Peter Chisnall, Mastercard Senior Vice President, Market Development for South East Asia.

China seems to be well ahead when it comes to digital payments. The latest leap is facial recognition technology that allows a customer to pay by literally flashing a smile.

In 2017, Alibaba’s affiliate launched the ‘smile to pay’ service in Hangzhou, the location of the company’s global HQ, where it is being trialled with KFC.

The payment process doesn’t even require a smartphone, assuming that the customer has already signed up for the Alipay app and enabled facial recognition. A 3D camera located at the point-of-sale simply scans the customer’s face to verify their identity, while there is a phone number verification option for additional security.

Switch on to maximise sales

We may not have access to facial recognition technology in New Zealand stores yet, but as the busiest time of year for retail was approaching in New Zealand, retailers were encouraged to switch on to contactless technology to meet the significant demand from shoppers using Tap and Go around the Christmas period.

The number of contactless transactions has been steadily increasing in 2017 as more consumers and retailers adopt the technology, with past trends predicting a spike in December, according to Mastercard contactless transaction data.

“Last December we saw a rise in the number of contactless transactions compared to the rest of the year. While contactless payments have benefits all year round, when it comes to Christmas shopping, people may be in a rush, shopping on their lunch break, or just want to get through queues and buy gifts fast. Contactless payments helps make this possible, making Christmas shopping faster,” says Peter Chisnall, Senior Vice President, Market Development for South East Asia.

Almost three quarters of New Zealand consumers are using contactless technology, according to locally commissioned research of over 1,000 New Zealanders. 38% of those surveyed think retailers need to do more to embrace new payment innovations, and a third of respondents said they get frustrated when retailers do not have contactless technology enabled.

“Around Christmas time the quicker and smoother the transaction process is the better – for both consumers and retailers. Contactless payments are convenient, fast and widely used, which means faster queues and less holiday shopping stress for customers and retailers,” says Chisnall.

Contactless transaction use has been growing steadily since the technology was introduced in 2014, and December has consistently been the largest spending month.

The biggest increases in contactless spending in December 2016 were for glassware (up 206% from November to December), household appliances (up 98% from November to December) and house furnishings (up 95% from November to December).

“We saw the number of contactless transactions for house appliances and furnishings almost double last December, and glassware triple, with people splashing out on things they may not otherwise purchase during the year – whether that is for gifts or for themselves. Department store spending is also up 63% in December, with people using these stores to shop for a range of items,” says Chisnall.

“We also see spikes in things like electronics – up 86% from November and December – and women’s clothing – up 56%.”

In New Zealand, wholesalers (54%), hospitality (52%) and retailers (48%) are the top industries for accepting contactless payments.

Contactless payments can be used for any purchase with customers able to Tap and Go if the purchase is under $80, or Tap and PIN if over $80.

For more information about contactless technology and why retailers should switch on, visit

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