Yoti is an identity verification platform that gives people control over their personal data. Users if the Yoti app can securely and privately share their identity details with registered businesses and other Yoti users.
As a researcher I was asked to investigate how Yoti’s technology could help the retail sector, specifically for checking someones age when buying age-restricted goods.
Collecting expert insights on location and writing the final report
Deeper insights into how self-checkouts are currently set up in UK supermarkets.
How Yoti works
Yoti uses QR codes to pass identity details securely between two parties. You can use this to anonymously share details like your age by scanning the code with the Yoti app.
Yoti also has a product called Age Scan. It’s a facial recognition program that can estimate a person’s age quickly and anonymously.
Yoti believed that their technology could be used to automate age verification processes in the retail space. The research team was asked to report on how shoppers are currently asked to prove their age. Yoti was specifically interested in self-checkout experiences as they’d already made progress in this space with certain partners.
The current checkout experience
Many stores now have self-checkout machines installed. They allow shoppers to scan and pay for their items themselves, without interacting with a store employee.
When buying age restricted items - like alcohol or painkillers - the shopper has to wait for an attendant to come and verify their age, either visually or by asking for ID if the shopper looks under 25.
To reduce the waiting time, shoppers could use Yoti’s technology to verify their age without having to wait. This would reduce checkout times, reducing friction in their shopping experience and relieving attendants.
The team visited ten different supermarkets that had self-checkouts. Our aim was to look at a variety of setups to find similarities and differences. In each shop, we filmed ourselves purchasing age-restricted products. At each self-checkout we observed both the environment and the user interface.
Looking at the environment each self-checkout was in helped us see how both the Yoti app and Age Scan could be integrated. Questions we asked about the environment were:
- What additional equipment is near the self-checkout?
- How convenient it is to use your phone?
- Are there any audio and visual signals?
- How are the attendants behaving?
The Yoti app uses dynamic QR codes, meaning they’d need to be shown on a screen. Evaluating the interface helped our designers understand how they could fit the Yoti functionality into these systems. We asked ourselves these questions:
- What displays on the screen during a sale?
- How does the shopper know what to do and when?
- How would Yoti fit aesthetically into the existing interface?
- At what point does the shopper get stopped to perform the age check?
With our reviews and video notes, we were able to spot trends between all of the different self-checkout experiences. We collated these findings into a report which was sent around the company. From our design team all the way up to the company executives, we made sure everyone had access to the report.
Speed is the measure of success
Both shopper and attendants want a purchase to happen as quickly as possible. Any interruption to a purchase is seen as negative, even if it comes with other benefits. Checkouts that allowed the shopper to keep scanning whilst waiting for age verification provided a smoother user experience.
Relevance to Yoti: getting someone to take out their phone and open an app will add friction
No two environments are the same
Even between supermarkets of the same brand, the self-checkouts were all a bit different. Some had beacons that flashed to alert attendants, whereas some used alarm bells. The packing area could be on either the left or the right. Some had stickers on the machine to add guidance and some had a screen so attendants could watch shoppers from a distance.
Relevance to Yoti: we can’t assume a self-checkout will have specific features
Attendants are busy enough already
Supermarkets are hectic environments. Employees are moving around all the time and their attention moves around quickly. In some instances, the attendants had to pause an activity like shelf stacking to come and check my age. Allowing someone to independently perform age verification would lighten the amount of work for the attendants.
Relevance to Yoti: shoppers could use Yoti to verify their age without needing an attendant
Attendants estimate your age, just like Age Scan would
If the person buying the item looks old enough, attendants don’t tend to ask to see the shopper’s ID. This process is inconsistent and relies on an individual attendant’s judgement.
Relevance to Yoti: if the Age Scan system is as reliable as a human, then using it to guess someone’s age would be no less secure than having another human do it
Sharing the results
The final report was comprehensive, but formatted in a way that made it easy to scan. I also sent an executive summary in an email alongside the report so people could get the high-level findings without having to read the whole document. This is roughly how I formatted the page for each supermarket we analysed.
Our research gave Yoti a better understanding of how self-checkouts operate. Seeing how shoppers behave gave the product team a clearer vision of how the Yoti product would fit into supermarkets, which informed their priorities for development. It also aided the design team, who gained a better understanding of how the interface was laid out. This helped them to make more informed design decisions when making and testing potential new designs.
“Your report was really interesting, we wouldn’t normally get to see these kinds of things.”
— A colleague after reading the report
Personally, I learned a lot from this project. The amount of rich data you get from this kind of research is huge, and distilling it down into actionable advice can be a challenge. Seeing and experiencing things from the customer’s perspective can help you uncover new problems to solve, which ultimately makes your product better.