By Pat Pape
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Paper is out, and digital is in, according to Gray Taylor, executive director, Conexxus, who discussed “Age Verification in the Digital Age” during a recent NACS Crack the Code Experience session.
Today, when shoppers display a paper ID to purchase age-restricted merchandise, they reveal their age—plus 32 additional personal facts—to the store clerk. “We need to reimagine identity and return privacy back to the consumer,” Taylor said. “And we’re going to start seeing that in the next 10 years.”
NACS and Conexxus have touted the benefits of digital identification. Now, the two organizations have partnered to create a turnkey, digital program that can validate a shopper’s age via their mobile device, while protecting personal information, providing a frictionless experience and taking the burden of certification off the cashier.
The program will utilize the store POS to calculate age and validate IDs, while integrating with the retailer’s loyalty program. It also can collect information about an individual’s purchases, which could help authorities curtail “social selling”—the act of an adult purchasing numerous age-restricted products and then reselling them to teens. Best of all, the program will be free of charge.
The program will be implemented in three phases. Now through 2021, baseline capabilities will be available to participating retailers, including new processes for scanning a driver’s license to verify the customer’s age. The second phase, which is scheduled for later in 2021, will involve launching a consumer “ID Container” application for smartphones to replace the driver’s license scan. Phase three will add retailer- and supplier-desired capabilities, including loyalty programs and 1:1 couponing, plus convenient features for consumers, such as mobile payments tied to “ID Wallet.”
Although the convenience industry has long supported age-verification through the successful We Card program, a recent NACS survey found that 90% of consumers still believe that sales of age-restricted products to young people are a problem. “As leaders in educated product sales, the convenience store industry needs to step up and lead the rest of the [retail] industry,” Taylor said.
Each day, c-store employees check 4.5 million IDs, which is twice as many as TSA. That number will increase in the future as new age-restricted merchandise categories are introduced. “As CBD works its way into society, it is going to require age verification,” Taylor said. “And we know some nutraceuticals and energy drinks out there are targeted to be age verified.”
This initiative is only the “tip of the spear,” he added.
“What we’re trying to do here is give the consumer the ability to maintain their own identify,” Taylor said. “And we’re trying to prove to government is that we—private businesses—are ready for them to do the right thing with digital identification, and we will work with them and provide the ability for the consumer to use that digital identification. I’m asking retailers to talk to their vendors and FMCGs [about this]. We have over 15,000 stores signed up already, and I really want 152,000.”
Anyone interested in signing up for or learning more about the program can contact Taylor at email@example.com.
This is just one of many sessions on the Crack the Code agenda. Age Verification in the Digital Age is still available on demand. Attendees can select from among more than 45 education sessions and have around-the-clock access to innovative product showrooms. Register here for Crack the Code, which runs through December 4.
For podcast fans, hear more from Taylor about how this new program could help retailers keep age-restricted products out of the hands of minors by listening to the just-released Convenience Matters episode 255, “May I See Your ID?”
Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. She writes for NACS Daily and NACS Magazine.