At a time when consumer tracking appears to be reaching a "Minority Report"-like state of the art, new research suggests that brands and retailers who implement some of the most cutting-edge technologies -- especially the ability to recognize consumers' faces -- should be prepared for considerable consumer backlash. Unless they make them an offer they couldn't otherwise refuse.
That is one of the top findings of a study surveying more than 1,000 consumers in June about various retail technologies and shopping experiences.
“The retinal identification technology that played a role in the 2002 Tom Cruise movie ‘Minority Report’ may still seem to be a far-fetched reality, but the truth is retailers could easily start using facial recognition technology to identify the target demographic (gender, age, etc.) that frequent their stores most often,” reads the report, noting: “Retailers have a ripe opportunity to use technology to engage with consumers in a more meaningful way in in-store environments -- especially if they can get a good understanding of how to use the technology without turning consumers off.”
That’s the upside. The downside is most consumers say they would stop shopping in stores that deploy facial recognition tech, unless they receive some explicit value for being tracked that way.
“Facial recognition technology is fighting an uphill battle, with more than 75% of respondents revealing they would not shop at a store that used facial recognition technology for marketing purposes,” the report found, adding that “ discounts might be the key to turning consumer perception around.”
The percentage of consumers who said they would stop shopping in stores that deploy facial coding tech dropped to 55% if they would receive an explicit benefit such as discounts enabled by the technology.
The finding is insightful because a number of big agencies, brands, retailers and so-called “shopper marketing” specialists have been testing various facial recognition technologies, some of which can go well beyond identifying the demographics of consumers, but can actually read their emotional state of mind. Interpublic’s lab worked with facial code experts Affectiva to study how consumers express various emotional states -- ranging from confusion and frustration to delight -- while looking at products on store shelves. The goal of the research and testing was to find better ways of fulfilling consumers’ needs and experiences at retail.
While facial recognition may be among the most bleeding-edge of retail-based consumer tracking technologies, the First Insight report also reveals consumer perceptions of other burgeoning applications, especially so-called beacons.
“Beacons are by far the most talked about in-store technology, but consumer awareness of the technology and its benefits are very low, with 70% of respondents not knowing the definition of an in-store beacon,” finds the report, which also suggests not “counting out” older, more established tracking technologies that have already demonstrated an explicit consumer benefit -- especially price barcode scanners, which enable consumers to read the price of products on shelves without asking retail sales representatives for help.Half the respondents identified price scanners as their most helpful in-store technology.