“Lean In” is a 2013 book from Sheryl Sandberg that talks about gender bias in various industries and gives women advice on how to overcome it in various ways. In her book, “Lean in,” refers to giving the appearance of engagement, sitting forward and appearing to actively listen (or to actually actively listen) in a strategy to get recognized for participation, et cetera. Colloquially, the phrase has come to be used almost synonymously with “steering into the skid,” although it is not necessarily associated with a tragedy or catastrophe as is the latter; lean into it means to embrace it, and to embrace it with your whole body or being.
That’s my advice for technology and your small business. If you look at the information out there, our reliance on Internet, digitization, and electronic devices is only going to increase and not decrease in the coming years; that growth is exponential in many areas, with manufacturers almost daily finding new devices to connect to the Internet. I’ve read predictions that by 2020 Internet-connected devices will outnumber human beings something like 4 to 1. No, this won’t mean that people will have four smartphones each, it means our refrigerators, thermostats and lighting systems will be internet connected, giving us the opportunity to operate them remotely and to optimize functionality with real-time diagnostics, et cetera.
Take for example a recent shift I had at my part-time day job. I was closing up the shop on my own and because of a recent burglary in the neighborhood, the owner had changed the security system’s settings. Out of nowhere, the alarm started to go off while I was taking out the recycling and I couldn’t get it to stop. My owner was able to take care of the situation from the comfort of her apartment with a few touches on her iPhone and the problem was resolved in less than 5 minutes.
All of this is my long-winded way of saying: lean into technology; embrace it for its benefits and the ways it can help optimize every aspect of your business and don’t be left behind. Being off the grid may be more comfortable because of its familiarity or its quiet solitude, but it also means being out of touch, and off of potential customers’ radar.
One particular way to lean into today’s technology, the digital age or whatever, is to change the way you view receipts. No longer is a receipt merely an itemization of a customer’s purchase and a way for you and your customers to get into tedious disputes about pricing and taxation, with digitization especially they are now ways to optimize your customer engagement and satisfaction.
In 2015, flexreceipts.com wrote: “digital receipts pave the way to a more engaged customer.” Customers expect to be able to reach out to and interact with the brands they invest in; but, digitization doesn’t just benefit them. In that 2015 article, it was noted that the mere act of providing a digital receipt was regarded positively, with benefits to the environment given consideration along with the fact that it’s harder to lose a digital receipt.
Digital receipts provide an easier and more intuitive way for the customer to access your website or social media accounts, because you can provide links directly in the receipt that they can access directly from their smart device. Digital receipts also offer the opportunity to solicit direct feedback from customers, as with my shop’s miniature survey that is sent along with every receipt. This is the same type of engagement that you’ll find with websites like Seamless, which gives me the opportunity to review every purchase I make via a short text message exchange.
Providing web links or promotions via receipts incentivizes a return visit and keeps your brand in their mind. It gives them the opportunity to learn more about and connect in a more committed way to your brand; even if they just like your company on Facebook because of a link in their receipt, they are more likely to encounter your brand more often than if they never had to think about it again because they just threw a paper receipt in the nearest garbage receptacle.
You can also utilize digital receipts and algorithms to provide personal shopper style advice, like CVS and Duane Reade do; those companies provide receipts with coupons for your next visit, especially if you are a rewards member, that can be tailored toward the specific purchases you tend to make.
The shop I work for also utilizes a receipt rewards program that incentivizes both larger purchases and return visits by rewarding each $25 purchase with a star; after 10 stars the customer gets $15 off of any purchase as well as random $5 coupons just because.
This encourages the customer to buy more (which I’ve witnessed at this particular store time and again) in order to get up to or over $25 in the first place. It then encourages them to come in when they perhaps weren’t planning to in order to utilize their reward; often they’ll end up purchasing more than $15 worth of product even if they just came in to use their $15 reward. This encourages trying new products and taking risks, which can boost the likelihood of satisfaction; even if they get something for free that they don’t like, at least they got it for free.
Digitizing receipts is also an easy way to have a contact list for your customers, meaning that you can advertise events and promotions even if they aren’t directly on receipts.
You can also offer a discount code for future store purchases if you don’t have a rewards program or someone doesn’t participate or qualify for it (like if they only spend $20). You could also offer discount codes for purchasing on your website, furthering the likelihood that the customer will remain engaged with your brand beyond whenever they are conveniently located near your physical store. You could take a leaf from the books of companies like Uber and provide rewards for referring a friend; this is much easier for digital receipts because you can provide linking capabilities directly from the receipt, where someone can provide a friend’s email or phone number to sign up for your service or purchase from your brand.
An article on shopify.com encourages business-folk to take advantage of the “shopping high” that shoppers feel: “Research shows that shopping activates key areas of the brain, which boosts moods and triggers the release of brain chemicals that give you” that high. You can take advantage of this with your receipts by encouraging your customers to share their purchase on Facebook immediately after they make it, while they’re still feeling those good feelings and are most likely to want their friends and loved ones to have a similar experience too. This is the new face of word-of-mouth marketing, getting your customers to publicly engage and promote your business on their social media, linking your business to their however-many-number of friends!
From the first whiffs of smart receipts and digital receipts, businesses were seeing benefits from the practice. In an article on hospitality technology.edgl.com, one business owner reported: “We saw immediate effects… In as little as a week, people were bringing back the coupons and repeat customers started coming in at a faster rate.”
Even if you aren’t ready to digitize or completely digitize, you can utilize your receipts as CVS does and offer an incentive for returning customers, offer personalized feedback with customized purchase recommendations and coupons, and increase engagement by encouraging and rewarding feedback and making the feedback process as easy as possible. The easier it is, the more likely you are to receive more of it and for it to be beneficial; there’s nothing like a frustrating feedback process to further frustrate an already dissatisfied customer or to unnecessarily frustrate someone who just wants to make a simple comment.
Stop taking your receipt process for granted and benefit from it, instead!