Three Ways Digital Driver’s Licenses Could Revolutionize Retail
If you think about it, we’re at a real inflection point when it comes to technology used at checkout in brick-and-mortar businesses — convenience stores or otherwise.
Some merchants have opted for flashy, compact tablet systems at the point-of-sale, while others have decided to stick with their trusty registers. EMV card terminals have cropped up widely, and acceptable forms of payment have begun to include contactless and mobile options. Receipts can be delivered via email, good ole’ fashioned paper, or not at all.
There are a few common factors at the heart of these updates whenever they’re made. Chief among them: delivering consumer convenience, enhanced security and privacy for both parties.
Why, then, is there one part of the process that has noticeably lacked a similar digital overhaul? I’m referring to ID verification, whether for buying alcohol and tobacco products, renting a car, or picking up a pharmacy prescription.
If the progress being made in Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Wyoming and Washington, D.C. is any indication, that glaring omission could be about to change. Digital driver’s licenses (or DDLs) are currently being piloted in those states and have been met with a warm reception by all stakeholders involved: state government agencies, retailers and owners of age-restricted establishments (like bars and casinos), law enforcement and citizens.
At its core, a DDL is a highly secure digital credential that contains the information typically found on a traditional driver’s license, making it accessible on a smartphone.
Knowing that DDLs are coming down the pike, it’s worth taking a look at the main ways DDLs will impact your customers’ in-store experience, once they find their way into the mainstream.
It’s a well-known fact that consumers now carry their mobile phones pretty much everywhere they go. Their wallets and purses, not as much. I’m sure you’ve encountered a situation where a customer needs to pull out their ID for an age-restricted purchase, only to realize they forgot it at home, leaving them high and dry without proof of age or identity.
That has a significantly lower chance of happening when there’s a backup ID on their phone, accessible anytime through a simple app. Conversely, if a customer’s phone battery dies, they can always revert back to their physical ID card or license. Options create convenience and will all but eliminate those awkward standoffs at checkout.
Some people are (understandably) uncomfortable giving away too much of their personal information, whether that be their exact age, their address or even their driver’s license status. With DDL-powered transactions, the only information seen, scanned and verified by the merchant is that which is pertinent to the sale.
If you’re selling alcohol, for example, the only digital notification presented to you is a photo to make a visual comparison and confirmation of whether the customer is over 21 years of age — no superfluous details necessary.
Bottom line: DDL users will be more in control of their personal data and with whom they choose to share it.
Consumers place a significant amount of trust in retailers, both in terms of upholding the law on age-restricted sales and in verifying the identity of the person to whom they are selling. The problem is that the traditional process of a store employee looking at an ID — which may be an unfamiliar or out-of-state credential — and making a judgment call about its authenticity is inherently flawed.
Even for merchants that honor customers’ wishes to "SEE ID" as handwritten on the back of their credit cards, few are expert enough to know for sure whether or not the presented ID is a forgery.
Through an encrypted process that incorporates unique verification codes and digital signatures, DDLs are nearly impossible to alter or fake, and their authenticity can be confirmed with trusted verification technology rather than a merchant making a best-guess assessment on the spot. Having that added layer of security in the verification process builds the trusted relationship between you and your customer, which is increasingly vital in today’s world of fraud and data breaches.
Retailers who have tested DDLs point to a more streamlined, efficient checkout process, reduced human error, and increased reliability of information as major benefits of the technology.
The coming shift to digital IDs might require some simple education and getting used to for you and your customers alike, but upgrading to a secure solution for ID verification will pay off, as DDLs stand to vastly improve consumers’ in-store experience and peace of mind.
Tiffany Conway currently serves as field marketing director for government programs at Gemalto in North America, with a specific focus on bringing innovations and new technology to the state driver’s license and identification segment. Conway is one of the key contributors managing the current NIST-sponsored digital driver’s license pilot project within five jurisdictions — Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.