Friday Nov 30, 2012

Facial Recognition for Retail

My son decided to do his science project on how the brain recognizes faces.  Faces are so complicated and important that the brain has a dedicated area for just that purpose.  During our research, we came across some emerging uses for facial recognition in the retail industry.

If you believe the movies, recognizing faces as they walk by a camera is easy for computers but that's not the reality.  Huge investments are being made by the U.S. government in this area, with a focus on airport security.  Now, companies like Eye See are leveraging that research for marketing purposes.  They do things like track eyes while viewing newspaper ads to see which ads get more "eye time."  This can help marketers make better placement and color decisions.

But what caught my eye (that was too easy) was their new mannequins that watch shoppers.  These mannequins, being tested at European retailers like Benetton, watch shoppers that walk by and identify their gender, race, and age.  This helps the retailer better understand the types of customers being attracted to the outfit on the mannequin.  Of course to be most accurate, the software has pictures of the employees so they can be filtered out.  Since the mannequins are closer to the shoppers and at eye-level, they are more accurate than traditional in-ceiling LP cameras.

Marketing agency RedPepper is offering retailers the ability to recognize loyalty shoppers at their doors using Facedeal.  For customers that have opted into the program, when they enter the store their face is recognized and they are checked in.  Then, as a reward, they are sent an offer on their smartphone.

It won't be long before retailers begin to listen to shoppers are they walk the aisles, then keywords can be collected and aggregated to give the retailer an idea of what people are saying about their stores and products.  Sentiment analysis based on what's said or even facial expressions can't be far off.

Clearly retailers need to be cautions and respect customer privacy.  That's why these technologies are emerging slowly.  But since the next generation of shoppers are less concerned about privacy, I expect these technologies to appear sporadically in the next five years then go mainstream.  Time will tell.

About


David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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