Digital VAT refund solution Pie Systems uses BlinkID to deliver hassle-free ID scanningMay 9, 2023
Pie Systems needed a reliable and intuitive ID scanning solution for its digital VAT refund application, Pie VAT.
“We want to make sure tourists can be completely self-sufficient when submitting their VAT refund without having to read long articles or contact customer support. BlinkID’s simple UI makes this possible and is a key reason why we are the highest-rated tax free provider.”– Sunny Long, Co-founder & Global CEO, Pie Systems
Obstacle: Lengthy in-person VAT refund processes frustrates – and deters – most tourists
Pie Systems is a digital end-to-end VAT refund (tax free shopping) solution for tourists and retailers. Their application streamlines VAT claims, eliminates airport queuing, and provides higher refunds for tourists, and it empowers retailers with greater data analytics and transparency.
“The inconvenient legacy VAT refund process always stuck with me,” said Sunny Long, the company’s co-founder & global CEO. “When my Co-founder and I were discussing what to build next, this thought reverberated back. I wanted to disrupt the stagnant $70B+ global VAT industry dominated by analog incumbents.”
In order to process a VAT refund, identity documents need to be processed and relevant data extracted and submitted alongside the receipt. When building their app, Long knew that an intuitive, automated ID capture and extraction tool would be critical to making the experience frictionless for tourists and driving adoption.
Long never considered building in-house: “There are very good existing solutions, who are great partners to work with,” he added. “There was no need to have our small team spend their time reinventing the wheel.”
Solution: Using BlinkID for fast, reliable VAT submissions
When setting out to find an ID scanning solution to handle that piece of the puzzle, the team knew they needed a proven, global solution capable of reading diverse global identity documents.
“When customers are scanning their passports, for example, to process a refund, it needs to scan properly – the first time – and the extracted data needs to be accurate,” said Long. “We also needed a solution that could identify and handle different ID types across countries. When traveling within the EU, for example, some tourists prefer to carry a regular ID instead of a passport, so we needed a solution that could provide that breadth and depth of document coverage.”
From an end-user perspective, the capture experience needed to be foolproof and work across a broad range of digital proficiencies. The solution should require as few steps as possible from end-users and provide helpful guides for tourists – for example, how to line up their document in the frame.
“As simple as it sounds, having built-in guides like a box showing where the passport or MRZ should line up is helpful for our users,” said Long, resulting in higher completion rates.
After researching ID scanning technologies on the market, the Pie Systems team selected BlinkID to automatically capture, extract, and input data from their user’s identity documents.
In addition to global document support and overall ease of use, the broad platforms and flexible integration options resulted in a smooth implementation process for Pie Systems’ lean engineering team. It felt like a partnership, wherein Pie Systems not only received timely support, but requests for new features or broader product feedback was regularly asked for – and even better, listened to.
Impact: Growing 8x alongside Microblink
Today, BlinkID is integrated into Pie Systems’ iOS and Android applications. After a tourist completes a purchase in a partner store, for example, they may see a QR code to download the Pie VAT app and create an account.
Once an account is created, tourists will take a picture of their receipt and register their information. The latter step is where BlinkID comes in, providing and authenticating their identity information. Next, tourists will enter their permanent address, and then, depending on the country, there may be a few other regulatory steps. Once all the steps are completed, tourists submit their claim, Pie Systems processes it, and the tourists receive their VAT refund.
“It’s much simpler than spending hours in line at the airport waiting to talk to someone, especially when you still need to get through security and catch a plane,” said Long. “We’ve received feedback from extremely happy tourists and stores.”
Over the last year, Pie Systems experienced 8x growth and delivered a 50% faster submission experience. Pie VAT remains the highest-rated tax free provider on both the iOS app store and Trust Pilot with a 4.7 user rating.
“Working with Microblink and using BlinkID to help deliver our cloud-based VAT refund solution has created a lot of value. Microblink is built to scale, and whether we’ve been processing a handful of scans to test the technology or thousands, there is no issue,” said Long.
As the digital VAT refund experience continues resonating and gaining traction across markets, Long and the team are excited about future expansion.
“We take pride in helping retailers address tourist needs. It’s been an underserved sector as long as we’ve had retail and travel. Expansion is top of mind for us, there’s a lot of markets to conquer, and I’m eager to see where we grow in the years to come,” concluded Long.