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Piggly Wiggly Touches New Payment Ground

Grocery store customers 'give the finger' to make payments with Pay By Touch technology.

Supermarkets are giving new meaning to "giving the finger." Customers of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. (Charleston) now have the choice of scanning their fingers for payment instead of paying with cash or cards, according to technology provider Pay By Touch (San Francisco).

The technology, currently being used by four Piggly Wiggly grocery stores throughout South Carolina, uses finger scanning to store 40 data points derived from the saved fingerprint of a customer. The data points are connected to a data match, which is linked to the customer's payment information, such as a credit card or checking account.

The customer can choose the payment method at the point of sale. The finger scan essentially becomes an electronic version of the customer's wallet, according to Eric Bachman, chief operating officer, Pay By Touch. "We allow a consumer to access their wallet," Bachman says. "We create for them an electronic wallet containing anything they want to pay with."

The electronic information linked to the finger scan also verifies personal information, such as date of birth from a driver's license, when a customer needs to show ID for alcohol or tobacco purchases. Additionally, customers enrolled in the program can take advantage of store reward programs and receive discounts on their purchases, similar to making purchases with cash, credit or check methods.

Once customers enroll in the program, the Pay By Touch technology takes multiple readings of their fingers and creates a personal search code as a secondary check, in addition to the fingerprint, to help authenticate identifications, Bachman says. Regardless of which store or state they are in, customers can scan their fingers and select a payment option every time they pay.

According to Bachman, customers are excited about the new payment option because of the reduced time it takes to pay. Nearly three-quarters of the stores' customers signed up for the finger payment program during the first month of the launch, he relates. "We were able to sign up over 70 percent of the customer base of each of those locations within the first 30 days of the deployment of the system - without any consumer incentive," he says. "They love that it's quick, easy and safe, and it speeds them through the line."

While customers like the ease of scanning their fingers, the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores are realizing the benefits of faster customer service, quicker identification and easier management of payments, Bachman says. The ability to do age verification at the time of payment also has limited the grocer's liability in regard to selling items such as lottery tickets, tobacco and alcohol to minors.

Proof of Protection

Customer data isn't simply stored on the supermarket shelves; it is housed in secure data centers. According to Bachman, the fingerprint data points and customer information are encrypted. The encrypted information is then stored in the company's database at IBM facilities. And, "We do not share our data with anyone," Bachman stresses.

Financial institutions are also looking into Pay By Touch technology for secure identity verification, according to Caroline McNally, chief marketing officer, Pay By Touch. Banks "will ask me, 'When can I get this at my bank?' Or, 'When can I use this at the ATM?'" she says.

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