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Having launched a mobile app in early 2010 that uses facial recognition to confirm a customer’s identity in payment transactions, Think Computer followed up in December with digital coupons to attract more merchants and consumers.

Consumers using FaceCash register online, linking their FaceCash account to a valid bank account. When making a purchase, the consumer uses the app’s homepage to access a bar code that contains his digital image, uploaded during the registration process. Once the merchant scans the bar code, the customer’s picture appears on the POS screen and the merchant can verify the customer’s identity and complete the transaction.

The coupons offer two additional benefits. First, the routine functions of FaceCash allow the company to gather detailed information about its customers, making for greater precision in merchants’ offers. And FaceCash creates each coupon and runs the analytics at no cost to merchants until a coupon is actually redeemed. At that point, the fee is 50 percent of the coupon’s face value.

“What we are saying is, if you are giving a customer $2 off, and you have to pay a total of $3 for a new customer, I would take that deal,” says Think Computer president and CEO Aaron Greenspan. The fee for standard FaceCash payment transactions is 1.5 percent, compared with approximately 3 percent for credit card transactions, he says.

For Think Computer, those percentages add up to significant revenue. From a $10 charge on FaceCash, for example, the company would generate a 15 cent transaction fee; with the redemption of a $1 FaceCash Coupon during that transaction, the company would get an additional 50 cents.

Encouraging future indicators
The merchants most likely to sign up for FaceCash Coupons are the 20 current FaceCash mobile payment clients in and around the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., as well as Cambridge, Mass. Actual consumers using the FaceCash system number just a few hundred.

Despite this modest start, Greenspan sees many encouraging indicators – including Think Computer’s ability to attract the interest of an international company, the Subway restaurant chain, to its merchant roster. He hopes the chain will expand its participation beyond the single Palo Alto unit.

Right now, the coupon system is only available through an iPhone app, but Blackberry and Android apps are in the works.

And then there is Think Computer’s website, which Greenspan says “has all kinds of people signing up.”

With the introduction of FaceCash Coupons, “there’s now enough incentive on the consumer side, as well as the merchant side — where fees are already incredibly low relative to industry standards — for adoption to skyrocket,” Greenspan says. “This could be a truly massive market two years out from now.”

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