Unlocking first-party purchase insights from receipts using AI

December 1, 2022
Unlocking first-party purchase insights from receipts using AI

Hosted by Kevin Riley, VP of Product, our first Commerce webinar challenged attendees to “rethink receipts” by diving into the valuable first-party data they contain (that AI can help unlock).

How is the retail industry thinking about deepening the customer relationship and putting first-party data to work to drive user engagement and revenue?

The webinar started by asking how attendees are currently collecting purchase data from paper and physical receipts, with the results split evenly between companies who are NOT currently collecting purchase data (50%) and those who are using legacy software (50%). This question became more relevant later on when a follow-up poll showed that the vast majority of attendees – almost 90% – believe first-party purchase data will be “much more important” in the future than it is today.

And this makes sense when you consider the last few years. The Coronavirus pandemic’s profound disruption to everyday life and impact on supply & demand turned the grocery industry upside down, with retailers and their employees struggling to stay safe, keep shelves full and serve their communities and customers. At the same time, more and more customers shopped online for groceries (and other purchases) as social distancing guidelines had them staying at home.

Coming out of the last few years, customers crave seamless, personalized, omnichannel experiences – the ability to shop in-store, online, or buy online but pick up in store (BOPIS), amongst other trends. The key to delighting customers  – both from an assortment, product availability and efficiency perspective, as well as overall shopping experience perspective – starts with understanding their purchases, habits and preferences via first-party data. 

Roughly 75% of consumers experimented with a new store, product or buying method during the pandemic, and 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions (with two-thirds getting frustrated when this doesn’t happen.)

MCKINSEY: Next in personalization report, 2021

Personalization drives better customer – and business – outcomes, which starts with organizations streamlining and automating their ability to collect purchase data – wherever and however that purchase data lives. 

So how can companies supercharge their access to first-party data? 

Fortunately, technology is available today to do just that. From physical receipts to email receipts to online shopper accounts, this webinar taught me to “rethink” the insights hiding in various receipt types and understand what role AI can play in the process. Below are three of my key takeaways from the webinar:

Receipts are challenging

According to Kevin Riley, roughly half of the receipts in the United States have a product number on them, which is generally a derivation of a UPC. Receipts have complex formats, changing layouts, no global standard, and varying degrees of image quality. To validate purchases and deliver CPG promotions, drive loyalty rewards, and enable market research, technology solutions need to handle all of this complexity in a fast, reliable, frictionless manner. (Today’s customer doesn’t want to wait days to receive cash back or loyalty points for their purchase!) 

With roots in computer vision that has been in the receipt scanning space for 8 years, Microblink has worked to deliver a solution capable of extracting purchase data with better-than-human levels of accuracy. This approach was refined over years of working closely with customers, such as iBotta, which was looking to reward users for products purchased in-store. By staying close to customers, and leveraging in-house tech expertise, the company discovered a tremendous need from brands, loyalty apps, market research firms and more to scan receipts in real-time to better understand what is being purchased. The result is technology capable of ingesting various receipts and parsing out data like merchant name, date, time, total, payment methods, transaction numbers and more with <90% accuracy in less than 1 second.

Loyalty rewards programs are more important than ever

Seventy-five percent of customers base purchasing decisions on their brand experience, meaning the stakes for loyalty rewards programs have never been higher.

The desire to run large scale, brand-based loyalty programs across retailers was something Microblink observed in its earliest customers, which meant it had to build a robust solution capable of validating purchases at the UPC level and running promotions as needed. Microblink’s promotions dashboard enables CPG manufacturers (amongst others) to manage their promotions, supporting everything from building custom audiences to adding qualification criteria (e.g. is it brand, UPC, category or retailer based?, is it a multi-trip promotion, etc.?) 

In retail, change is the only constant

One of my final takeaways from the webinar was that customer needs and expectations are ever-evolving, and your business needs to be able to keep up. Staying agile and adapting requires an innovative mindset (something Microblink’s customers all possess), a solid first-party data strategy built on flexible, future-proofed technology solutions, and ideally, solutions providers who will partner with your business to face – and overcome – challenges that arise. 

In today’s retail landscape, receipt format, structure (or lack thereof), retailer quirks, and confusing abbreviations – to name a few – shouldn’t be a hindrance to capturing data and serving your customers. Ensure your solution has a history of scanning large volumes of receipts and uses a Machine Learning-based approach to learn and improve over time. Microblink, for example, has parsed over $200 billion in purchase data to data and ingests 3 billion receipts over time, offering a distinct data advantage.

Interested in learning more? Get in touch today, or catch up on the on-demand recording
Separately, we’re gearing up for more online and in-person events, so reach out with your can’t-miss events or webinar topics that you’d like to see covered!

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