October 2, 2013



How one little finger helped redefine the touch-point

In a recent keynote by Apple to herald the latest iPhone sequel, the long-awaited finger print identification feature was revealed. At this point, like myself, many digital marketers and developers turned their attention, and imaginations, to the next generation of touch-points in their consumer journeys.

For many of you who may not realise the significance in marketing terms, this new feature allows users to instantly and securely identify themselves. You get that part I’m sure. But this means we may be able to scale this experience into one touch purchasing, one touch registration and a myriad of one touch opportunities for app developers worldwide. While I’ve since heard developers and thought leaders saying this may only replace your username, I am more hopeful it’s going to replace your PIN.

The touch-point plays a pivotal role in every consumer journey. An opportunity to engage, exchange and be persuasive with consumers at various points along the consideration path. These actions ultimately lead to an enquiry, a request, a sale, and hopefully some customer lifetime value. We’re not talking just digital here, we’re talking physical environments as well. As a strong advocate of mapping consumer journeys for brands and creating valuable and more relevant exchanges (touch-points), the ability for a smart phone or tablet user to engage or commit with just the touch of a finger has much appeal.

A good example is an online store which will generally provide you with a responsive or adaptive user experience on tablet and mobile. This experience is still rich and relevant until you need to check out. With finger print identification, or reliable biometric technology, this could well become the one touch checkout, and dramatically increase conversion rates and online sales. While there are other wallet apps by apple, google, paypal and visa, which are here or on the way to make mobile checkout sane, the perception of finger print analysis adds a layer of security. And these apps will surely combine or merge the finger print into their experience. So we’re talking about delivering the same benefit sooner rather than later – fast and impulsive check out.

Secondly, anyone looking to drive leads or deeper engagement via mobile will relish the opportunities around this technology. Simple one touch registration, one touch enquiry or one touch acknowledgement means the development community will take advantage of what data can be procured from your finger.

Like a lot of innovative features, consumers will need to trust, see and believe there is genuine benefit. The value of just one touch will undoubtedly be rigorously debated and scrutinised from a privacy and data protection point of view. But, if consumers are genuinely convinced by this technology, and it spreads as you would expect after what we’ve seen from smart-phone innovation over the last decade, our fingers will indeed, and quite ironically, redefine the touch-point.

While this is the starting point, how far can a technology like this scale? Mobile POS is already making serious in-roads in bricks and mortar retail. Check out the big banks’ apps and extended offerings for small business and mobile POS like Leo from the CBA. While your finger will belong to your mobile, this technology will surely help scale POS to an omnipresent status. With a world where all of us are carrying our own connected personal devices, you’ll be able to buy products and decide whether you pay on your own POS or the retailer’s POS. If it isn’t already, POS will be replaced with a new buzzword. I’m also strongly sensing the term ‘cash register’ is doomed.

Speaking of buzzwords, here’s another one: ‘somolo’ – social, mobile and location. Looking at what Westfield Labs, Google and other developers are rumoured to be working on, social and location based interaction and notification is another big talking point influencing our points of sale.

Walk into a premium Shopping Centre one day soon and your smart phone will lead you on a tour of your preferred retailers or record your journey. While you’re on the move it will disrupt your rhythm with notifications on relevant offers. Walk in and redeem from your phone or resist and join their VIP club with just a wave or touch. Next time, it will know a little bit more about you and try a little more on as well. Of course, you’ll still have to set your preferences and permissions to allow this adventure to take place, but it’s more sci-fact than fiction.

Biometric technology has been alive and well for decades. I saw it being used to secure a bank vault in Melbourne’s CBD ten years ago. Very expensive back then, but not any more. Finger print technology will scale, and so will our dependence on the smart phone in society. Not only in developed countries like ours, but in developing ones as well. Where mobile usage is at high proportions, in both major cities and rural areas, it won’t be long before this technology makes its way down the R&D cycle into cheaper handsets. Close to 50% of the world’s population is till rural. This could turn out to be a great thing for these societies. It may not.

But if you think I’m getting carried away with optimism, let’s put things into perspective. We’re in a constant flux, a tech race. So it’s the finger this week from Apple and maybe the retina I.D. next week for Google glass. Samsung will then make a call on which approach suits their approach. A smart watch would work better with a finger. Maxwell Smart had a shoe phone with a ring dial. Nothing seems that far fetched anymore. Perhaps the DNA ID is on the drawing board somewhere – ‘simply lick the screen to confirm’.

Like social, mobile and location technology which has already penetrated our lives and our cars for that matter, the finger print ID will enrich and extend these experiences. Look out for it at a touch-point near you.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then your finger print may well be mightier than the PIN one day. It’s time for your finger to redefine the touch-point.

LinkedIn: Paul Giorgilli, Founder