GUEST OPINION Facial recognition: adapt or die
Apple’s iPhone X and its facial recognition gained all the headlines last week, but at the same time in China, a fast-food joint also introduced it. Is this going to be the next wave of m-commerce? Dave Gurney, Managing Director, Alchemetrics
thinks it is
Facial recognition has hit the headlines recently for a couple of reasons. The first, which most of us will now know about, is iPhone X’s use of the technology as an unlocking device replacing the finger print used by iPhone 6 and 7; iPhone X users will now simply look at their phone to open it.
However, slightly more obscure and less public than the latest Apple launch was the news on the same day that a K Pro restaurant in China – a healthy offshoot of KFC – has implemented ‘smile to pay’ technology, which uses facial recognition as a payment method. Customers walk up to a screen, it scans their face and if there is a match it automatically deducts the payment from the user’s account.
KFC in China is no stranger to facial recognition. Earlier this year the fast food chain also trialled the technology 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.
With Apple choosing to go down the facial recognition route and brands like KFC increasingly employing it in innovative ways it seems certain that the technology is going to be propelled up the adoption ladder and become main stream very quickly. Bricks and mortar stores in the UK have been using the technology for some time, with an estimated 59% using it both as a way to reduce theft and track customer behaviour.
The latter enables stores to determine which displays are most effective by gauging the emotions of the customers it inspires.
However, the potential for the software lies in omnichannel particularly mobile shopping.
The reason for this is simple. Apple’s employment of the technology is going to accelerate the rate of adoption of it amongst consumers. Innovators and early adopters will buy the new handset at launch and become advocates of the technology immediately.
As months pass and the iPhone X becomes more accessible through mobile phone package deals the late majority will catch up. The accelerated rate of adoption amongst consumers will also impact the rate of adoption amongst organisations. Businesses will look for ways to adopt the technology, perhaps sooner than they might have otherwise, in response to consumer demand fearful that they will be left behind.
The more organisations adopt the software, the more consumers will use it and so on and it is not inconceivable that this will all happen by the end of 2018 meaning all but the laggards will be comfortable with facial recognition as a new way to do stuff.
Like KFC, facial recognition applications will enable mobile retailers to integrate preference centres into their mobile shopping offering.
For instance, customers using their phone to shop could use the camera to scan their face which is then linked into the retailer’s backend systems to provide recommendations for that customer based on a number of variables.
Potentially the customer will be able to select or deselect items based on their facial expression.
For instance, a happy face might mean ‘add to my basket’, an unhappy face, ‘remove from basket’ or a wink ‘save for later’. Payment will also become quicker and easier using the software as an identification verification tool. The above is just an example of how facial recognition could be utilised by mobile retailers.
The potential applications of the software for this sector are many and varied, but what is certain is that it will enable the retailer to become closer to individual customers and provide a more personal and tailored shopping experience.
With eight out of 10 customers believing that the omnichannel shopping experience is currently not up to scratch, facial recognition will enable multichannel retailers to more seamlessly link up their customer journey so that irrespective of the channel the customer chooses to engage through the experience will be the same.
However – and it’s a big HOWEVER – for all this to happen there will need to be a seismic shift in what backend databases will need to process. Retailers already have very sophisticated database management systems but the key moving forward is to ensure that the existing solution is future proofed. To be ahead of the curve retailers need to find out now if their DMS will be able to cope with facial recognition as the implementation of the software will likely not be a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’ and sooner rather than later. Darwin was right: adapt or die.