In a report last month, the Manchester Evening News ran a rather sensational headline: “Aldi, ASDA, Tesco, Lidl, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s could soon urge you NOT to use cash or card to pay.”
It wasn’t long before the internet was awash with rumors that this-or-that U.K. supermarket was planning to end existing checkout methods in favor of an all-biometric system, with many social media commenters threatening to boycott retailers if they did.
While the rumors turned out to be false, it does seem likely that it won’t be long before biometric payment is offered as an in-store checkout option.
For example, while there has been no official announcement from Tesco — the U.K’s largest supermarket — that it is planning to launch biometric checkout options in its stores, they do have some experience in the field.
Thanks to a partnership with Onfido, since March, Tesco Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesco, has been using biometric authentication to speed up onboarding for users of its Clubcard Pay+ app.
In the U.S., the Amazon One palm reader has been successfully implemented in Amazon Fresh stores as well as in branches of Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market. Considering that both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market have a presence in the U.K., the likelihood they may be rolling out biometric palm-scanning in the country is relatively high.
The report in the Manchester Evening News also referenced that Mastercard had launched the first pilot of its own biometric checkout program.
In partnership with facial recognition technology company Payface, the MasterCard trial has seen fully biometric payments being piloted as a checkout option in five supermarkets across São Paulo. The payment network plans to launch further pilots in the Middle East and Asia soon.
Biometric Identification Already Widespread
While there will inevitably be some resistance from U.K. grocery shoppers to the coming wave of in-store biometrics, in fact, the technology is already widespread in the country as a form of identity verification.
As with elsewhere around the world, biometric scanners are now a common sight in U.K. airports. What’s more, pay-by-finger systems have been in place in certain contexts for years. These systems allow users to load funds to an account, with account ownership then being verified by fingerprint at the point of sale.
They are typically used in closed retail environments that benefit the most from removing cash from the equation, such as school canteens.
Biometric identification technology is also commonly used for mobile wallet payments. Because users have the option to unlock their phone with their fingerprint or face, mobile biometrics now facilitates in-store shopping for many U.K. consumers.
Biometric Checkouts in eCommerce
In May, PYMNTS reported that U.K.-based payment gateway Checkout.com was seeking regulatory approval to acquire French biometric ID verification startup Ubble, which develops AI-powered video authentication software. The expected purchase hints at the payment gateway’s intention to incorporate biometrics into its own checkout experience.
In the eCommerce space, biometrics have the potential to improve the user experience, increase security and decrease the number of declined transactions due to shoppers forgetting their card details or passwords.
And businesses are willing to make the necessary investment to plug this hole for shoppers.
For example, when PYMNTS asked businesses that planned to invest in digital authentication solutions what their reasons for doing so were, 41.6% cited improving the rate of completed transactions as a “very” or “extremely” important factor in their decision.
Read the PYMNTS report: Digital Identity Tracker
Analysis by KBV research suggests that the size of the global market for contactless biometrics technology is expected to reach $18.6 billion by 2026. As biometric authentication is increasingly normalized in British society, it’s more of a question of when, not if, the technology will be available in stores.
Sign up here for daily updates on all of PYMNTS’ Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) coverage.