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Death of the paper receipt
Published 08/11/10

TWO Henley businessmen have devised an online system that they claim will end the need for paper till receipts.

Their company’s technology, which will be piloted in the town next year, will allow shoppers to keep and manage receipts on the web.

The founders say that apart from the ease for sellers and buyers, the system will mean that till rolls, which are non-recyclable, can be phased out.

David Vernon, from Skirmett, and Dr Hassan Hajji, of Deanfield Road, Henley, founded Ecrebo, based in Station Road, in January. The company offers its software for retailers’ cash registers and chip-and-pin machines free of charge. Once a shopper has registered online with Ecrebo, each purchase they make creates a digital receipt that can then be viewed on a computer or by using a smart phone application.

Retailers can then offer customers offers and rewards, even though they will not have any personal information about them.

The company takes a small percentage from any redeemed offers and half of the savings from shops not having to use till rolls.

The men claim they have already had “positive feedback” after talks with the John Lewis Group, which owns Waitrose, and Monsoon.

The pilot scheme will be run at Gorvett & Stone, the chocolatiers in Duke Street, Henley.

The men came up with the idea while meeting for a coffee.

Mr Vernon, 33, said: “We were given a receipt, which we thought was a huge waste of time and money, and thought of this idea for customers as well as businesses.

“I want to launch this in Henley not just because I live here but because it is a perfect town for the pilot with its nice mixture of shops” Tom Holt, the company’s vice-president of business development, said: “Security and privacy is guaranteed for both customers’ purchases and retailers sales. Encrypted receipt data ensures communication between retailers and Ecrebo servers are 100 per cent secure.

“Only customers have access to their receipt data - not even Ecrebo has access to receipt information.”

Users set up an account with a username and password, which takes less than a minute, and do not have to give any other personal details. They have to enter the last four digits of a debit or credit card number and the card expiry date.

Retailers signed up to Ecrebo can send personalised offers, rewards and promotions to customers and receive live data on their sales.

Mr Vernon, 33, said: “It doesn’t work in the same way as store loyalty cards because we don’t ask for personal information.”

Ecrebo says that more than nine million trees a year are destroyed in order to produce paper for receipts that cannot be recycled.

Mr Holt said: “The majority of receipt production uses thermal paper, which has chemicals in it such as oestrogen it’s nasty stuff.

“Ecrebo allows retailers to fulfil their environmental obligations by eliminating the wasted resources and reducing the carbon emissions associated with receipt production and direct mail activity.

“We take 50 per cent of the receipt paper saving as well as five per cent of the promotional value of any redeemed coupon promotion.”

Elinor Gorvett, co-founder of Gorvett and Stone, said she was excited by the technology.

“We can now have everything in one place and can send our receipts straight to our accountant,” she said. “It speeds everything up.

“It will also allow our customers to see what they have bought in the past in case they forget.”

Ecrebo says the pilot will run “as long as it takes” to make sure it works efficiently before the technology is launched nationally and internationally.

Mr Holt said: “We have got the Henley Partnership on board and we want as many retailers to come on board and share the benefits. We want 2011 to be the death of the paper receipt.”

The company accepts there will be retailers and customers who want to keep using paper for things such as medical prescriptions or petrol receipts for claiming expenses.

Dr Hajji, 36, who designed the technology, said: “If you are a hardcore receipt person then don’t sign up to Ecrebo.

“Anything that is digital is a growth market, just like when an alternative to using plastic bags was brought in.

“If there is a larger company with, say, 100 employees and they all agree to having their receipts online, then it could easily be introduced.

“What we are trying to offer is something that gives exactly the same user experience but without the paper.

“We provide a genuine solution to the problem with receipts, making it easier for people to manage their money and providing a close link between retailers and their customers.”

Dr Hajji, who lives with wife Bouchra and their 18-month son Ryan, said: “If I bought something from Mothercare and it was faulty or harmful and there was a need for a recall of the product, they could send a message to every person who had bought that product rather than spend lots of money on press advertising and run the risk of customers not picking up the information.”

Dr Hajji used to manage software products for IBM Japan in Tokyo and launched ThinkVantage technologies, allowing enterprise to manage and configure PCs securely through the web.

Mr Vernon used to run a hedge fund team and had overall responsibility for the company’s trading, amounting to around hundreds of thousands of pound a day.

The name Ecrebo comes from the Latin “escribo”, which means to have written down and Bebo, the social networking website that was conceived by of Mr Vernon’s fiancée.

Ecrebo will hold presentation evenings at Hotel Du Vin in New Street, Henley, on Tuesday, November 9 and 16, from 6.30pm to 8pm.

The first presentation will be on the environmental aspects of the technology and the second about the benefits for retailers.

Published 08/11/10

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