Why It's Time Businesses Take Selfies Seriously

As bizarre as it may sound for established businesses, it’s time we take selfies seriously. Advancements in smartphone camera quality have transformed the way we interact with the world. DSLR camera owners have been robbed of the privilege to be called professional photographers as any phone owner now is a citizen journalist and—depending on the phone—a photographer.

The financial services industry has also been affected by advanced smartphone cameras as they created a demand and opportunity to use capture as a way to authenticate the user or fill out a form that previously required some extensive typing. As it proved to be extremely convenient and efficient, it became clear that cameras create an opportunity to lure phone-consumed millennials by offering to authenticate (login to account, confirm the payment, etc.) in an enjoyable way for them—by taking a selfie.

In fact, there is a belief that banking may witness the biggest growth for camera phone usage. According to a survey conducted by Mitek (an identity verification company), 54% of millennials have reported that they have deposited a check with mobile deposit—up 20% from the previous year. At the same time, 40% expressed a desire to see more mobile use in banking.

One of the well-known players in the financial services industry—MasterCard—has gotten its hands into selfies last year when the company started testing selfie payments options with its Identity Check app. The user needs to hold up a phone as if he is taking a selfie, blink, and it’s done.

In the summer of 2016, the company plans to roll out the service in the UK, the US, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

PayPal is also playing with a similar concept through its mobile app. The app requires the user's selfie, and is based on a location-based check-in model. The service has been rolled out in 50 locations across Toronto, Canada. The users can sign into an establishment, order their food, and when the time to pay comes, the cashier sees a photo of the customer that then needs to be swiped to the right to be able to pay for the order.

Apple (no surprise here) is also serious about selfies. Last year, the tech giant filed a facial recognition technology patent to enable selfie authentication into the iPhone. Selfies seem to be doomed to succeed as 53% of shoppers forget their passwords at least once a week, causing them to waste more than 10 minutes resetting them, according to a MasterCard survey. As a consequence of that hassle, people are more likely to abandon the possible purchase. At the end, it all comes to a smooth digital experience and frictionless shopping. The fewer obstacles users meet on their way to checking out a product, the better for businesses as their conversions will skyrocket. The "selfie" is a way to bond with inpatient millennial customers.

In addition to a seamless experience, selfies seem to be solving a security concern regarding online payments.

Ajay Bhalla, Chief of MasterCard’s Safety and Security Division, said, "Consumers hate passwords. We know the most commonly used password is 123456, so they are not secure, and people also use the same passwords for multiple sites. If one site gets hacked all the places that you use the same password get compromised—they are a big pain.

Last year, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, gave a sneak peek on the future of payments when he demonstrated a new e-payment system using facial recognition at the CeBIT IT fair in Germany.

According to the Lincoln Savings Bank, 1 million selfies are taken every day. Selfies are a type of biometric as they can be used for facial recognition. With such a massive number of selfies being taken every day, it seems to be a logical opportunity for businesses to incorporate this popular activity into everyday services. Integration of a favorable practice and online shopping can open new frontiers in e-commerce and banking.