Friday, October 30, 2009

Customer Point of View, #1

What's With Those #%$&@ Receipts?!

There's a trend you may have noticed over the past couple years when ending a retail shopping experience: mile-long sales receipts.

I think it first started with the automatically-generated coupons at grocery stores. Now this, I can somewhat understand and support. The coupons created by this system relate, at least remotely, to my purchases: if I bought a large container of vanilla yogurt, I might receive $1 off my next purchase of a different brand of yogurt, etc.

What does get my goat [is that phrase used anymore?], however, is a foot-long receipt with all kinds of useless, store-centered junk on it. This descriptor -- "foot long" -- is no exaggeration for a receipt I recently received at Staples:

A quick inventory of the information provided in this marathon receipt:

- Store name/logo
- Tag line
- Address/phone
- Date/time
- Customer satisfaction survey solicitation
- Product purchase info
+ Another 2.6 inches of plugs, promos, and bar code

Here's another example, this time from Borders.

[A BRIEF ASIDE: I know, I know. An earlier blog post -- specifically about an extremely disappointing experience at a local Borders -- stated that I would not go back. Ever. I've held true to this vow, having not returned to that specific store. In fact, this pile-o-receipts comes from another Borders; and the shopping was on behalf of my daughter. I still avoid Borders when possible. This next example supports that feeling.]

Borders bookstore, rather than presenting lengthy receipts, prefers a small pile of receipt paper:

Here, the breakdown is a little more clear:
- One receipt slip for, well, the receipt
- Another for their version of the customer sat. survey
- And a third devoted to a product and in-store promo

I see what the retailers are trying to do with these. Receipt paper is cheap, and each inch provides a fresh surface for a marketing message.

But have they ever considered how it feels to a customer?

1. They're Tedious
These receipts, once folded, become an annoying pile of paper, stretching a wallet to its limits. Also think about this point in the transaction: we're putting away our wallet, credit or debit card, checkbook, whatever. We're also thinking about the logistics ahead -- grabbing our bags/cart, finding the car keys, etc., and they hand over this long paper banner that requires folding, tucking away, stuffing into a bag or wallet. AND you want me to complete an online survey?!! Feels like a hassle to me.

2. They're Wasteful
In an era when we are becoming "green" conscious, giving a foot-long receipt -- when a 4-inch one will do -- is excessive. Whenever possible, I give any unnecessary pieces or portions back to the cashier. Whether they listen or not, consider this my tiny protest.

3. They're Self-Centered
Nearly always, the messaging crammed into these narrow lengths of thermal paper is all about the store/brand and has nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to do with the customer.

4. They're Remembered
Handing a receipt to a customer is typically the last human act that happens to us before leaving the store. Is that hassle outlined above how the store/brand wants to be remembered?


Buried in the ginormous Staples receipt was this simple message, written in the shouting language of ALL CAPS:


That, alone, would have been nice.

For more insight on this phenomenon, check out these resources:

Tale of the Tape: Retailers Take Receipts to Great Lengths
Wall Street Journal

Toothpaste Purchase Results In 3-foot Long Receipt
The Consumerist
[Gotta love their doggy measurement standard...]

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Daily Infographic Fix

If you visit just one clever, humorous, observational infographic blog each day, make it this one:


Each weekday, visual communication genius Jessica Hagy publishes one index card with a witty, often insightful, infographic. Beyond its sheer entertainment value, Hagy's images inspire those of us interested in simple, yet effective, ways of conveying complex ideas.

Bookmark her site or subscribe to her RSS feed. You'll be feeding your mind and spirit.

Also check out Jessica Hagy's collection of these brilliant cards in her books, Indexed and Indexed Reporter Notebook.

[NOTE: For an overload of great information architecture/presentation ideas, check out our earlier post, 37 Data-ish Blogs You Should Know About.]