I wrote recently that receipts are the the new check-ins. And now companies are emerging that are trying to roll up the receipt collection process for consumers. One smart new business doing this: Itemize. It scans your e-mail receipts to build a profile of your favorite brands, and then it sends you deals so you can get the stuff you like at a discount.
"We are receipt geeks," CEO Jim Thomas told me. He previously worked on analytics for MasterCard, which you'd think would have the mother lode of data when it comes to analyzing what people like. But think again: credit card companies know where you shop, but not what you buy. "I wanted to build a Pandora for shopping," Thomas said.
There are two challenges facing Itemize. First, it needs a diet of receipts to work. Pretty much everything you buy online will generate an e-mail receipt, which works to its favor, but things you buy in physical retail stores generally don't--except for, say, the stuff you get at the Apple store. Thomas believes more retailers will be following Apple's lead, though.
Itemize will get a physical-receipt-scanning app eventually. The iPhone app for that is being built. Thomas does think that physical receipts will eventually vanish, but not soon enough.
The other problem: So you have this mailbox full of e-mail receipts. How do you get them to Itemize? The service gets your receipts by scanning your live inbox. You give it access to your mail (it works on Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and several other mail providers) and it watches for receipts. Thomas says the service does not keep your e-mail nor read anything that it doesn't at first determine is a receipt, but there will be consumers, like me, who don't like the idea of giving yet another third party access to their communication.… Read more