Finally, receipts are exciting – as a medium
Who would have thought that Miami Beach is a place for serendipity. I recently met with my friend Birame for lunch. Birame is one of the most creative people I know, but you will never see her in an ad agency. Because she does not invent commercials, she invents businesses.
A couple of years ago she launched Musicphone. One of the first music sending and recognition services for cellphones. Eventually, Musicphone was sold. I knew she had been working on a new idea ever since, and I was curious to see what she was up to. Turns out, she had just launched myreceipts.com the week before.
At first, I was a little underimpressed, until it dawned on me, that myreceipts.com was another fine example of how apps and services replace traditional media in our attention budget. The idea behind myreceipts.com is quite simple: Swipe a card at your store, and instead of that annoying white paper strip, you receive your itemized receipt digitally. It’s easy to see the benefits for people like me: You can’t wash the receipt in your jeans or lose it. And when you login to the webapp, it’s already filed and sorted. Ready for the taxman. Plus, you just saved a tree. Of course, there is also a major benefit for the partcipating businesses. They now have access to one of your inboxes, and that means: your attention. Knowing that you buy toner every three weeks, they can now make you an offer on myreceipts.com – just before you’re ready to shop.
But the biggest impact may come from the behavioral wisdom that will slowly aggregate on myreceipts.com. In a way, this is similar to the extremely successful mint.com, the platform that collects the data from your financial institutions into a simple dashboard. The main difference: mint.com gives you an overview over the state of your finances, but it does not offer a granular view of single items. Consequentially, the offers that show up on mint.com are most likely financial products matching your situation, and they are equally unlikely to match your shopping patterns.
myreceipts.com offers – on a smale scale – something like Targeting 3.0. Unlike others, it actually does not have to guess your desires from a combination of search terms or visited sites. It kind of knows. An increase in smartness that should result in more accurate and helpful suggestions by advertisers. And in a role as a valuable medium for advertisers. While Birame’s idea surely won’t replace the New York Times, it nevertheless will own some attention that was beforehand occupied by some tradional medium.
It will be interesting to see, however, whether everyone will accept this kind of granular knowledge to be mined. Some say the millenials have a vastly different idea of privacy, one that dispenses with the idea of secrecy. But there is also enough evidence of growing concern regarding the transparency data collectors. I think myreceipts.com is in a good position here, as its users intently ask the service to collect and organize their data. Which is radically different from the horde of data sniffers that are out there, collecting and storing the foot- and fingerprints that we leave behind on our daily walks through the digital world.
Back to the topic of advertising: Like I said, Birame has no intention of ever going into advertising. But advertising agencies these days are surely looking for people like her. Which leads to more of those big questions the ad industry faces these days. Like: Where do we find these talents? What should we teach them? And: Can we keep them?