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Face recognition a step too far

News, 14 July 2015

READING: UK consumers are happy with many aspects of personalisation but draw the line at the use of facial recognition technology when entering stores a new survey has found.

RichRelevance, an omnichannel personalisation company, polled 1,049 consumers in the UK on their attitudes to in-store personalisation, and found that while they regarded some connections as "cool", others were decidedly "creepy".

Facial recognition technology fell firmly into the latter category: seven in ten (68%) were uncomfortable with its use to identify their age and gender before displaying product recommendations.

Even more (77%) were disconcerted by the idea of such technology being used to identify their personal spending habits to a salesperson.

Similarly, many (73%) thought it creepy that a salesperson could greet them by name after their mobile phones had signalled their entrance into a store.

And most (68%) were not yet ready for the idea of a salesperson unlocking a dressing room door based on their location in the store.

But if retailers took a couple of steps back from such a full-on approach, shoppers were ready to welcome a more limited version of personalisation.

So, for example, at the "cool" end of the spectrum, 72% of respondents said they would like the option of a mobile product scan that produced relevant information and other recommendations.

The use of mobile interactive maps (63%) to help navigate in-store was another popular idea.

But once retailers were able to demonstrate their knowledge of both where a person was and who they were, they were edging towards creepy territory. Thus, offering in-store location deals (43%) could be seen as intrusive, as could digital screens that displayed dynamic pricing (44%) and digital screens in changing rooms displaying personalised recommendations (45%).

"While UK consumers are keen protectors of their privacy and personal space, we now have a clearer view into where they are increasingly embracing – and even expecting – tailored shopping services," said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance.

Data sourced from RichRelevance, Research; additional content by Warc staff