Design matters just as much as tech for biometric cards

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Biometric payment cards have ticked several important boxes in the last year. The technology has achieved certification from major payment networks, costs have fallen, manufacturing has become simpler and the first commercial launches have begun.

But as more banks move to offer this technology to their customers, it is important to consider design. The look and feel of any new technology is central to its success among consumers, but it can be commonly overlooked or an afterthought. In fact, when asked about biometric payment cards, 30% of consumers cited design as important, while just 15% of banks we spoke to had it on their agenda.

But why is it so important? And what considerations have already been made to ensure this technology offers not only a technical edge, but a desirable addition to a bank’s offering?

Even before the pandemic, the physical bank branch was dying out as consumers moved to digital, on-demand services. As such, the payment card is one of the few remaining physical relationships customers have with their bank.

Mobile-centric challenger banks have captured the attention of consumers with design and user-experience (UX) at the heart of their strategy. Beautiful cards alongside sleek mobile apps are helping them build bigger brands, with the traditional card reimagined by the likes of Monzo with its bright coral card, Starling with its sleek, minimalist front and vertical orientation, and Klarna with its card delivered to you in a fluffy "fur-lined" envelope. Other banks have even launched "design-your-own" options.

For traditional banks, there’s a huge opportunity to strengthen relationships and build customer loyalty, especially when launching a new technology. The opportunity to strengthen brand is key, which is just one of the reasons the latest generation of fingerprint sensor for cards is even smaller, meaning more space to play with on-card, and hence more space for banks to build their brand.

For banks, there’s a business case for a wide scope of consumer segments with biometric payment cards – from millennials and gen Z, to business, more premium, or older customers. While unsurprisingly younger demographics rated the card design’s importance highest, one in four over 50 years old also noted it as significant factor.

So, any design needs to appeal to a broad audience, but what exactly do consumers want to see from their biometric payment card? We sought feedback from consumers to help decide our latest sensor design and the responses made interesting reading.

"Modern" and "personal" were the highest rated design traits across all age groups and geographies, with Europeans especially favored a "modern" design. It makes sense – the excitement of getting the latest technology would undoubtedly be dimmed if it looked just like any old bank card. Interestingly, the Chinese market ranked a techy feel as important too, with over 50% marking it as a preference.

We also wanted to see how different designs made consumers feel. Here there was some variance but undeniably, responses show that consumers felt that having the biometric sensor in the card was something to be excited about and to show off. Crucially, consumers also responded that it was easy to understand how to use the sensor from the design. Which leads me to another important aspect.

How a technology feels and the UX it delivers are closely intertwined with design. On this point, our research also found a gap between banks and consumer opinion. Nearly half of consumers cited usability, how the card feels, and knowing where to place their finger as a priority, while just one in three banks saw it as a concern.

Consumers are quick to feel frustrated and abandon new technologies if they are too complex or difficult to use. Poor design can easily lead to poor UX, compromising successful onboarding and adoption even after significant investment.

The enrollment process is another vital aspect. Our consumer research and trial feedback has shown just how important this initial "meeting" with your new payment card is. Enrolling your fingerprint needs to be intuitive and uncomplicated at a minimum. To truly make biometric payment cards a success, consumers need to feel engaged and excited from the get-go, as well as trust that their new card is going to work from first tap in store.

Banks need to carefully consider their customer base to select what option best fits, as undoubtedly the preferred way to enroll will differ between markets and demographics. From our research it’s clear that both consumers and banks want a simple and secure self-enrollment option and their first touch-point with these new cards should be rich.

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Biometrics Cards Banking Payment processing Digital payments