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IRUK Top500 Strategy and Innovation Report: 2018

IRUK Top500 Strategy and Innovation Report: 2018

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An appetite for disruption

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Disruptive technologies – chief among them mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and biometrics – are suddenly proving live up to their name: they are starting to cause disruption and at quite a pace.

The launch of the iPhone X may well have not received the kind of fanfare other iPhones have attracted over the past decade, but it has got people talking about biometrics with a sense of urgency.

iPhone X features facial recognition to unlock its features and to run Apple Pay and, while it failed to work in the demo at launch, has got retailers thinking that biometrics like this are going to be more commonplace in coming months.

To be fair, the fingerprint recognition tech used by iPhones 6, 7 and now 8 has already seen biometrics being used in anger – I myself have paid with Apple Pay and my thumb print many times. But, putting facial recognition into the newspapers all last week has really sealed the deal. Now everyone wants it.

As we report this week, a new report from Worldpay, just under two thirds (63%) of consumers want to be able to use a biometric scan to authorise payments in-store. When it comes to using our body parts to pay, 69% of consumers say they’d be open to using a finger.  But respondents are also beginning to come around to the idea of using their face (24%), iris (33%), and voice (18%) to identify themselves at the point of sale.

Facial recognition is, in fact, already garnering support from consumers in the US. As Dave Gurney, Managing Director, Alchemetrics points out in our Guest Opinion this week, KFC in China has been using facial recognition for most of 2017 as a way to streamline and speed up its ordering system. It used facial recognition software to analyse the faces of its customers and give recommendations from the menu based on their age, sex and mood. It also remembers the customer so that the recommendation engine learns about individuals’ preferences enabling it to tailor its suggestions for each unique customer.

But this is just one of many disruptors that are coming to bear on the retail industry. A separate  report, commissioned by UK based mixed reality company DigitalBridge, finds that nearly three in four consumers (69%) now expect retailers to launch an augmented reality app within the next six months.That’s six months: they are waiting.

These technologies are now front and centre in consumers minds and, even though none of them has an iPhone X right now, that doesn’t stop them wanting the features that these things can bring.

Six months ago I would have thought that much of this was hype, but now I am not so sure. I think the fact that so many are keen means that it is a sizeable part of the population, rather than just a few tech-heads like myself.

Retailers need to develop solutions and fast. They need to develop their AR and mobile strategies at ‘the speed of the customer’ and that means using mobile to streamline the development team.

But there is an upside. As the KFC China example shows, there are some great new ways to use the technology to aid sales and develop personalisation strategies, gain competitive advantage and delight customers.

And retailers need this now more than ever.  According to an EY survey of 130 C-suite-level retail executives from North America, Europe and Asia, only 5% of retailers think that their customers are loyal. And the more data they can leverage and the more personalised, delightful and cool the services they offer can be the better.
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