months? Click here and schedule your appointment now and save $20.” 


5) Add content that people want to share

What if your receipts were so useful and awesome that people actually enjoyed the content on them. What if people liked the content so much that they shared these receipts with their friends? 

If you want people to share something, you should realize that people share for a few reasons–mainly to look cool to their friends and be known as someone who shares cool things. So maybe try experimenting with crazy cat photos on your receipts or interesting facts about life or coupons that must be shared in order to be redeemed and see what happens?

Crazy thought: you might get more visibility/eyeballs on content on receipts than on that Facebook page you've spent years trying to build up….

It doesn't have to be something viral, though. For example, maybe you're a plumber and you offer digital receipts to your customers. When someone sells their house, he could easily share these receipts with the new owner as a record of what's been done. And the owner may just decide to call you up next time something needs to be fixed, since he knows you're already familiar with the house. Win-win.

6) Include a call-to-action to share

Don't just assume people will share. Prompt them. Ask them nicely. Ask them in funny ways. Test and see what works.

Perhaps a bit more gentle than this. Source

7) Include a call-to-action to sign up for emails

The death of email was greatly exaggerated. Email is still the lifeblood of many businesses, so why not use every chance you've got to get in your customers' inboxes in new ways? For example, maybe you're a BBQ company (fact: I had BBQ for back-to-back meals yesterday) and you just provided catering for a party. Maybe the customer is even already on your main email list, but not on your “Learn to be a Sauce Stud” list that offers a crash course in BBQ sauce-making through three emails–and you offer a coupon for your own sauce in each email. You could promote this right on your receipt!

8) Drive more referrrals

Referrals are great way to grow your business and most businesses rely on word of mouth referrals, even if it's an informal thing. According to Nielsen, people are 4x more likely to buy when they're referred by friends. Dropbox, Mailchimp, and Uber are just a few of the many companies that now offer official referral programs with incentives in the form of cash and/or product benefits.

You want referrals so ask for them! You can use your receipts to do this and remind people of your referral program. Uber does a nice job with this at the bottom of their receipts.

uber promotes its referral program on the bottom of receipts

9) Include a link to download your app

This one is pretty simple. If you have an app that you'd like people to download, give them the ability to do this by clicking a banner+link from your receipts. Even better: give them a reason why they should do this, like “Be the first to know about sales on (insert something related to the product they just bought)” or “Get the best bacon recipes in the world…” Make sure you can actually deliver what you're promoting here. If you promise me bacon and there's no bacon, I'll delete your app faster than you can say Usain Bolt. 

10) Link to a survey

Fast food restaurants and certain offline retailers always seem to be promoting their post-purchase surveys. “Hey offline customer, it'd be great if you could fill out this survey and as a thank you we'll enter you to win cheeseburgers for life.”

The prize might be great, but you can see the problem with this. The link is on the paper receipt, which is likely just going to be crumpled up and trashed. And it's something like www.ourfastfoodcompany.com/survey/847346addkthankyouburger. Sure, some people may actually type this in and try to win something, but I can't imagine it's a high percentage of purchasers.

With digital receipts, people can see beautiful anchor text like “click here to win cheesburgers for life!” You can still have your tracking link under the covers, hidden in the HTML. And you can easily schedule and send a follow-up email a few days later to remind them of the survey, if they haven't completed it yet. 

11) Ask for a testimonial or review

If you just provided a great service to someone, there's no shame in asking for a review or testimonial. Especially if you explain how it will actually come back and help them (“your testimonials help us grow our business and provide even better services and support to you…”).

12) Promote your non-profit of choice 

Many of the most innovative and successful businesses have a higher mission or a non-profit organization that they actively support and believe in. Maybe this is actually part of your core business story, too. 

If you can get people to connect with WHY you do what you do, this can be really powerful. It would also be refreshing to see this kind of thing on a digital receipt, with a link to a video or landing page where customers can learn more about why you have choosen to support this specific mission or non-profit. 

I hope you these receipt hacks give you some inspiration to try something new with your own receipts. 

With all of this, please make sure you are abiding by CAN-SPAM regulations. There's a lot of information in that link on what qualifies as transactional vs. promotional emails. If you want to play it safe, your best bet is that when sending emails with promotional content in them, someone has to have opted in to receiving email from you.

For businesses that have customers who haven't opted in yet, you could add a step after checkout to let people opt-in to the type of receipt they'd like: “We're one step away from sending your receipt. Want a normal, boring receipt? Or do you want an awesome receipt with a sweet offer?”

It's time to rid the world of boring receipts. In a quote from earlier this year, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, actually called receipts a “canvas” and refered to receipts as a “communication channel” and “publishing medium.”

Here at GoCanvas, we help companies collect better data and do better work overall, and that includes the creation, customization and sharing of digital receipts. I can't wait to see the evolution of receipts over the next few years. 

If have other ideas for hacking receipts, are doing any of these things now, or decide to try any of these ideas, drop me a line here and let me know how it goes.

Here at GoCanvas, we help companies collect better data and do better work overall, and that includes the creation, customization and sharing of digital receipts (take our basic cash receipt form which can be modified to fit any of your receipt needs and is a great starting point to go digital).