Back in our January post about how the Internet of Things is shaping the digital marketing landscape, we discussed the importance of personalisation in marketing and how it acts as a powerful method of reaching out and engaging with audiences.

We talked about how personalisation was the greatest influencer of click through rate and how research revealed that personalised emails led to a higher open rate in email campaigns.

Brands are migrating to targeted marketing in their droves, making full use of the valuable Internet of Things data that is acting as an education platform, allowing the brands to analyse behaviour patterns and gain insight into what it is that motivates their customers so they can make sure their products affiliate with what matters to them.

It is incredibly exciting to see how technology is driving personalised marketing on to new realms, and as we are all more than aware, technology has a habit of bursting forward in leaps and bounds, bringing us new initiatives and methods of reaching our target audiences in just the right ways.

One of these new initiatives – one that is set to seriously change the face of marketing – is facial recognition.

Facial recognition is set to seriously change the face of marketing.

Facial recognition is a technology that, as the name dictates, works by reading facial features. Whilst it is not strictly new and in fact dates back to the 1960s, facial recognition is finally cementing its place in the business world.

How Facial Recognition Works

Facial recognition is a form of biometric technology that uses a unique algorithm to associate certain features with particular characteristics. By measuring certain focal points on a person’s face, facial recognition can identify age, gender and identity. You’ve probably noticed fairly recently how your smartphone has started sorting your photos into albums based on who appears in them. That’s facial recognition in use right there.

The technology has the capacity to allow brands to personalise their marketing by, for example, tailoring advertisements to particular interests and needs.

Big name brands are already making use of facial recognition. Tesco for example is set to install in-store screens that read a customer’s facial features so that the advertisement displayed matches their needs. They’ll be doing the same in their petrol stations with screens at the tills designed to adjust their advertisements depending on the age, gender, time, date and customer’s purchases.

The charity Plan UK used facial recognition in its Because I am a Girl campaign. In this case their advertisements only appeared at bus stops when female passers-by looked on.

Facial recognition is a form of biometric technology. Some of the UK’s best known brands are already making use of it.

Facial Recognition and Loyalty Marketing

There are a few leading players in the world of developing facial recognition technology. One of them is NTechLab. CEO Artem Kukharenko said that getting to know customers better will be something that marketers will benefit from. “Visitors’ photos may function as cookies referring to the identification and storage or user settings. In other words, loyalty cards will become obsolete. As soon as you walk into a store, the staff will already know what you bought last time, thanks to the camera’s footage and our technology.”

Learning about a customer’s shopping trends over time will assist greatly in cultivating long term relationships. This is a simple task when that customer makes his or her purchases online or in store with a card; however when they buy in store and pay with cash, the audit trail goes cold. Not with facial recognition however, because this type of transaction will become traceable.

Facial Recognition and Remarketing

Remarketing is a powerful initiative used extensively by online retailers. You view something online then there it is again, pretty much everywhere you browse for the next few days at least. So how about if you could capture what customers were viewing in-store, and then once they’d left without making a purchase, you could put similar products back in front of them online, complete with a special offer? Facial recognition technology will allow you to do just that.

Facial Recognition and Email Marketing

With the help of facial recognition technology, email campaigns can be used to entice customers into stores. Retailers finding it a challenge to compete against online giants could significantly benefit from this technology. Imagine an email campaign that promises the subscriber a special deal the minute they walk into a store; or alternatively a campaign that reacts with a discount voucher as soon as a customer is detected entering the shop.

Further still, imagine a subscriber walks into a store, and you are instantly provided with information on their past purchases, either from your store or from a brand that’s on sale there. These details can be used to formulate a highly targeted offer that has precisely the right fit for that customer, which you can then deliver there and then by email.

Big Data gleaned from facial recognition can be used to formulate a highly targeted offer that has precisely the right fit for that customer.

It’s a fairly similar idea to geofencing where a customer was detected passing by a store and was sent a deal to coincide with their location, either by email or in their social feeds. Except facial recognition is set to be far more effective – why? Because whilst people can switch off their location tracking, they definitely can’t do the same with their faces!

But there’s more. Today’s biometric cameras can detect a great deal of information about a person as well as their gender and age, including height and weight. So now there’s the possibility to get really personalised with email campaigns, delivering information and offers that specifically suit the subscriber.

The Privacy Challenge

Whilst there are aspects of this pioneering technology that will very much excite the marketer, for the consumer there will of course be concerns about security and privacy. Indeed, would permission not be required to scan a customer’s facial features?

An opt-in would be the obvious solution, but would this not reduce the impact of the marketing? And really, if we think about it, haven’t we in recent times become more than willing to share details about ourselves for the very purpose of those companies we buy from being able to personalise our experience?

Perhaps the issue is not as big a problem as marketers nervous on the point of privacy may imagine, and if the approach is taken from a position of convenience and advantage for the consumer, then surely it will be something that meets with little opposition?

In Summary

Facial recognition may seem like something from a science fiction movie, however the fact is this technology is quickly starting to become a very exciting and powerful digital marketing opportunity and is being readily adopted by brands worldwide. If you are serious about targeting and personalising your marketing for the best possible results, this is certainly one of the most important developments you need to seriously consider.

Need some help bringing your digital marketing campaigns in line with the latest technologies? Talk to Figment!