The technology can close the gap between online retailers and high street shops
Facial recognition might be better known for its security aspects, but the technology could also revolutionise the way shops operate. An integrated system has the potential to increase customer satisfaction, improve staff management and give retailers a greater insight into the mysterious minds of high street shoppers.
Crucially, face recognition technology enables brick and mortar stores to do what their online counterparts have been doing for years – identify shoppers, link them to past purchases and generate personalised product recommendations based on the data. As part of a wider analytics system, it can connect online and offline activity to create a smarter shopping experience for businesses and customers alike.
Going with the flow
For example: Using a combination of in-store cameras and facial recognition software, shops can now accurately assess the demographic information of its shoppers, including metrics such as age and gender. This core data can be collected at each stage of the customer journey, tracking shoppers (and how they interact with a store) from browsing through to checkout.
Not only can face recognition technology identify and classify customers, it can help retailers optimise and plan their product offerings. By tracking the flow of people around a store, including where they stop and where they don’t, businesses can adjust the layout or reposition stock. Making small, data-driven changes like these can make a store easier to navigate for shoppers, while business can be boosted by making the most of highly-trafficked areas.
Convenience store 7-Eleven has recently turned to facial recognition to enhance the experience in 11,000 of its stores in Asia. As Business Insider recently reported, 7-Eleven will combine the technology with behavioural analytics to “identify loyalty members, analyse in-store traffic, monitor product levels, suggest products to customers, and even measure the emotions of customers as they walk around.”
Walmart is also experimenting with ‘emotion detection’, trialling systems that monitor check-out queues for unhappy customers. Doing so allows the company to head off small problems before they become bigger ones, allowing stores to send a member of staff to help customers or to open more check-outs to reduce queues. Ultimately, improved customer service helps reduce customer attrition and boost sales, increasing brand loyalty.
The Amazon effect
As Amazon has proved, when a retailer knows its customers, it can serve them more effectively. But how does that work in a physical, offline environment? One way is to integrate a facial recognition system with smart digital signage, making it possible to target different demographics (through facial analysis) and deliver specific offers that will appeal to them (via connected screens).
As an example of this, the International Finance Center Mall in Seoul has built facial recognition into its information kiosks. As a customer approaches, the cameras identify the person’s age and gender in real-time, personalising interactive advertisements accordingly.
In the US, CaliBurger is using facial recognition technology with its loyalty program. “Face-based loyalty significantly reduces the friction associated with loyalty program registration and use,” says John Miller, Chairman and CEO of Cali Group. “Further, it enables a restaurant chain like CaliBurger to provide a customized, one-on-one interactive experience at the ordering kiosk.”
That’s not all Miller has planned for facial recognition technology. “Our goal,” he says, “is to replace credit card swipes with face-based payments. Facial recognition is part of our broader strategy to enable the restaurant and retail industries to provide the same kinds of benefits and conveniences in the built world that customers experience with retailers like Amazon in the digital world.”
Smarter facial recognition
For brick and mortar retailers, this is key. While online brands have plenty of data to show what individuals are buying, facial recognition has the potential to give traditional stores a wider view, showing who’s buying what and when, and even the emotions associated with the process. Access to this data allows shops to identify problems and grasp opportunities, providing superior customer service that will keep shoppers happy, engaged and loyal.