Each week, we’re going to share with you our take on an important current eCommerce trend. Amazon is very close to unrolling facial authentication for completing purchases.
Basically, it will be like a password or Touch ID for completing a purchase.
While not the first (MasterCard already introduced its Identity Check suite of technologies to banks), Amazon’s move is important as it is a trendsetter in the eCommerce world. Alibaba is working on a similar technology, Smile to Pay, but apparently is not ready to launch yet.
It looks like a logical development since there are hardly any users left who don’t have cameras on their devices. We’re already taking selfies for fun, why not make confirming an order on Amazon fun and easy too, right? Yes, people are tired of typing of passwords and forgetting them so simplifying the whole process is great.
Amazon has found a way to eliminate fraud by including a verification step – after taking the selfie, you’ll be prompted to smile, wink (or maybe stick your tongue out, who knows) to confirm you’re a human being. Well, that’s cool. Not very fond of making faces in front of a camera myself, but who cares.
Facial recognition can be a really powerful technology and, if used well, can be pretty safe, too. After all, each face is really unique and once the problem with faking a selfie is solved, it should work.
Is the solution great, though?
We’ll examine a few concerns that may get in the way of the innovation to becoming mainstream.
The retail giant promises the new technology won’t be imposed on users, but will rather be an extra step of security.
Do people want another step? What happened to removing steps from the checkout and the 1-click checkout? If they were so worried about security, would they be ordering on their phones?
Let’s wait and see. It might not slow down the process. Or it might mess up the holy 1-click checkout experience. Meanwhile, you can enjoy our humorous guide on improving your checkout page from a user point of view.
As a trendsetter, will Amazon kind of force other retailers to follow suit? Is it reasonable to expect an outbreak of apps and plugins claiming to do something similar? And should smaller eCommerce businesses worry about the trends?
We’d like to think no. Yes, Amazon is a market leader and innovator but others are still in business even without a Prime of their own or any of the other gimmicks it has at its disposal
It’s yet to see whether Amazon has done it right – facial recognition is a complex technology. Think about the fact that it has to compare the selfie to a database every time. We don’t know how long it will take and users will worry if they took it “right” – to match, well, themselves.
I, personally, will be very interested to see how the technology tells identical twins from each other.
Also, smaller businesses often don’t offer all payment methods, desired by their customers. Worrying about facial recognition before offering Google Wallet or Stripe payment is putting the cart before the horse.
Last, but not least on this point: your customers shop from you for many reasons and they won’t switch to Amazon because they want to pay with a selfie. If they do switch, it’d be because it’s easier, faster, more fun, or goes smoothly.
You can work on your checkout process and make it such without facial recognition. Some of the old tricks still work. For now, you can innovate slowly
Profiling. Users will lose the last bit of privacy when shopping online – their physical appearance. Yes, apps have access to files on their phones and social media profiles, but these are somewhat manageable. People can generally control what they disclose online. They can upload fake pictures or avatars. They can use nicknames.
Now, they have to put down the mask (nobody said the Internet is a truly authentic place) and hold the phone up for a selfie. Their order history, payments, preferences are tied to that face.
Can you imagine how powerful and scary this is?
People shop online for all kinds of reasons, anonymity included. Not anymore.
Shapewear, “How to be happy again?” books, all clothes on sale, special need cosmetics and all sorts of purchases people don’t go around sharing on social media are going to be connected to THAT face. It’s uncomfortable to think about.
What’s next? Reengagement taken to a whole new level?
“Hey, you look tired on your last selfie. You want some brightening foundation?”
Yes, I’m going too far, but it’s worth having in mind.
But profiling is absolutely possible.
User features like race and age (less accessible up to now) can be connected to specific shopping habits. Imagine how much more data that is. From a seller’s point of view, it’s a gold mine. From a buyer’s point of view, it’s using characteristics like race to explain behavior and sell more, which is to put mildly, offensive.
And what about attractiveness? The software measures proportions and can surely “calculate attractiveness” – how close they are to what’s considered beautiful according to data. Can such comparisons be stored and used?
Of course, customer segmentation is necessary, but not on these criteria.
I’m not even going deeper into all the controversy that can arise from segmenting customers on physical appearance. Not to get paranoid, but another debate on racism and politics is not what we need. Let’s just hope for the best.
While desktop still holds the first place in conversions, maybe customers are a bit more conservative than online retailers are hoping for.
Not everybody takes selfies all the time. I know I don’t and I certainly don’t want to start now. While it’s just an additional way of confirming an order, many customers may feel uncomfortable to adopt it.
And let’s not forget – we just got grandma ”on the Internet”, do you want to catch her like, “oh, just paying for that new ball of yarn here. But let me take a selfie first.”
The game is changing, but it’s not very likely Amazon’s new perk will turn it all upside down. The real eCommerce trend is user friendliness and utilizing behaviors people have already adopted.
This way online shopping blends completely with other everyday activities. Time will tell if customers are ready to give up privacy completely in exchange for easy checkout.
As a refresher, it’s still not too late to check the major eCommerce trends that we expect this year in terms of technology, design, and UX.
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