Friday, September 29, 2006

Biometrics to Change Relationships

Biometrics to Change Relationships
George Anderson

John Costello has an impressive resume as a marketing executive with Home Depot, Sears and Yahoo. His new job, president of the biometric payment company Pay By Touch, doesn't seem as prestigious at first glance, but don't tell that to Mr. Costello.

As far as he is concerned, he is in exactly the right place, he told Ad Age, because he believes biometric systems have the potential to transform the relationship among consumers, retailers and manufacturers."

As he sees it, marketing is in the process of evolving from mass communications to one-to-one relationships. In the future, as he sees it, consumers could pay for groceries with a touch of a finger at an in-store kiosk and, at the same time, receive offers based on their personal preferences and previous shopping behavior.

There still appears to be a long way to go before Mr. Costello's future vision has the opportunity to be realized. Pay By Touch is still in the early stages of development, testing its system in 2,400 stores.

Discussion Question: What do you see as the potential of biometric technology in retail operations?

The Return of John Costello - (free reg. required)

Comments... Send in Yours!

Oh, yes. Nothing says "close relationships" like fingerprinting someone or doing a retina scan. Len Lewis, President, Lewis Communications, Inc.

When Pay by Touch and their (former) top competitor, BioPay (which was bought by PBT) first came onto the scene, their proposition to the customer was speed and convenience, while helping the retailer to transfer a significant amount of transactions from the more expensive "credit card" transactions to some lesser expensive form of cash transaction.

To the extent that Pay by Touch wins over shoppers with their biometric option, their marketing programs to achieve "critical mass" participation from shoppers will dictate the financial success of the core product, on the premise of less expensive transactions fueling the ROI.

But in my view, what John Costello understood when he came on board as CEO of PBT was that the core business proposition had to change from a "payment system" alternative, to a "customer recognition system." The latter, broader vision of the role of biometrics enables PBT to begin to partner with other one-to-one, CRM solutions. This synergy, plus the acquisition of Bio Pay, has propelled PBT into a position of market leadership. Now the outstanding question is whether or not the propositions to both retailer, brand, and end customer are compelling enough to drive acceptance and usage.

My bet is yes; with time and the right engagement programs, biometrics and PBT has a real chance of becoming a real alternative to credit card transactions and frequent shopper card swiping.

Mark Heckman, VP, Retail Insights, Sorensen Associates, Inc.

Pay By Touch

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