Amazon is closing some of its high-tech physical retail shops, but some technology it created for those stores is now finding a new home. Today, Panera was announced by the online retailer that it will be the first restaurant to use Amazon’s palm-reading payment and loyalty system, known as Amazon One. This will allow its customers to pay as well access the loyalty program.
Panera currently has the Amazon One system installed at two cafes in St. Louis. However, Amazon claims that the system will soon expand to more locations. Panera says that this will include additional cafes in the St. Louis region and other Seattle markets. It expects to have at least 10-20 locations with the technology by year’s end.
The Amazon One system uses computer vision technology to create a unique palm print of each customer. Amazon associates that with the credit card the customer inserts into the sign-up kiosk. Amazon One profiles can also be associated with Amazon accounts. When the plan signatures are created, the palm print images are encrypted in the cloud and protected.
Amazon had claimed that palm prints were a more private method of biometric authentication when it launched in 2020. This was because they couldn’t be used to identify someone from just their palm print images. Amazon was not only storing palm prints, but also matching them with customer accounts and credit card numbers, creating a customer database that combined biometrics and customer information. This could be used to create highly personalized recommendations and offers over time.
The pandemic saw the rise in interest in contactless payments and the introduction of the biometric payment system. There was concern that the system would not work in the post-pandemic era because some customers were wearing gloves while shopping, and others might have mistakenly pressed their palms to the reader, spreading germs.
However, 2021 continued to rollout to many of Amazon’s retail locations, including its Amazon Go convenience shops, Amazon Go Grocery and Amazon Books, as well as Amazon 4-star stores. U.S. U.S. lawmakers reached out quickly to Amazon to find out what Amazon’s plans were for such large-scale palm print biometric data collection.
In its largest expansion ever, Amazon increased the size of its Amazon One store to and added dozens more Whole Foods stores. It has been used to deploy the system at various airports and stadiums.
Panera will now adopt the system in its stores to allow for fast payments and other features. Customers who link their MyPanera accounts to Amazon One will receive meal suggestions based on previous orders and preferences. Panera employees can greet customers by name, share information about rewards available, place new orders, and reorder customer favorites. After the order is placed, the customer will scan their palm to pay.
Amazon also announced two new features for Amazon One. These include loyalty linking and online enrollment. The former allows customers who are already enrolled in Amazon One in another location to link their MyPanera account with their Amazon One ID online. Customers can also use the system in that store if they have the Amazon One ID. First-time customers will be able to pre-enroll online, which saves time and allows them to begin the process before they even arrive at the store. The customer would be able scan their hand at the counter and use the code that they received during preenrollment to complete enrollment.
Panera’s Chief Digital Officer and SVP George Hanson said in an email to TechCrunch that “at Panera, our core values are the warmth we offer our guests and associates- and that technology can help make that experience even better.” This is an opportunity to make our guest’s experience more personalized and efficient. It also allows us to provide a secure, quick, and contactless process that makes it easy for them to enjoy the Panera experiences they love. He noted that Amazon partners with Panera to bring a scale and network that are attractive to them.
Hanson said that the company would love the technology to be available to all 2,113 stores, but it is still in an early stage.
This deal is more than just being tech-forward and easy. Panera can combine payment tech, loyalty, and unique identifiers to track customers more effectively and learn their preferences, interests, and habits in order to provide them with more relevant offers and recommendations. This data is not available to Panera when a customer chooses a privacy-focused payment method like Apple Pay.