Are shoppers ready for their facial recognition close-ups?

Discussion
Aug 18, 2015
Tom Ryan

According to a survey from First Insight, more than 75 percent of consumers would not shop at a store that used facial recognition technology for marketing purposes. The number drops to 55 percent when respondents know there would be a benefit associated with it.

The Consumer Survey Report was based on a survey of 1,085 U.S. consumers in June.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global market for facial recognition is forecast to reach $2.7 billion by 2022, up from $1.3 billion in 2014. The growth is expected to be driven by increased demand for surveillance systems by civil and government agencies, in part due terrorist activities; acceptance of the technology in the entertainment and consumer electronics industries; and retail expansion.

Transparency Market Research said the "significant growth" of its use at retail will be driven in part by security concerns as well as to better engage customers.

Still, the testing of facial recognition technologies continues to draw controversy.

In-store facial recognition

A GAO report that came out in late July noted that Facebook uses the technology to help users tag friends in photos, while Google uses it to help users find photos and videos of themselves. The report calls for better protectiong for consumers from firms inappropriately sharing any data gleaned from such technologies.

"Face recognition data can be collected without a person’s knowledge," Jennifer Lynch, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy rights group, recently told Bloomberg. "It’s very rare for a fingerprint to be collected without your knowledge."

Do you think assurances, compensation and/or better shopping experiences will ultimately lead consumers to accept the use of facial recognition technology at retail? Where do you see the greatest potential for facial recognition technology in stores?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"There is no benefit to facial recognition from a consumer perspective. It’s a technological intrusion with little benefit to the retailer that can’t be achieved in a simpler, less expensive manner."
"Honestly? I don’t see facial recognition technology going anywhere. Technology that supports selecting the right color/style of makeup and earrings and accessories? A home run. Facial recognition? BEYOND creepy."

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22 Comments on "Are shoppers ready for their facial recognition close-ups?"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

There is no benefit to facial recognition from a consumer perspective. It’s a technological intrusion with little benefit to the retailer that can’t be achieved in a simpler, less expensive manner.

Tom Redd
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Gen Xers will love this and the younger Millennials will be WOWED. But the market forecasts for this space are not very exciting — “reach $2.7 billion by 2022, up from $1.3 billion in 2014.” So this being a very narrow market we will see some of the beauty space go for this, and jewelry stores. All relate to using facial data to model colors and bling to improve the facial image.

Some retailers will be smart and just use good security camera systems that can feed images into facial recognition software for identity purpose. Why? Organized crime in retail will grow faster than this market and a key to loss prevention is solid inventory monitoring, transaction tracking and digital video.

Liz Crawford
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

It’s the loss of personal control that makes technology creepy. When technology increases personal control, it’s cool. That’s the difference. Unfortunately, most companies don’t adequately consider the psychological and social needs of their shoppers. Instead, the focus is on their own convenience and profitability. This means there is a marketplace need gap — shopper control and privacy as a purchasable benefit.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Honestly? I don’t see facial recognition technology going anywhere.

Technology that supports selecting the right color/style of makeup and earrings and accessories? A home run. Facial recognition? BEYOND creepy and, I suspect, as a “security tool” probably right on the edge of constitutionality.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Up to this point, location-based analytics and personal marketing has primarily been based upon monitoring your phone with beacons. Many retailers enabled “opt out” options. But the ultimate opt out with phone-based location tracking is to simply to turn off your phone.

With facial recognition there is NO opt out, unless you wear a mask.

Given the recent disclosures of certain social media sites, search engines and telecoms collaboratively sharing data with NSA, I would personally reject facial recognition at retail, or anywhere.

Jennifer Lynch sums up the issue best: “Face recognition data can be collected without a person’s knowledge” (or choice) … and with that power the potential for abuse far outweighs any value for the consumer.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Let’s get real here. Any shopper who shops at a store where they recognize the clerks and the clerks recognize them is already shopping at a store with facial recognition technology — it’s just in their own eyes and brains instead of being done electronically.

This is really much ado about nothing in a universe of people who poorly understand that universe.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I have no objection to facial recognition as long as it is done by a human being. Having a member of the store staff recognize you and know your likes and dislikes is something very few people would object to.

Having your image stored in an IT system that has your purchase history etc., is downright creepy. You may have opted in to the program at the original store but what happens when it gets sold or goes out of business? Your information is now an asset to be handed off to the highest bidder.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Security will drive the implementation and ultimate acceptance of facial recognition technologies in retail environments. It is incumbent upon brands and retailers to use the technology responsibly for marketing and promotional purposes. Simply leveraging someone’s presence to throw some marketing and/or promotional spam in front of them will alienate shoppers.

As the survey suggests, shoppers understand their value and expect a reward for their participation with the technology. Provide the shopper with a reason for them to participate and provide private information. They are coming to your store on their terms — not yours. Respect them and inform them and they will in turn allow you to leverage their visit for your marketing initiatives. If however you simply start populating their experience with the equivalent of pop-up advertising on your Internet experience the backlash will be fast and furious.

Joan Treistman
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

The upside of facial recognition technology at retail is not apparent. The article refers to “marketing” but that is not specific. I see facial recognition as more of a disturbance to the customer and the shopping experience than an enhancement. But at the same time I’m not sure what retailers will gain. It could just be another example of razzmatazz to excite stockholders.

Warren Thayer
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I admit to being both a Luddite and a skeptic, but two phrases in the First Insight press release (cited by RetailWire) gave me pause:

” … with 70 percent of respondents not knowing the definition of an in-store beacon,” and “More than 60 percent of respondents never interact with a retailer’s social media platforms while shopping in-store.”

This says to me that 30 percent of respondents knew the correct definition of an in-store beacon, and that roughly 40 percent of respondents at least occasionally interact with a retailer’s social media platform while shopping in-store. I find both numbers (most especially the first one) suspiciously high, and have my doubts about the sample.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Despite the concerns over the loss of privacy, I think the need for safety and security will be overwhelming in consumers’ minds. Facial recognition will become the accepted norm. Until that time, premiums or loyal customer gifts may have to be used to lure shoppers to participate.

Ben Ball
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Initial acceptance of facial recognition will not come in retail. Other “mandatory” uses will precede it such as banking, secure building entrances and, finally, payment security (perhaps).

All forms of mandatory I.D. creep people out. It feels like we are being watched in some way. When that technology actually does involve watching us it is just too intrusive to accept — unless we are offered some significant benefit (the beauty applications will qualify for some) or it is mandatory. That’s how most of us will enter this brave new world — kicking and screaming.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Eventually all of the above benefits will lead consumers to accept facial recognition at retail. Why? because over time individual recognition will be a standard for the workplace for security purposes. Currently in secure buildings people have passes that they carry and scan to get into the workplace. These are nowhere as secure as fingerprints or retinal recognition. The individualization of people will continue and facial recognition will be a part of it. Privacy concerns are being waived every day by consumers as technology becomes more sophisticated and people see the inevitability of a society where privacy will be replaced by data.

Larry Negrich
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Those against facial recognition’s use generally cite the loss of a perceived right of privacy in a public environment. They don’t want to be recognized by technology. Yet I’ve often heard comments that retailers need to get back to a time when shopkeepers recognized and acknowledged shoppers as they walked into the store. Now technology can help retailers to recognize the shopper and create a personalized shopping experience.

The privacy/intrusion issue goes away in a few years and by that time the technology should be cheaper and better and will begin to be introduced for a wider array of convenient and time-saving activities.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

My employer has been testing this technology for years with in-store kiosks and other devices. I believe when a merchant has the right offer for the shopper, there will be a diminishing adversity to this technology as time goes on. Once the shopper reaps the benefits of a compelling offer, I think they will be even more loyal than before.

Lee Kent
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Why oh why do we always have to look at technology and immediately want to use it for marketing? Are we not listening when everyone says that folks these days just don’t want to be marketed to?

In the field of beauty, yes, I can see facial recognition being used to the help the customer compare and reflect, but in other parts of retail? Not so much.

And I’m not saying this based on the creep factor. I am one of those people who really does not see the creep factor as a big deal. It’s about what we as customers want and expect from our brands.

And that’s my 2 cents.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I just don’t see a use case for shopping for facial recognition in retail except for security in the gaming/entertainment area. Shopping is a personal matter for most people (fashion bloggers who make haul videos aside) and a broad scale facial recognition doesn’t add anything to the customer experience in the store, or allow associates to better target customers.

Tom Smith
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

We already know affluent customers will pay 17% more for great customer service thanks to AMEX. If facial technology results in an improved customer experience, customers will have no problem with it. The key is getting companies to be committed to providing exceptional customer experiences rather than only caring about getting customers’ money.

The bar for customer service is so low, there’s a tremendous opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors by providing an exceptional customer experience.

Are you trying to make a sale or have a customer for life? There’s a BIG difference in philosophy and corporate culture to truly be customer-centric.

Bryan Pearson
Guest
5 years 2 months ago
When customers sign up for a loyalty program with a retailer, they are agreeing to be tracked and communicated to—and the promise is that in return, the brand will engage with them at a deeper level than other customers, and provide relevant rewards. Consumers have shown they are especially alarmed when data is collected without their knowledge or consent. This is one of the biggest perceived risk factors when it comes to facial recognition technology. In order to make consumers more comfortable with this technology, retailers need to be absolutely transparent about the data they are collecting, when and where it is collected, and what will be provided in exchange. With touchy areas like this, marketers should collect only the data needed, and use all the data collected. It’s a disservice to the industry to grab more data than is needed without customers understanding how the data will be used. Such practices make consumers wary and lead to a problematic relationship. Implementing facial recognition technology without a clear onboarding and communication strategy is likely to… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Is this any different than collecting emails or phone numbers for text messaging? I don’t think so. It’s just a newer technology. If it is permission based, the consumer may agree. And, the stats tell the story. Give the consumer benefit and almost half of them give you permission. Once this technology starts to become more mainstream, there will be a tipping point and more people will accept it.

Peter Charness
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Loss of privacy is like death from a thousand cuts; hard to say which one was the fatal blow. There are so many ways that an individual can be identified, profiled, recognized and tracked that facial recognition is just one other voice in the crowd. Where you are, what you buy, what you looked at, what news story you read, who you texted, what key words you used in a text or conversation are all virtually “public record.” Facial recognition? Just another cut.

So far it seems that people are either ignorant of what information is being stored about them, or just fine with it, given that in the end there is “some benefit.” (That free drink with the burger makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?) My question is, when someone uses this information to stalk and target say “your child” and something bad happens, will there be a movement to cease and desist all this tracking, and if so is it even possible or has this ship sailed?

Gordon Arnold
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Consumers are not looking for facial recognition programming from retail and banking. They are looking for security, speed, and ease of use.

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Braintrust
"There is no benefit to facial recognition from a consumer perspective. It’s a technological intrusion with little benefit to the retailer that can’t be achieved in a simpler, less expensive manner."
"Honestly? I don’t see facial recognition technology going anywhere. Technology that supports selecting the right color/style of makeup and earrings and accessories? A home run. Facial recognition? BEYOND creepy."

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