Expectation vs Reality: why Gen A’s predictions for the future could become a reality
Young people’s expectations have the potential to revolutionise economies. We sat down with Mehret Habteab, Head of Products & Solutions at Visa Europe, to put Gen Alpha’s ideas for the future to the test. How many of them could become a reality?
1. What do you think of the idea of paying with a tap of the finger, or just by blinking…?
It’s fascinating to hear from young people about their creative ideas for paying in the future. Not too long-ago some of the world’s top innovators were talking about things like biometric authentication in payments and being told it’s totally unrealistic. But things have come along way, and in many ways, the future is already here.
Think about the 16 digit “Primary Account Number” or PAN which has been the gold standard in identifying people and enabling them to pay for decades. In the not-too-distant future, that will start to disappear into the background. Whilst many are comfortable using biometrics to authorise a payment on their card, soon, your eyes, face, fingerprints, and even behaviours and habits will become your new credential.
There are localised use cases that exist today leveraging pretty accurate identity validation, but once broad scale adoption of digital IDs become a reality, even more value will be unlocked.
That’s because being able to link your biometrics to your digital ID means your biometric validation becomes a highly accurate proof of who you are. At that point all you need to do is link your accounts to your biometrics and then away you go!
But it’s not just about simplicity. A key part to enabling this at scale is the right security standards. Visa continues to keep up the fight against fraudsters, investing in new fraud and security capabilities that provide multi-layered protection to secure digital transactions. We’re working hard, along with the wider payments industry, to develop an industry-wide permissions management framework that sets high security and transparency standards for how this kind of data is used. We’re also building privacy enhancing technology that can be used by consumers to manage their biometric data, so that they feel confident that when they're sharing their biometrics, it's secure, they're in control, and they have the right to easily withdraw their data at any point.
2. How about walking out of a store without (physically) paying?
This is a strong signal of Gen Alpha’s expectations for a world without friction. If you think about it – why should we have to stop and pay when many of us carry our very own GPS devices with payment credentials already loaded into a digital wallet?
We’re already seeing retailers integrating ‘walk out’ technology into their in-store shopping experience – and this kind of technology has the power to extend into many other use cases – like the Tube or Metro. Imagine just walking through a station and get on any train, and based on where you got on and off, your account could be charged accordingly – an already seamless experience could be made even easier, with technology that exists today.
And what about seamlessly moving through the airport without having to go to the checkouts for any of your duty-free shopping? Once you’ve checked in with your passport or ID, if your account credential is linked, that should be enough for airport systems to charge you for the items you’ve picked up, reducing queues and improving the airport experience.
It’s the same story for events – music, football, exhibitions… checking into a venue using your mobile device should enable you to pick up products or services whilst your account is charged automatically in the background.
There’s still some way to go for these experiences to take hold. Visa’s role is to ensure any new technology like this is built with the same layers of security people expect from us. Consumers need to be confident in the technology, be in control and trust that it will work. The process of linking payment credentials needs to be safe and secure, and all parties – the consumer’s bank, the merchant, the merchant’s bank – need to be happy and confident to verify who you are.
3. Is the idea of using augmented or virtual reality for shopping or going on holiday really that far away?
Young people have some brilliant ideas about using technology for a more seamless and sustainable world. A recent study in the US1 found that over half of consumers are excited about everyday things moving to the metaverse.
Just the other day my nephew texted me about a concert he wanted to go to – when I asked if there were still tickets left, he laughed and said it wasn’t in person but on his gaming platform! Which just shows how embedded virtual experiences already are in this generation’s lives.
VR can even make the process of more mundane tasks, like buying a car, a fully immersive experience. Imagine popping on a VR headset on a Sunday afternoon with your family to do a virtual test drive – a way to filter down your choices and try before you buy.
Embedded services can take that even further. Whilst you may want to make a large purchase like buying a car in person, you could still get information from your bank or lender embedded into the experience to show you the payment plans available to you – like instalment options or long-term credit – and find out whether you’re likely to be approved for a loan.
For commerce to be successful in these environments – it’s super important that the payment experience is seamless. People need to know their payment credential is preloaded securely – using technology like tokenisation. There needs to be controls – especially when children and vulnerable people are concerned, and there needs to be the right integration of partners to support the best experience.
4. What influence will robots have on the way we live in the future? Will they do our household chores?
I think everyday devices becoming more intelligent is definitely something we’ll start to see more – and this will radically improve the value we get from our devices.
As we continue to see rapid advances in AI with natural language interfaces, we will be able to interact much more intuitively with the gadgets in our home, at work or in our pockets. Imagine being able to take a picture of the contents of your larder and request a recipe with those ingredients, or interact with a smart assistant that helps you manage a health condition. There are enormous possibilities to power a seamless future.
By linking smart devices to embedded payments, the process of buying and accessing everyday provisions will become much easier and more convenient. Driving is a great example of where people could benefit from the convenience of these services. Your car already tells you when it needs more fuel, so when you arrive at a charging point, wouldn’t it be great if you’re able to preset your account to be charged automatically? Or if you’re driving a long journey home after a week away and didn’t want to go grocery shopping, why couldn’t you re-order your regular essentials via your in-car store or voice-activated smart device to be delivered for when you arrive?
What’s exciting is that all of this technology exists today and is evolving at speed – it’s now all about embedding the right inter-connected experiences powered by AI, tokenisation and permissioned data. It’s about ensuring the highest levels of security, to enable innovation that delivers these seamless experiences while continuing to build consumer trust and confidence.
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1McKinsey & Co, Value creation in the metaverse, June 2022