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By Jonathan Andresen, Senior Director, Incode Technologies 

The ways in which we pay for our goods and services has historically tended to advance slowly. Both consumers and businesses alike have been reluctant to change their payment methods from those they feel most familiar with. The pandemic changed everything. 

Contactless payments became a necessity. The UK is a case-in-point, at the beginning of the pandemic in June 2019, 65% of face-to-face payments were completed using contactless technology, whereas by June 2022 this had increased to 87%. 

However, while contactless payments proved a convenient and practical means of safeguarding people’s health during the pandemic, the technology is not without risk. Concerns over the ease of committing financial fraud has been a common criticism of contactless payment technologies, with the being a need to ensure users are protected from losing their money. Enter biometric authentication. 


The Rise Of Contactless Payment

Since 1995 when the Seoul Bus Transport Association introduced the world’s first contactless payment card for commuters, contactless methods of payment have been on a steady increase. And whilst the Covid-19 pandemic discouraged physical human contact including physical currency exchange, the use of contactless payment drastically accelerated. 

Demographic groups who have tended to be the most reluctant to adopt newer forms of technology – such as the elderly – have seen their usage of contactless payments dramatically increase. Governments across the world have encouraged this change by repeatedly raising the spending limit for contactless payments. When contactless cards were first introduced in the UK in 2007, the limit was set to just £10. Today, the limit is £100. 

Ecommerce has also seen a dramatic increase during the pandemic, causing businesses to rapidly scale their digital presence. As many consumers are now accustomed to a digital customer experience, they seek that same efficiency in their real-world commerce interactions. 

As a result, consumers have a higher customer expectation in their non-digital experience. Over half of Gen Z and millennial consumers worldwide were reported to likely avoid shopping with retailers that don’t offer contactless payment. This is an indication for the future of our payment habits, and businesses that acknowledge and provide such effortless means of paying while also ensuring customer privacy should expect to see the most success. 


Using Biometrics to Meet Customer Changing Expectations

Ensuring privacy and data protection is principal concern and expectation of the consumer experience. With financial fraud on the rise year-by-year, businesses are looking to provide payment methods that are both seamless and secure. Contactless modes of payment are increasingly using biometric technology to ensure both requirements are met. Physical characteristics, such as facial features, fingerprints, and voice, are unique and serve to differentiate us. As no two faces, fingerprints, or voices are the same, the security it offers is much greater than a debit/credit card that can easily be lost or stolen. In the year of 2020 alone, £78.9 million was calculated as losses related to “lost or stolen” fraud on UK-issued debit and credit cards. A physical feature such as a fingerprint cannot be stolen, and neither can it be dropped down the side of a sofa. 

Authenticating a payment using biometric technology is already in use across multiple sectors, online and in the real world. Kenneth Research forecasted the global biometric payment market to grow 36 times in size between 2018 and 2027. The success of biometrics as a commonplace method of authenticating contactless payments has in large part been driven by mobile phones. In 2020, an estimated 80 percent of active phones in North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific were enabled with biometrics, an increase from 60 percent in 2016. Not only do biometrics offer an additional layer of security to the more traditional ‘tap and go’ contactless transactions, but they have also been found to speed up the whole payment process. According to a study by Visa data, 70% of consumers judged biometric payments as an easier way to pay.  

As consumers continue to see the advantages of using biometrics, businesses are looking for other ways they can include biometrics in the customer experience


Contactless Experiences Beyond Payments

The future of biometric authentication will go beyond the payment process, and contactless experiences using biometrics across all sectors is already a reality. Contactless experiences are those that offer a seamless, digital customer experience across different touch points. They can be used to verify a customer’s identity, inspire brand loyalty, and create a highly personalised customer experience. The Jumeirah Group – a luxury hotel and hospitality service in Dubai – began using biometric authentication in May to create a streamlined guest experience. Jumeirah’s platform automatically creates a digital profile for every guest based on their identity and payment information. The check-in process can then be completed en route to the hotel using facial biometrics, and the process continues at the venue itself with biometric contactless payments used to charge services directly to the guest’s account. 

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the adoption of contactless payment solutions has drastically accelerated, and consumers continue to embrace new methods of rendering their customer experiences easier and safer. Using biometrics to validate an individual’s identity offers the solution to the changing priorities of the consumer by providing an enhanced security for the end user, while also ensuring a faster and more convenient experience. The possibilities of using biometrics in the customer experience are many and are applicable across all sectors. Considering the extensive ways in which biometrics can be used in authentication processes, gone is the need to remember passwords and pin numbers. The most unique password is, and always has been, yourself.


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