The art of biometric payment cards: Why banks need to get design-savvy

December 3, 2020

Lina Andolf-Orup, Senior Director at Fingerprints

Biometric payment cards have ticked several important boxes in the last year. The technology has achieved certification from major payment networks, costs have reduced, and 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%1 of consumers cited design as important, while just 15%2 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.

A makeover on the cards

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 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.

Defining design

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, 1 in 4 over 50s 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 favouring 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…

“Cool card, now what?”

How a technology feels and the UX it delivers is 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 1 in 3 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 as 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.

Last year, we collaborated with UX-specialist BlockZero to create an ‘out of the box’ creative enrollment concept with a companion mobile app, but banks have options to offer to their cardholders, including enrolling via a mobile app, with a powered sleeve, or in-branch. 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 however that both consumers and banks want a simple and secure self-enrollment option and a rich first touch-point with these new cards.

Looking good

From our research, we shaped our new sensor design to be one that struck the perfect balance between modern, personal, and techy, while gesturing to our branding. After all, design savvy cards need a good-looking sensor, too!

Too often, design and UX is shoe-horned in after the fact but for consumers, it is a priority. Already at an early stage we thought about the actual aesthetic design of the new sensor, and not just the technology and performance. For banks rolling out this exciting technology, factoring in ergonomics and design from the start guarantees their customers – and prospective customers – have something they can be proud of, use, trust and maybe even talk about.

Learn more about launching biometric payment cards.  

1 Fingerprints research in collaboration with Kantar, Dec 2019, 1,200 consumers across France, UK, China

2 Fingerprints in collaboration with PayTech, 2019. 25 card issuer/banks in 7 countries


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