HONG KONG. Duty Zero by cdf has partnered with Alipay and Airport Authority Hong Kong to launch facial recognition payment at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) from this month.

The biometric technology is available in 300 cities in China and comes to Hong Kong for the first time at the airport’s liquor & tobacco duty free stores. These are run by the CDF-Lagardère Company, a partnership between China Duty Free Group (CDFG) and Lagardère Travel Retail, under the Duty Zero by cdf brand.

Digital dynamism at Duty Zero: The retailer becomes the first Hong Kong merchant to launch facial recognition payment.

The company introduced 12 Dragonfly POS devices on 2 April. The iPad-sized units are placed next to the checkout counter, allowing shoppers to input their phone number and then face the camera, with the recognition and transaction taking a few seconds, said Duty Zero by cdf.

Importantly, this is also the first collaboration between CDFG and Alibaba Group (which owns Alipay) outside Mainland China, after a landmark partnership was agreed last year.

Duty Zero by cdf said in a statement: “The application of facial recognition payment has already expanded outside Mainland China, providing convenience for users in more situations, and Mainland Chinese tourists are among the first users who can experience this service.”

Customers first input their phone number and then face towards the camera. The facial recognition process completes the transaction in just a few seconds, says the retailer.

Last year, HKIA was ranked highest in a list of the world’s ‘cashless’ airports by Chinese travellers during Golden Week in October, with most stores at the location accepting Alipay.

Alipay Hong Kong General Manager Lee Wing Si said: “We have been working together with Airport Authority Hong Kong to build a “smart airport” together. Mainland Chinese tourists can now enjoy greater convenience when going shopping or dining at HKIA. No matter where they go, all they need is a phone or even their face.”

The iPad-sized Dragonfly POS device is placed next to the checkout counter in-store. The launch is the first collaboration between CDFG and Alibaba Group outside China after they struck a wide-ranging agreement in 2018.

Airport Authority General Manager, Retail Experience Kitty Lo said: “To elevate our passengers’ airport experience, we have implemented innovative technologies to develop HKIA into a smart airport. We have launched the HKG My Flight app, smart luggage tag MyTAG and e-security gates using biometric technology, to name a few.

“Regarding the retail aspect, our airport has also launched a one-stop online shopping platform HKairport Shop, online shopping enquiry, itinerary planning service and e-coupons. We are also thrilled to be debuting the facial recognition payment. In the future, we will continue to leverage innovative technologies to provide passengers with a hassle-free shopping journey.”

Duty Zero by cdf General Manager Devin Pun* said: “Duty Zero by cdf has been committed to bringing visitors an advanced shopping experience since launch. To catch up with the hi-tech era, we are also ready to be in the vanguard. Besides this partnership with Alipay, we have launched a pre-order mobile app, which makes us the first airport duty free store in Asia to be able to pre-order hard liquor through the app. In the future, we will also explore more possibilities to become a pioneer in innovation and technology in the retail industry.”

Noting concerns over security issues, the retailer said that facial recognition technology is “safer and more reliable” than fingerprints. Ant Financial Services Group algorithm expert Li Liang commented that through the combination of hardware and software, intelligent algorithm and risk control system, the accuracy and security of customer’s information can be “99.9% assured”.

*Devin Pun recently joined Duty Zero by cdf as General Manager. He worked for DFS Group in various positions for over ten years and was previously Managing Director Hong Kong. He also held roles as Vice President Operations and General Manager for the retailer at Hong Kong International.