Department stores are set to reopen soon in some of the countries severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail will be something completely different from what it was just a couple of months ago. Stores are promising to wipe surfaces throughout the day, disinfect clothes that people touch or try on with special UV lamps, and require everyone to wear masks and even gloves at times. Large department stores and malls are getting ready to install thermal body scanners at their entrances. They are hoping to detect sick people and prevent them from entering the store, a move that is raising privacy questions and serious concerns, though I predict people will get used to it very quickly.
But another technology was already entering the retail sphere, and I have a feeling the pandemic will push retailers to implement it even faster: facial recognition.Here are several ways facial recognition will change retail.
It Can Reduce Shoplifting
The first thing retail owners might be surprised to learn is that a significant portion of the population is already on board for the use of facial recognition in retail stores. In fact, almost half of all Americans support the use of facial recognition technology if it is used to help prevent shoplifting.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most significant uses of this technology in a retail environment. Even with the advanced security of most stores, the shoplifting problem is as prevalent as ever, with theft costing the retail industry approximately $16.7 billion in 2017.
It Will Allow Stores To Customize The Shopping Experience
Something all consumers are looking for is a convenient shopping experience. One of the best ways to make shopping more convenient is to customize the entire experience to fit the needs of a specific individual. This helps ensure that each consumer is only exposed to exactly what they need, when they need it.
However, in order to accomplish this, retail stores need to have access to mountains of information they simply cannot get from the basic information entered when someone creates a customer account. This is where facial recognition technology really comes in handy.
If a retail store has facial recognition technology installed, then it can take personalization to a whole new level. For example, you could walk into a fast-food establishment that has those fancy touch-screen kiosks and, at the very sight of you, it would be able to immediately fill the screen with a selection of your most commonly ordered food items. This saves you from having to scroll through the menu options to find the components of your favorite order. Remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report?
The same technology could also be used in a retail store to recognize frequent shoppers upon entry to the store. With this information, the store could send deals to customers through text messages, emails or push notifications from its app about products that are similar to ones the customers have recently purchased. This would prevent them from being bombarded with deals on products they have never expressed interest in and have no intention of ever buying.
It Allows Employees To Provide Better Customer Service
Poor customer service is one of the fastest things that will sink a business. This is an especially difficult situation for retail stores since 91% of customers who have received poor customer service will simply leave without ever complaining to any of the staff members. Therefore, poor customer service is often a silent killer that never comes to light.
Luckily, through the use of facial recognition technology, retail stores may be able to proactively help limit unsatisfactory customer service experiences.
Normally, when someone enters a store, their shopping behaviors are completely unknown to the business, which is vastly different from when people shop online. However, facial recognition technology helps to fill in this gap by monitoring shoppers’ faces when they first enter the store and continuing to follow them as they move around the building. So, if it sees a customer is quickly walking around the store while only briefly glancing at items every now and then, the facial recognition program can alert employees that you are likely looking for something specific and need help locating it.
On the other hand, if it sees you repeatedly go back to a specific item or linger around it for more than a couple of minutes, then this indicates that you have a high level of interest in this item and may require assistance or encouragement to complete the purchase. Therefore, this program is capable of guiding employees exactly where they need to be in order to provide the best customer service to every single shopper.
It Brings Tracking Concerns To The Physical Shopping Experience
So far, this article has only mentioned benefits of using facial recognition technology in retail stores. However, it is important to realize that it is not all a bed of roses; there are definitely some pitfalls that retailers should consider. For example, any store that chooses to use a facial recognition program will need to take the appropriate steps to make its customers aware they are being tracked.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create signs that hang in the windows and inform customers they will be monitored using facial recognition technology when inside the store. Since not everyone is on board with the use of this technology in the retail industry, it is also smart for stores to include an opt-in feature that allows customers to not have their image stored if they don’t want it to be.
The only true way to see how facial recognition technology is going to change the retail industry is to pay attention to how shoppers react when more and more stores begin to incorporate it. However, it is expected to be a positive change for the industry as a whole.
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Originally published at https://www.sergiomannino.com on May 8, 2020.