Automate Receipt Processing with OCR and AI to Save Time and Reduce Stress

Let’s take a closer look at what receipt extraction is and how you could use it to save time and money.

 min. read
May 28, 2024
Automate Receipt Processing with OCR and AI to Save Time and Reduce Stress

If your business has a manual process for scanning receipts and then mining them for important data, OCR and machine learning technology could save you hours of labor costs while improving accuracy and lowering stress levels for employees. Let’s take a closer look at what receipt extraction is and how you could use it to save time and money. 

What is Receipt Extraction? 

Receipt extraction is also known as receipt digitization because it’s a process that involves quickly scanning receipts and then exporting information as structured data. Information displayed on a paper receipt is quickly turned into a digital product and then a dataset. You’re essentially using a computer for rapid receipt reading and data processing. 

The manual version of this process is a human looking at a paper receipt and inputting information into a computer. For a loyalty program that rewards consumers for buying select products or spending a specified amount of money in a store, the employee may need to record the date and location of the transaction along with the products purchased and total amount spent. 

Receipt extraction technology speeds this process up by allowing a computer to scan a picture of the receipt and extract that information in just seconds. It’s a way of automating receipt scanning and extraction to collect data faster. 

What happens after data extraction? 

Once data is extracted from a receipt, what happens to the information? When you use an intuitive program like FormX, the data is presented in JSON format. That format is easily incorporated into a variety of other applications using advanced scanner API. That allows you to do a few things while saving time over manual operations: 

  • Complete Other Processes – For our loyalty program example, you may use OCR and AI to quickly extract data from receipts and then input that data into another program where rewards points are issued to individual customers. You can also scan receipts to Excel. The process of verifying receipts is much faster, which in turn speeds up the process of issuing rewards points and encouraging customers to shop again. 
  • Store Information Securely – Once the data is used to complete other processes, you can save it in another application for future reference. You don’t have to save mounds of paper receipts to preserve the data. 
  • Analyze Data – The data you extract from receipts may help you make important business decisions or generate statistics based on past consumer behavior. It can give you insight into what your customers are and are not buying, what they’re willing to pay, and what store locations they prefer. 

Receipt scanner API is important because you don’t want to save time exporting data from receipts only to fall into a time-consuming process using that data later. The benefits of digitizing receipts for automatic receipt processing are maximized when the data retrieval process flows directly into other programs used by your business. 

Why Use Automated Receipt Extraction? 

Saving time is the most obvious benefit to using a scan receipt app. Every task that an employee does manually while on the clock is a financial investment for your company. If you can speed up processes by automating certain tasks, you can improve employee productivity. The fewer manual tasks they must perform, the more time they have to spend on tasks that do require the attention of a human mind or body. 

Why pay employees to manually enter data from receipts when you can train a machine to do that in much less time? Several things can happen from a human resources perspective once you transition from manual receipt data entry to an automated process: 

  • Your employees will have one less manual task to complete each day. That frees them to focus on more important tasks that may otherwise get overlooked or off schedule. 
  • Each employee experiences less stress due to reduced workload. That means heightened employee satisfaction, which helps with retention. 
  • You may find that you need fewer employees. Downsizing data entry allows you to save money on employee wages or pay the talent you do need a more competitive wage with better benefits. 

Data accuracy should also improve with automated receipt extraction. Machines are more accurate than humans and are now capable of learning over time to improve accuracy even more. A machine doesn’t get distracted interruptions across the room or reduce efficiency due to emotions and problems outside the work setting. 

You can also reduce paper clutter and waste when you embrace digitization and automation. Data entry from any paper product is messy business, and the clutter alone can lead to disorganization and reduced accuracy. Automating the process digitally allows you to eliminate the paper, the clutter, and the related mistakes. 

Automated Receipt Extraction Use Cases 

You should now have at least a basic understanding of what an automated receipt scanner is and how it can benefit any business with an interest in scanning receipts for valuable information. It’s time to take a closer look at practical ways businesses are implementing this technology to achieve their goals. You may have unique ways to use the technology, but these cases should give you some practical ideas. 

Invoice Processing 

Invoicing requires a lot of data entry if a business sends or receives invoices in bulk or on a consistent basis. For instance, you may have employees in accounting or finance who manually enter information from every invoice into the company’s accounting software. That is essential to proper financial tracking and may influence everything from taxes to employee bonuses.

FormX can help by automating the data extraction process. Since the extracted data is presented in JSON format, it’s easy to drop the data into the appropriate fields in many accounting software programs. You may still need your employees to analyze and process that data after extraction, but they will spend far less time on invoicing due to the transition to automation. 

Purchase and Sales Order Processing 

Purchase and sales orders are another massive time commitment for many accounting departments. It’s important to store and process information on every order for accurate financial tracking and tax purposes, but it takes a lot of time for employees to do it manually. 

FormX can help by extracting information from purchase and sales orders quickly. That data is easily integrated into your accounting program for safe storage and further processing. 

Loyalty Programs and Shopper Rewards Apps

Many store loyalty programs as well as shopper rewards apps rest on the ability to quickly and accurately extract purchased items from a shopping receipt. For example, think about the millions of receipts that consumers take pictures of using the ShopKick app every year. App users need to purchase specific products to earn points that are then redeemed for gift cards. 

OCR and AI technology makes it possible to quickly scan those receipts for qualifying purchases and then reward points to each consumer in a reasonable amount of time. If a qualifying purchase isn’t found by the automated receipt scanner, a human may look at the receipt to make a final determination of points earned. 

Loyalty programs are great ways to encourage repeat business and drive word-of-mouth recommendations. With FormX, you can automate the processing that is required to make those programs work smoothly. 

Challenges with Traditional OCR 

It sounds simple to train a machine to scan receipts and extract data, but the technology has more potential complications than you may imagine. For starters, receipts don’t have a uniform format. They place information in different places, using a variety of fonts, and may have specialized characters that are unique to one business. 

Many receipts are also scanned into an application by consumers. They aren’t always placed perfectly straight or aligned to the camera lens properly. There are backgrounds around the receipts, and it’s common to process a smudged or faded receipt due to printing issues at the store. Add the imperfections that are introduced during the photographic stage, and you have some images that are difficult even for a machine to read clearly. 

Technology is now advanced enough to overcome these original OCR challenges. Computers can now separate words and numbers from the background while making the image crisper and easier to read. That improves accuracy and reduces the number of receipts that the computer is unable to decipher. 

Whether you’re analyzing digital receipts or printed receipts, advanced AI and machine learning is more accurate than ever for fast data processing. 

How to Automate Receipt Scanning with FormX 

Machine learning is critical to the functioning of FormX. We used thousands of receipt images to train the system to extract a wide variety of data from images regardless of format, font, or even photographic imperfections. Deep learning will allow you to continue training the system for even more accuracy as you utilize our system for receipt extraction. 

The FormX process is as follows: 

  1. Use our pre-trained model to set up your unique receipt scanner form. You can select from a growing list of data types to determine what information is taken from your receipts. 
  2. Go to the “test” tab to initiate a test run. You can input receipts and see the end result quickly. 
  3. Integrate your extracted data into other mobile apps or into your established workflow. Our RESTful API makes integration with a wide variety of applications fast and easy. 

To learn more about our automated receipt scanner, schedule a demo online or sign up to put FormX to work for your business. Take advantage of our free trial, which ensures your first 100 pages are free.