Amazon and Mastercard expand biometric checkout tech amid consumer demand

Amazon plans to bring its frictionless checkout technology to more locations.
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Halie LeSavage

· 4 min read

In 2021, Retail Brew had the privilege of testing Amazon’s palm-scanning technology at an Amazon Go store in New York City.

Two years later, Amazon and other companies are putting the tech in front of more consumers as retailers seek to cut down on checkout times and increase customer loyalty—indirect ways of boosting sales. Customers can avoid fumbling with their wallets and handbags to pull out credit, loyalty or membership cards at checkout counters, creating a more streamlined and efficient shopping experience, Chad Desjardins, general manager of Amazon One, told Retail Brew in an email.

In 2020, Amazon introduced Amazon One, which allows customers to check out by scanning the palm of their hand. Today, the technology is available at Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods, but the company has also introduced it to third-party locations as well.

  • Amazon One works by linking a credit card to the palm-reading device, which creates a signature in less than a minute after the hand is scanned. Once it’s linked, shoppers check out by hovering their palm over the Amazon One device, and the linked card is charged for their purchase and loyalty benefits are automatically applied.
  • Amazon’s goal was to reduce friction and lessen checkout times. Desjardins said it’s a quick and—more importantly—secure way for people to identify themselves while going about their day.

“Protecting customer data and safeguarding privacy are foundational design principles of Amazon One,” Desjardins said. “Amazon One is protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the device…We do not share your palm images with anyone.”

Hand in hand: Panera is the latest third party to pilot Amazon One and will start rolling out the capability to its loyalty members over the next few months. In addition to connecting to a customer’s credit card, customers can link their loyalty accounts, which come with meal recommendations based on preferences and previous purchases, and employees can communicate available rewards.

  • George Hanson, Panera’s SVP and chief digital officer, told Restaurant Dive that the company will closely evaluate speed of service in determining the tech’s effectiveness.
  • Additionally, consumer satisfaction will be a key metric, as he said Panera believes a streamlined POS experience will enhance the relationship between shoppers and workers.
  • Hanson said if the pilot works, Panera will expand it to 10–20 cafés in St. Louis and Seattle ahead of a nationwide launch.
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“Over half of our sales are loyalty sales,” Hanson said. “On Day One in that café, half of the [sales] volume are eligible guests who could benefit from this.”

No swiping: Mastercard is currently piloting a biometric checkout solution that links a credit card to a customer’s palm or face. The company launched the pilot a year ago in partnership with Brazilian supermarket chain St. Marche. Mastercard has since expanded the pilot to markets in the Middle East and Asia, Nili Klenoff, SVP of product innovation and identity solutions, told Retail Brew.

  • A Mastercard survey of shoppers who set up and enrolled in Mastercard’s PayFace pilot found that 90% were comfortable with the tech, and 76% would strongly recommend it to a friend.
  • The market for biometric technology is expected to reach $18.6 billion by 2027, according to Markets and Markets data.

“From just the behavior and the habituation to the technology, we’ve observed at MasterCard that consumers are comfortable with the technology,” Klenoff said. “When you look at what made us pursue this particular really comes down to consumer comfort with the technology, and then that growing demand to use that technology in more places.”

Zoom out: Biometric checkout isn’t only POS technology. Its applications can be much broader, including outside of retail like work or a concert venue. Amazon One, for example, is also currently available at travel retailers like Hudson and Crews at airports in Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, and Los Angeles, stadiums such as T-Mobile Park and Lumen Field, and entertainment and sports venues such as T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

“Businesses are increasingly adopting Amazon One because their customers love the speed, convenience, and contactless nature of palm recognition, and we expect to continue rolling it out to more locations across the US,” Desjardins said.

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.