Face-off: How age verification technology is speeding up the supermarket experience

John Abbott, Director of Partnerships at digital identity app Yoti, argues new age verification technology within supermarkets presents the opportunity for retailers to offer a secure and seamless self-checkout experience for customers.

Since its invention in the 1980s, the self-checkout has become an essential fixture for supermarkets. Seen as a key piece of technology across the industry, it has undoubtedly eased queues and sped up waiting times for shoppers. However, there are a handful of scenarios where self-checkouts can contribute to longer waiting times. When scanning a bottle of wine through a self-checkout, for example, an exasperated shopper needs to wait for a member of staff to approve the sale. But all too often, the supermarket employee is too busy helping another customer or is dealing with another issue before they can come and check your ID.

The staff approval premise is easy to understand – supermarkets cannot break the law by selling alcohol to minors. However, in 2019 there should surely be easier ways for these sales to go ahead without the laborious process of staff having to approve age restricted items?

Modern shoppers want speed and convenience, both online and in person. Waiting for age approval at self-checkouts is a source of frustration for many shoppers, who just want to get home as quickly as possible. High street retailers therefore need to keep up with the pace of consumers’ online habits, and deliver fast and frictionless transactions.

But change is coming. New technology is being trialled that lets shoppers prove their age at self-checkouts, without the need for intervention. Customers will be able to face the self-checkout’s inbuilt camera and in a matter of seconds the technology will determine a predicted age for that person. There is no need for them dig around for ID documents or wait for a supermarket employee to come over and help. They can simply scan their items, scan their face to prove their age, checkout and head home.

Some of the world’s largest supermarkets are set to trial this new technology over the coming months, providing a frictionless experience for the customer and allowing employees to focus on enhancing the overall shopping experience, rather than check IDs. The self-checkout was, and still is, an indispensable innovation but needs to keep up with customer demand and modernise if it is to improve the customer experience further.

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