Software adds marketing value to cash register receipts

SmartReceipt allows retailers and restaurants to print graphics and make special offers, based on the customer's past buying habits.

Last night (late night), I was helping my friend look for something in her purse (probably her keys). Her bag was loaded up with receipts from last-minute Christmas shopping, which is what made me decide on today's small business blog topic.

Earlier this month, I spoke with SmartReceipt, a technology company that offers a twist on how retailers or small-business merchants can use the receipts that they print for virtually every transaction.

Instead of just printing the actual details of a purchase, SmartReceipt lets a retailer or restaurant include other information. In the case of the sample receipt to the right, that info could be nutritional information. But a small business could also print promotion offers or targeted coupons, based on its specific business goals.

"We're taking a receipt that is very text-heavy and making it much more engaging," says Jay Ferro, SmartReceipt CEO.

The SmartReceipt application is offered as a service that is integrated with a merchant's or restaurant's point of sale system. It doesn't matter whether that system is based on Windows or Linux. It works with thermal printers. Ferro said the set-up fee is about $99, and the service can start as low as $25 to $30 per month, depending on the volume of transactions supported by your business. The store defines that sorts of messages that would be included in conjunction with SmartReceipt.

Anthony Pigliacampo, founder of ModMarket in Boulder and Denver, which described itself as a "farm fresh eatery," said he believes SmartReceipt has added 10 percent to his company's top line revenue in every store.

"The ability to target marketing messages to customers based on what was in their order or time of day has been extremely effective," Pigliacampo said. "Our redemption rate for offers we dynamically print on receipts is about 10X the redemption rate on other coupon offers we have distributed. The simple Web-based tools allow us to make new offers and change existing ones with zero development costs."

Pigliacampo figures that it took about $10,000 to invest in all the technologies to use SmartReceipt across ModMarket's multiple store locations. He said it is hard to figure out how quickly it took to recoup that investment, because the technology has become so seamlessly integrated into his operation.

"We run some statistical games on the receipts where every so many customers, a special message prints on the receipt informing them that they have won a free meal," Pigliacampo said. "We have a 85 percent redemption rate on those offers and it costs nothing to us but the price of the food we gave away. Because they can only win by purchasing something in the first place, the total cost to us is extremely low but we have made a huge connection with that customers, gotten them into our store one more time and did all this with zero administration -- the SmartReceipt system manages everything. I have yet to see another marketing investment that can deliver those types of results every single day."