What to do about those pesky receipts.

Yesterday I looked at a receipt from a recent purchase and saw an offer at the bottom for a featured product of the week. It was on sale through September 9! The problem with this is that this receipt was handed to me on September 16.

I love using receipts for promotion and here are a few guidelines for doing so.

  • Keep your message short. Have you ever read a long paragraph on a receipt? Billboards are huge, and they’re limited to eight words for effectiveness. The receipt message should be a short, clever way to draw awareness to a single book, service, or event. Resist the urge to promote more than one message.
  • One exception to this guideline is a list. A friend showed me a receipt from a large bricks-and-mortar bookstore that read, “We think you might be interested in these books, too.” It then listed four titles that were completely unrelated to each other, had nothing to do with the books she had purchased, and really made no sense. But you know what? She read the list. And so did I. In my opinion, four titles is too many, and it’s a little odd to pretend you have an algorithm tracking purchases for future recommendations. But if your store is heavily promoting a fiction and non-fiction title, and perhaps a children’s title, it would be fine to include those in list form, because you should be able to back-up those recommendations.
  • If your message has an expiration date, the last step in creating that message should be setting a reminder in your calendar or on your phone to change the message *before* the offer ends. If a customer misses an offer because they forgot to look at their receipt, they’ll be more likely to look at future receipts. If they missed an offer because you promoted it after the fact, they’ll not likely look again.

I know that changing a message in the POS system during store hours can be difficult because you’re prone to interruption. Looking at receipt messages should be part of your opening/closing procedures. Why give it so much power? Every day, hundreds of these little advertisements walk out of your store. That gives you hundreds of opportunities to shine. Or hundreds of times to miss the mark.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay