Growing up, my mother insisted that I hold onto the receipt whenever I purchased something. But like most kids, I rarely listened. Within minutes of purchase, the receipt would find itself in a nearby receptacle. I seldom exchanged or returned things, so I never needed to use it. It wasn’t until retailers began printing coupons on the backs of their receipts that I started to pay attention.


The opportunity to save $0.50 on my favorite box of General Mills cereal was huge. That meant I could spend more of the family grocery budget on candy, soft drinks and toys. In some ways, I was the perfect customer; advertisers had a perfectly captive and qualified audience.

Receipt-coupons were the perfect way to generate customer loyalty. Consumers who just purchased baby food at the grocery stores would be ecstatic to know they can save $1.00 off of their next purchase of Gerber products. Shoppers who visit Rite Aid may even be willing to complete a survey to save a few dollars on a future trip to the store.

rite aid receipt

During my teenage years, stores drove a lot of repeat business as customers returned with their receipt-coupon in-hand. I, for one, took every receipt-coupon I could find and convinced my family to stock up on the discounted products before the offer expired. Suddenly, we found ourselves doubling our weekly visits to the grocery store and had a pantry that was overflowing with food. Indeed, we were a bit overzealous.

Now, with consumers increasingly purchasing food, clothing, household goods, and more online, ecommerce store owners need to learn how to use receipt marketing to engage their digital audience. Below are several strategies ecommerce entrepreneurs can use to take advantage of the available real estate in their order confirmation emails, keeping customers loyal and growing their bottom line.

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In email receipts, coupons consistently improve conversions. Research we recently conducted, which analyzed more than 2 million receipts between 8,000 different stores, found that discounts are the easiest way for stores to generate more revenue from their existing customers. Six other things brands can add to their receipts to increase customer engagement include:

  • Re-engagement coupons
  • Customer satisfaction surveys and product feedback forms
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs), how-to articles and video demonstrations
  • Product testimonials and past user experiences
  • Referral program reminders
  • Related products and recommended items upsells

Coupons drive repeat business

receiptful discount offer

Consumers have an alarming number of options when it comes to what they can purchase and who they can purchase it from. Knowing that, store owners should never take a sale — and the post-purchase experience — for granted. By tacking a coupon onto a customer’s email receipt, you give customers an incentive to shop with you again. This is especially important because research from Internet Retailer suggests, “94.83% of sales are single interaction,” and fewer than 6% of sales are from returning customers.

Surveys help businesses build better products and experiences

Companies can glean amazing insights from simple customer surveys. According to Drew Hendricks and Pam Neely, four advantages to using customer surveys are:

  1. “Measurement and analysis of customer satisfaction.” Stores that have happy customers should look for new ways to outdo themselves. On the other hand, retailers with unhappy clients should identify the biggest causes for customer dissatisfaction and work to fix those problems.
  2. “Identification of potential areas of growth.” Your customers’ have an unlimited number of unmet needs. By inquiring about them, you find new opportunities to deliver value and increase your bottom line.
  3. “An outlet for customers.” 96% of unhappy customers never bother to complain directly to retailers about their purchase. What is worse is they tell between nine and 15 people about their bad experience. Businesses lose out on volumes of incredible feedback; surveys help fill the gap so shoppers are prompted to share their criticisms.
  4. “Higher levels of communication with recipients.” Most stores receive a majority of their customer feedback during customer service crises. Unfortunately, those interactions are often narrowly focused. For brands to grow, they will need more ways of communicating with customers in happy, sad and neutral states to source a wide range of feedback.

With enough responses, brands discover new strategies for improving existing products and the customer experience. To motivate shoppers to complete a survey, some retailers offer a coupon in exchange for participation. As part of the post-purchase experience, store owners can also request product reviews, which users can choose to share publicly too.

FAQs and product-related information reduce return rates and increase a product’s value

Goldstar email

When shopping online, customers may miss a few critical details about their specific purchases. Product benefits, care instructions and use applications are not always clear or obvious. Many times, I’ve found myself repeating the mistake of shrinking new wool sweaters in the wash. Though the fault is mine, I typically lash out against the retailer who didn’t explicitly label the garment “dry clean only.” Of course, many careless customers would be reluctant to blame themselves and find it easier to persecute stores for failing to educate them.

To successfully manage customers’ expectations about what your product can or can’t do, include information about product benefits, care and use in your email receipts. In an article for WooThemes, Nicole Kohler explains, “Relevant links and contact information will answer questions and pre-emptively solve problems.” Kohler adds, “[Your customers] might suddenly realize that they ordered the wrong item, or they may wonder how long they’ll have to wait until they receive a shipment from you. There are many things you can do with your email receipts to pre-emptively answer questions and solve potential problems before they happen.”

The more shoppers know about their purchase, the happier they end up being with your product or service. Shoppers who are fully aware of the capabilities and limitations of your offerings learn how to extract the most value out of their purchase. A few straightforward facts placed right at the bottom of customers’ email receipts can help stores reduce customer attrition and return rates and ensure consumers do not misuse items from their order.

Testimonials reinforce purchase motivations

The online shopping experience is almost too seamless. In less than a handful of mouse clicks, I can have a T.V., mattress and kitchen set delivered to my door using my Amazon Prime account. Because most customers have their credit card information saved with their favorite retailers, many shoppers experience buyer’s remorse immediately after submitting a new order. An email receipt reiterating how much money they just spent does not help much either.

For ecommerce stores, customer testimonials can help limit buyer remorse and reinforce purchase motivations. Though testimonials are most commonly used prior to a purchase, they are an effective tool that reminds shoppers exactly why they needed and wanted the goods they ordered in the first place. As a result, brands mitigate their risk of customers cancelling their orders before they get shipped and they minimize customer churn.

Referral program reminders spread positive word-of-mouth

Jaunt email

Your happiest customers can easily become your most valuable customer acquisition channel. Through generous referral programs, retailers can incentivize their most loyal shoppers to become passionate brand evangelists.

To encourage customers to actively spread word-of-mouth, remind them about your referral program in their email receipts. Be sure to also include mechanisms that will make it easy for them to share their referral code with their family members, followers and friends.

Upsells increase a customer’s lifetime value (CLTV)

Amazon receipt

With data around the items a customer has recently looked at and purchased, brands can use smart algorithms to recommend shoppers buy related items later. In each email receipt, retailers should attempt to upsell customers on products that complement their original purchase.

Our data reveals that the most engaging email receipts include at least one upsell and that multiple upsells perform even better.

Final thoughts

At the 2014 National Retail Federation EXPO in NYC, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and co-founder of Twitter, asked, “What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium — a product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with? What can we do with this everyday tool?” Absent of a call-to-action or other compelling content, retailers miss out on a valuable opportunity to re-engage customers through their receipts.

Stores that view receipts as another customer touchpoint may add valuable information or offers customers will love. With a coupon, survey request or upsell in each digital receipt, I imagine every shopper may feel the same way I felt as a nine year old kid: thrilled to save $0.50 on my next trip to the grocery store.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Note: This article was originally posted on Receiptful’s Ecommerce Academy.

About Adii Pienaar

I’m a family man, enthusiast runner and an even more enthusiastic wine snob. 🙂 I’m currently building Receiptful. In the past I co-founded WooThemes and unsuccessfully worked on and launched many other products.