Facial Recognition & Loyalty Programs: The Next Step in Customer Engagement
Facial recognition and verification technology can be a powerful marketing tool, especially as part of a customer loyalty solution. While facial recognition was once found only in science fiction, applications of facial recognition technology continue to become more mainstream by the day. This new innovation is clearly a rising trend that loyalty marketers need to watch.
For example, most modern phones and computers use facial recognition technology to allow face verification as a method of unlocking the device. Many apps also allow face verification as a login method. Facial recognition adds a level of convenience for the user, increasing how often they engage with the app.
Increased customer engagement means face verification should be an essential part of loyalty programs. Facial recognition technology also presents other enormous opportunities to personalize and transform the customer experience (CX). That said, facial recognition technology can also raise privacy and data security concerns and challenges.
Benefits of Facial Recognition & Face Verification
From a marketing and customer engagement perspective, facial recognition can radically streamline and potentially remove friction from many commonplace customer interactions.
As an example, imagine enrolling and logging into a loyalty program using your face as opposed to needing to provide your smartphone number, email address, or QR code. Retailers could personalize offers based on your prior purchases and preferences, which you could then redeem and pay for with a quick facial scan at the register.
Apple’s FaceID does much of this — you can use your face to lock/unlock your iPad or iPhone and make purchases. Corporations in the financial services industry already see opportunities facial recognition technology could provide, especially in improving the customer experience (CX) of transactions by making them virtually effortless.
Recently, VISA partnered with Qatar National Bank and PopID to allow FIFA World Cup fans to authenticate payments using only their face, without needing to provide a physical card or mobile phone. The facial recognition technology, powered by PopID, was piloted at several specialty coffee shops in Doha, Qatar. PopID’s PopPay solution simplifies ordering, personalizes offers and recommendations, and provides contact-free payment.
The TSA also announced it was testing facial recognition to speed up security processing at 16 major airports across the country during the busy holiday travel season.
Marketing Benefits of Facial Recognition
Facial recognition has many potential benefits for marketers and can be used in many ways for many applications. Here are a few ways facial recognition could potentially help your business’s marketing team:
- Targeted advertising. Facial recognition technology with state-of-the-art AI can be used to identify a person’s age, gender, and other demographic information, which can be used to target advertisements more effectively.
- Tracking consumer behavior. Marketers could potentially use facial recognition technology to track a person’s movements and behavior in physical retail spaces. This would allow them to gather data on a consumer’s specific behavior and preferences.
- Personalized customer experiences. As mentioned above, personalization is one of the most important ways facial recognition can be used and which improves the CX. A business could potentially use facial recognition to recognize customers as they enter a store and provide personalized recommendations or promotions.
- Market research. Marketers could potentially use facial recognition technology to gather market research by analyzing the facial expressions and emotions of consumers as they view advertisements or interact with products.
- Event marketing. Facial recognition technology can be used to track attendance and gather data on attendees at events, allowing marketers to measure the effectiveness of their event marketing efforts.
Facial recognition technology provides numerous opportunities for marketers that can be used to increase customer loyalty and drive sales. However, it is important for marketers to use facial recognition technology in a way that is respectful of consumers' privacy and to ensure that they are transparent about how the technology is being used.
Concerns about Facial Recognition Technology
Facial recognition can potentially help customers save time and remove friction points while allowing marketers to increase personalization and drive efficiency. That said, history shows that any new or emerging technology cannot usually be taken at face value (my apologies).
Facial recognition technology, even for the purposes of facial verification, does raise valid concerns for many.
Data security and privacy concerns
You only have one face. While organizations are required to do everything they can to safeguard customer data, data breaches do happen. As a consumer, read the terms and conditions, and privacy policies of any facial recognition service provider you are considering.
If you are considering a facial recognition technology partner, ensure you understand your organization’s additional data privacy, security and infrastructure requirements, in addition to the technology partners’. Modify your privacy and data security policies to ensure your customers understand their rights and yours.
Facial verification isn’t perfect
Facial recognition and face verification are still evolving technologies and so are certainly still not perfect. For example, it’s been shown that many facial recognition algorithms are less adept at recognizing darker skin tones. On average, young black women are the demographic that has been most discriminated against by facial recognition technology.
The technology’s recognition accuracy being dependent on race is a major flaw. The purpose of facial verification in loyalty programs and apps is to improve the CX and reduce consumer friction, but imperfections like these could instead turn consumers against either the brand, the technology, or both.
Over the past few years, however, facial recognition technology has improved greatly in this area. While still not perfect, updated algorithms, increased AI intelligence, and vast new datasets have helped improve this systemic flaw.
“Facing” the New Reality of Facial Recognition
Facial recognition isn’t going away — it’s here to stay. And as we face (sorry – last one!) this new reality, we must weigh the potential benefits of increased convenience, personalization, and engagement that this technology can provide against the additional risks or potential flaws in the technology.
As Apple, Visa, and even the TSA have demonstrated, the benefits outweigh the risks for many organizations. Although you may want to pilot a test to gauge the impact before fully committing, the marketing applications of facial recognition technology, including as part of a brand’s loyalty solution, seem like an innovation worthy of every business’s attention.
We recommend brands always be transparent about how they use and store customer data. If you are worried your customers may be apprehensive, you could have a tutorial that briefly explains how facial recognition works, how your application uses facial recognition technology, and how opting for facial recognition benefits your customer.
Advice from Customer Loyalty Program Experts
If you need advice or would like to outsource building a loyalty program that incorporates face verification and/or other uses of facial recognition technology, Brierley’s team of experts is here to help.
To learn more about how Brierley’s customer loyalty strategists can help create or optimize an innovative loyalty solution for your brand, contact us today.