Magazine Article | May 18, 2006

Biometric Solution Supports Personalized Loyalty Program

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

A supermarket’s payment and loyalty program enables customers to access electronic wallets and store discounts via finger images.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2006

Green Hills is a family-owned supermarket in Syracuse, NY. Its managers take great pride in pioneering new technology in this one-store operation. In fact, it was one of the first supermarkets to deploy loyalty cards, having done so in 1993. Green Hills CEO Gary Hawkins achieved significant gains in margin and customer retention with the loyalty program by collecting and analyzing data and using it to personalize the store’s marketing. As a result, he began consulting and advising other retailers (and other industry executives) on how to accomplish this. Accordingly, Hawkins started a consulting company called Hawkins Strategic, through which he consults for retailers and manufacturers, including global consumer goods manufacturers. Hawkins often uses the Green Hills supermarket as a laboratory, where he experiments with new marketing strategies.

“Two years ago, Pay By Touch contacted me to see if I was interested in pursuing using biometrics to enhance the loyalty program at Green Hills,” says Hawkins. “After significant research, we decided to deploy a payment and loyalty program, called SmartShop, powered by Pay By Touch, at our store. SmartShop is accessed by customers using their fingers, so the loyalty program is distinguishable by individual and by household, and discounts are provided that way as well.”

“Existing customers who choose to continue participation in Green Hills’ loyalty program enroll in the SmartShop program by creating a new identification code through Pay By Touch,” says Hawkins. “Customers can enroll in just the loyalty program or the loyalty program combined with an automated wallet of payment methods. The system accepts any payment method customers choose — any type and any number of credit cards or ACH [automatic clearing house] transactions.” Customers can enroll while visiting the store or the store Web site, in which case the customers’ finger images are linked to their account information during their next visit to the store. 

Finger Provides Access To Coupons, Rewards, Payment Methods
When using SmartShop, customers receive store offers through a store kiosk (by placing fingers on a sensor to access their personalized accounts), e-mail, or a pre-established, personalized Web page. The account also provides access to an online grocery list, the weekly store advertisement, and personalized advertisements. Household members can create grocery lists through the store’s Web site that can be accessed later and printed in the store by another member of the household to complete the necessary shopping. Upon checkout, the shopper places a finger over the sensor to redeem personal and public sales discounts. Payment options also are accessed in this manner, as are store rewards, such as free merchandise, and other store promotions. Historical purchase information is made available to the Pay By Touch system. A library of possible personalized offers (currently 150 offers per week) is available. These are compared to each shopper’s purchase history, and 20 personalized offers are presented to each customer each week. This number may increase; it was selected initially because it fit nicely on an 8½-by-11-inch piece of paper.

The program was deployed in mid-April of this year, so statistical results are not yet available. Green Hills’ employees had been using the solution for a few months prior to going public. Since the program was made available to the public, many shoppers have signed up for at least the loyalty program. Furthermore, the first week SmartShop was available to the public, Green Hills completed 10% of all sales transactions biometrically. “We are hoping we can eventually phase out our existing loyalty cards,” says Hawkins. “We plan to continue with our weekly ad flyers; however, we are sure that we can continue to generate cost savings by making the distribution of the ad flyers more efficient over time.”

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