Many people fear that brick and mortar stores will eventually subject to a retail apocalypse due to the extensive e-commerce incursion. Well, local chain stores aren’t losing out to competition. Rather, they are facing a retail renaissance driven by technology and innovation. Brands with major in-store presence such as Starbucks and McDonald’s are examples of today’s most successful retailers who have implemented ways to combine both online and offline experiences. Engaging customers with technology is not limited to the online space. If you can devise innovative shopping experiences besides mobile applications by combining technologies such as face recognition, AR, and AI, you can build the physical retail store of the future.

Face recognition is undoubtedly one of the most important technologies that sculpt the future of brick and mortar stores. Here are a few ways by which facial recognition benefits retail stores.

Personalized in-store experiences for customers

Facial recognition can be integrated with a wide range of retail solutions such CRMs, point of sale systems, and loyalty programs. As soon as a customer walks into a retail store, the camera installed there recognizes the customer’s face and alerts the sales associate with that particular customer’s preferences based on their purchase history and demographic details. The sales associate can use this data to make individualized product recommendations which lends the customer a highly personalized experience. A uniquely tailored experience persuades the customer to make intentional, customized choices.

California-based restaurant chain CaliBurger has rolled out AI-enabled self-ordering kiosks that leverage facial recognition to help registered customers complete their ordering transaction within seconds. The face recognition software recognizes CaliBurger’s loyalty program members by quickly scanning its database, without requiring the customers to swipe their credit cards or enter their personal information. The system also displays the favorite historical meal combos of each customer, thus allowing them to make a rapid choice.

Read also: Zerone Consulting’s face recognition solution for retailers

Prevent shoplifting and other retail crimes

The “wanted posters” that you see on public spots, shop fronts, or compound walls come and go often, and incidents fade away from our memory. Sometimes, these papers just litter our doors and windows, without helping us identify suspects. But with facial recognition, if an offender is caught once in a local store, the digital record of the offender’s face is shared across the country, which means that every business in the network will be able to prevent a crime before it happens. Very often it’s difficult for the security staff positioned at store gates to capture armed shoplifters who threaten to cause physical damage. Facial recognition technology can scan faces quickly, even when the offenders are trying to frighten everyone in the shop. This data can later help the police forces to spot down the criminals.

For example, many supermarkets in the UK employ face recognition to determine whether customers are old enough to buy liquor. FaceFirst, one of the dominant vendors of face recognition software in the retail domain claims that retailers who used their software were able to reduce retail crime-related losses by up to 34%.

Capture retail insights beyond the face

Beyond the basic demographic information like age, gender, race or ethnicity, facial recognition software can capture a customer’s emotional traits such as how long a customer looked at and examined a particular product, in which segment of the store did they spend more time, customer’s facial expressions on seeing a product, whether they are happy, unhappy or confused etc. and measure their overall levels of satisfaction (dissatisfaction) during the checkout process. These findings will enable the retailers to fine tune in-store displays, improve real-time promotions, and identify the pain points that have caused those disappointed looks on a customer’s face.

By understanding shoppers’ sentiments and evaluating their emotional responses, retailers can discover factors that influence buying decisions such as product pricing, packaging and branding, inventory availability and replenishment, shelf placement, store and aisle layouts, arrangement and display of goods etc.

Limitations and prospects

While retail businesses reassure that customer identities are kept anonymous and the purpose of in-store facial recognition is only to profile customers and track their movements to offer personalized shopping experiences, customers have concerns over how the data gathered is being used and protected. Retailers are making significant investments to secure customer information and prevent data breaches. Businesses need to be incredibly sensitive in implementing in-store technological innovations to collect data about shoppers who visit them.

Facial and emotional recognition technologies possess immense capabilities in finding data and making meaningful insights out of it. Retailers as well as their technology partners should guarantee privacy compliance and employ strict ethical guidelines while developing and implementing such systems.

Posted by Bhuvana Gopalakrishnan

Love for language and craze for writing, that's what fixed my career path. I wonder what would've happened to me, if the puns, idioms, oxymoron and ironies weren't found. And here am I, exploring how tech joins business, and discovering "strategies" to take it to readers. Thanks to Microsoft Word, Google, and of course to many people for helping me do my daily office chores as a Content Writer!

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