Natural Security Succeeds With French Fingerprint Payments Pilot

What's Next In Payments®
7:04 PM EDT August 11th, 2013

By Chanel Smith, EMEA Editor (@PYMNTS_EMEA)

Timing is everything: a theory Natural Security reaffirmed through its recent six-month trial of fingerprint biometrics payments.

Natural Security, a French biometrics payments technology provider, recently completed its pilot across French supermarket chain Auchan and DIY store Leroy Merlin, which allowed shoppers to pay for goods by scanning their fingers.

“The objective of the pilot was to study the technical aspects of biometrics and contactless technology, and collect and understand customers’ and retailers’ reactions,” Dominique Pierre, North American business manager at Natural Security, told PYMNTS.com.

What they discovered about biometric payments – a technology many have previously failed to establish – turned out to be even more promising than they expected.

The pilot took place in Villeneuve-d’Ascq and Angouleme in the north of France. The fingerprint technology had high adoption rates, attracted over 900 customers and facilitated over 5,000 payment transactions. Interestingly, more women participated in the trial (53 percent), and the most prominent segment with the highest participation rates were coupled partners and homeowners.

“Feedback was very good. Ninety-four percent of participants were ready to use this payment, Pierre said. “The average transaction amount was €58.60, which is 15 percent higher than the value of average card payments in France.”

The figures illustrate a high adoption rate and successful trial, but this wasn’t the first time biometric scanning entered the payments sector. San Francisco-based company Pay By Touch was founded in 2002 and launched a similar biometric payment device across the United States’ grocery chain, Albertson’s, in March 2006. However, after only a couple years on the market, customers across the United States were surprised to find the service had suddenly vanished. The company was forced to shut down due to a lack of biometric transactions and an insufficient customer following.

Natural Security made it a point to take note from its predecessors, avoiding past mistakes by understanding the trials and tribulations of biometric payments.

“We have been talking with pretty much everyone that used to work in this company, asking them to share with us their feedback,” Pierre explained to PYMNTS.com.

Natural Security said that its new solution differs from those created by companies in the past. Other companies did not require consumers to carry anything with them during the biometric transaction. All customers had to do was place their fingers on the device, and everything was submitted and verified on the cloud. However, Natural Security requires consumers to carry a device with them. If consumers do not have this device with them, then they are not able to make the transaction.

“This is a critical parameter. All of the data is inside the device with the cardholder, and it is always under control with this person, which helps security and reassurance. The data can only be accessed once the biometric has been controlled and successfully verified,” Pierre said.

Pierre said Natural Security’s most surprising feedback from the trial was finding out that consumers have a high expectation for payments companies to find a replacement, or compliment to, the PIN. Not only do they want more security, but convenience is a key factor as well.

Natural Security’s feedback proves that French consumers are enthusiastic about fingerprint payments, which is a far cry from hesitant consumer reactions a few years back. Perhaps consumers were not ready to adopt such high-tech payments, but the success of this six-month trial suggests otherwise.

Pierre concluded, “An interesting thing we found, is that many people are very interested in new technology, especially biometrics.”

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