Pay By Touch, a San Francisco-based producer of biometrics technology, has developed a biometric authentication payment system that allows consumers to pay for their purchases with the swipe of a finger. Pay By Touch began marketing its technology in 2003 and is quickly gaining momentum, with grocery chains including Albertsons, Piggly Wiggly, Thriftway and Pick’n’Save Metro Market all deploying the solution. Currently, over 15 retailers are using Pay By Touch in over 100 stores.
Customers who wish to rid themselves of the hassle of plastic or checkbooks can sign up for this free service at any participating store and manage their accounts online. At checkout, the customer simply places his or her finger on a small scanner, enters a search code (usually their phone number) and in seconds, the fingerprint is converted to a numerical algorithm and matched to the data stored in Pay By Touch’s database. The customer is presented with an on-screen listing of all his or her checking accounts and credit cards and a “Pay By Touch Wallet,” which besides payment options can contain driver’s license information and store loyalty cards.
Piggly Wiggly, a grocery-store chain based in South Carolina, set out to equip each of its 120 stores with biometric scanners by the end of the year and is rapidly approaching this goal. Before making the decision to fully deploy Pay By Touch, Piggly Wiggly set up a
six-month trial in four of its stores to check out customers’ reactions. “Some people were hesitant,” says Rita Postell, spokesperson for Piggly Wiggly Carolina, “some people asked questions, some people loved it. But enough people have made us feel comfortable over the fact that they really wanted this option.” In fact, 15 to 20 percent of Piggly Wiggly’s customers in the four locations signed up. Given that two locations are in the middle of the state and two are near Charleston, this number is still a significant step, considering computers aren’t necessarily standard in every home.
And Pay By Touch is not the only company providing biometric payment services. BioPay, a competitor in Herndon, Va., supplies about 150 retailers with its units. BioPay’s customers include food franchises such as Quiznos and healthcare professionals such as dentists and chiropractors.
Besides speeding up the checkout process, Pay By Touch and competing biometric payment services can actually save retailers money. If the customers allow the biometrics com-
panies to deduct money directly from their checking accounts, instead of using a credit or debit account, the grocer pays a smaller transaction fee to the Automated Clearing House than it would to a credit card
Customer satisfaction, however, remains the major focus for Piggly Wiggly. By making shopping at its stores faster and more convenient, the company hopes to gain its customers’ loyalty and attract new shoppers. “We do feel like it’s the technology of the future,” says Postell, “and the very near future, because of the security and the convenience and the speed. That’s what our customers are looking for.”