For retail transactions, printed receipts give purchasers a sense of "guarantee" and "genuineness" for the goods they buy. These receipts, printed mostly on thermal papers
, provide details of the purchase date, name and number of goods, price details and grand total. Since the print impressions can sustain only for few days, customers find it difficult to document them for future use or when they return or replace them for any defects with the shopkeepers.
With booming smart phones and internet, technology allows businesses in retail and non-retail across the globe to send e-receipts directly to the clients' mobiles. These receipts, unlike the printed counterparts, are long lasting and can be documented any time in case of future needs.
According to experts, the growth of the global thermal paper market will be largely effected by three factors in the coming decade - growing demand for e-receipts, increasing advertisements on thermal paper receipts, which is cost-effective and thin profit margin of thermal media rolls.
The paperless transaction concept is gaining momentum with more and more people opting for electronic receipts or "e-receipts" facilitated by booming retail business transactions through online and increase in usage of electronic hand-held devices. The number of usage of credit and debit cards in retail purchases, even in brick-and-mortar establishments augments the practice of getting e-receipts to the mail boxes or mobile phones. It is therefore in the coming days, electronic receipts will gradually replace the physical receipts as e-receipts are considered as standard verifiable legal documents for any future dispute redressal.
However, majority of the retail customers still prefer to have their printed receipts at checkouts as they can quickly verify the items purchased and check for anomalies, if any.
"Thermal paper receipts may not be replaced by e-receipts overnight as majority of customers in India still prefer physical receipts before they exit checkout counters. However, there will be a gradual transformation in the coming years which will see such receipts will only be printed "on-demand" by retail businesses. So, we can see less demand for such papers in future for sure. But, even the e-receipts have a "print" button to facilitate customers take a printout in future which can be signed, documented, copied, used for legal purposes, refunds or any other reasons where proof of purchase is warranted," explains Bhaskar.
However, the silver lining for the sustenance of thermal paper market is that retailers across the globe are using it as a gate to reach customers with stream of advertising messages since they are extremely cost-effective and convenient compared to other offline advertisement modes like magazines or periodicals.
Agrees Pankaj Khanna, store manager of Pazamudir Nilayam, a chain of fresh fruits and vegetable stores in Chennai: "We generate receipts which carry our shop name and logo along with information on discount offers and credit points earned. This is system-generated and hence even customers lose receipts, they can claim their credit points in their subsequent purchases. We are also integrating our system to send receipts directly in real time to customers' mobiles and email accounts. But, I feel, internet and smart phone markets have not reached its nadir in India and still growing, demand for physical receipts may not wane out easily.
However, the competition is rife in thermal paper business and the profit margins are tight. "We can only survive by meeting bulk orders and repeat orders. Wholesalers and manufacturers of thermal paper products who can sell them in huge numbers may survive the business," says a senior official of a leading thermal paper rolls manufacturer in Mumbai, who predicts that the growing demand for e-receipts will dampen the need of physical receipts in the coming years.
Technology has overshadowed and made several age-old practices obsolete in India. Generating receipts on thermal paper rolls by retail outlets in India will also face the same fate once chorus for e-receipts reaches high pitch in Indian retail sector.