3 Things We Learnt From Visa’s Biometric Payments Study

image of a finger showing clearly the fingerprint biometric technology

Last year Juniper predicted there would be five billion biometric-authenticated payment transactions by 2019, up from less than 130 million in 2015 (as you can see in our State of Fintech infographic). According to new data from Visa, biometric adoption is certainly on the right track.

The data comes from the company’s comprehensive Biometric Payments Study 2016 done in partnership with Populus, in which it asked 14,000 people from seven European countries about their views on biometrics and how they would prefer to use it in different payment environments.

Here are the three things we learnt:


1. The demand for biometrics is there

There is a demand for biometrics, especially on the consumer side as seven-out-of-ten respondents (68%) say that they want to use biometric tech as a method of payment authentication. There is also a high demand from retailers, in particular online retailers as nearly a third (31%) of people have abandoned a browser-based purchase because of the payment security process.

Jonathan Vaux, executive director of innovation partnerships said:

Biometric identification and verification has created a great deal of excitement in the payments space because it offers an opportunity to streamline and improve the customer experience. Our research shows that biometrics is increasingly recognised as a trusted form of authentication as people become more familiar with using these capabilities on their devices.

According to the study, the main reason that people want to use biometric technology is because they think it will improve their payment experience. Half of the respondents (51%) say that biometric authentication could create a faster and easier payment experience than traditional methods. A third (33%) were drawn to the technology because it would mean that even in the event of their device being stolen, their details would be safe.


2. It’s all about the fingerprint

Visa’s study pointed out that discretion and familiarity with the technology is absolutely crucial for successful adoption. The rise of mobile payments and subsequently the introduction of Apple’s Touch ID and Samsung’s own fingerprint verification means that people are becoming  accustomed to using their fingers to authenticate transactions.

When looking only at the perceived security of biometric technologies, 81% of consumers said they viewed fingerprints as most secure, followed by iris scanning (76%).  Unsurprisingly, this is why more than half (53%) express a preference for fingerprint over other forms of biometric authentication when using it for payment.

Europeans also appear to be rather skeptical about voice or facial recognition (12% and 15% respectively) when paying in-store or online. In the UK, these figures fall to 8% and 12%, respectively, for voice or facial recognition as payment forms.

3. People prefer two-factor authentication

Just under three-quarters of respondents (73%) viewed biometric technology used in conjunction with another security protocol as a secure way of verifying account holder’s identity. Multi-factor authentication methods include the fusion of things like something you own: a mobile phone or payment card; something you are, a fingerprint or voice recognition; and something you know, such as a PIN or a password.

What’s interesting about this stat is that clearly there is an interest in biometric technology, but that is only acute when there is another authentication method in place also. Is it too early for people to trust biometric technology by itself?

Vaux echoes this sentiment:

“…One of the challenges for biometrics is scenarios in which it is the only form of authentication. It could result in a false positive or false negative because, unlike a PIN which is entered either correctly or incorrectly, biometrics are not a binary measurement but are based on the probability of a match.

Biometrics work best when linked to other factors, such as the device, geolocation technologies or with an additional authentication method.

That’s why we believe that it’s important to take a holistic approach that considers a wide range of enabling technologies that contribute to a better end-to-end experience, from provisioning a card to making a purchase to checking your balance.”

Ultimately, it looks like whilst biometrics’ future looks positive, players in this space should accept the fact that it is highly likely to work amongst a range of other security and convenience solutions for the time being at least.

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