Paying with a smile

Amber van Rooyen

Account Manager

Faster transaction times, shorter lines, greater hygiene and heightened security…all whilst paying with a smile. Is Mastercard’s Biometric Checkout Program the new payment method of the future?


Paying with a smile
Mastercard have not only thought about issues such as efficiency but have cleverly introduced a change in behaviour into a shoppers experience.

Mastercard wants to promote feelings of safety, trust, and confidence when making a purchase, and what simpler way than releasing a smile does this. When we smile our brains release tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress – linking this to a shopping experience is a clever way to positively change our behaviour when making a purchase.

Mastercard has thought about the feeling of an experience, humanising technology. They are experimenting how a feeling can influence your behaviour and effectively encourage you to use their service more often.


Potential Cons
Whilst this all sounds innovative and exciting, it has raised some concerns – mainly around privacy. There are many unanswered questions, such as; how accurate will facial recognition be? Who will have access to the databases of biometric data? There’s also the issue around algorithms, in that the technology can work almost perfectly when trailed in a lab, but can perform poorly in real life settings, where lighting, angles and other parameters are varied. If the software fails to recognise a customer at the check out, it would be an irritating issue – which would be completely counterproductive.


Why the idea works
Whilst there are some unknowns around this payment method, the idea still works because it changes your behaviour in order to use their product. A smile is a friendly, positive gesture which you will then relate to making a purchase. More smiles equal more transactions!

You’re not limited to just smiling, you are also able to wave to make a payment, however the wave option is a bit misleading: as the customer watches the camera while waving, the camera still scans the face – not the hand. The same can be said for the smile, in that the camera can see your face. From a marketing perspective however, the smile concept works a treat!

The first pilots will launch in May 2022 in Brazil; at five St Marche supermarkets in São Paulo. Shoppers are able to register for biometric payments in store or via an app with their local partner, Payface. The results from these pilots will be the real test, and will more than likely shape the future plans for a mass global market rollout.

KBV Research currently estimates that the Biometric Technology market will reach ​​$18.6 billion by 2026 – it seems that this technology is here to stay and will flourish in our everyday lives. Visa and Amazon are also developing their own biometric systems, following Mastercard’s program.


Will we be smiling when paying for our weekly food shop? Let’s watch this space!





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