U.S. consumers more excited than others about facial recognition systems in retail outlets

U.S. consumers more excited than others about facial recognition systems in retail outlets

Almost half of U.S. consumers surveyed in a new report say they are “excited” about retailers using face biometric technologies to tailor their in-store shopping. About a third of respondents, however, said they do not feel the love.

The findings are part of “From ‘Bricks to Clicks’: Navigating the Retail Revolution,” a report paid for by SOTI Inc., a mobility and Internet-of-things vendor. The report, compiled by Arlington Research, compares consumer sentiment about a range of technology developments in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden.

U.S. consumers saying they were excited by the prospect of facial recognition used during retail encounters topped out at 48.1 percent. Another 27.8 percent rejected the idea entirely. U.S. open-mindedness is not shared overseas, however.

Swedes looking forward to facial recognition totaled 37.5 percent; 36.3 percent rejected it. About 32 percent of Germans appear to welcome the idea compared to the 48.2 percent of naysayers. United Kingdom consumers favored the technology 31.7 percent to 42.6 percent, according to the report.

Similar results unfolded when consumers were asked how comfortable they were with voice-activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home. (While these services typically do not employ biometrics, it is a logical product direction.)

Half — 50.6 percent — of consumers in the United States told Arlington researchers that they were “very comfortable” using voice-activated assistants to shop. Only 22.6 percent disagreed.

Germans were the next-most-comfortable. About 36 percent are early adopters but fully 42.1 percent are not ready. In the United Kingdom, 35.7 percent of consumers like voice shopping; almost 40 percent were not. Sweden was the most cautious, with 31.2 percent saying they were very comfortable with voice services and 34.8 percent rejecting.

If recent announcements are any indication, makers and buyers of retail biometrics globally are optimistic about deploying the technology.

Beijing-based vape maker RELX this month opened its China flagship retail store, in Shanghai, equipped with facial recognition cameras. In this case, the technology is being deployed to help retailers avoid selling e-cigarettes to minors. RELX created what it calls Project Sunflower, a company-wide program that uses face biometrics to add a new level of automated identity verification.

Also in China, Luckin Coffee Inc. is going big with facial recognition technology in new automated coffee vending machines. Luckin, which already operated 4,507 stores across China, sees technology including facial recognition as central to creating a unique customer experience. The vending machines in service stations, airports, college and business campuses, residential communities among other locations.

Brazilian technology firm Unike is marketing hardware and software to dance clubs. The product scans the face of a club-goer to compare it against images registered with the system. Based on the profile attached to the biometric entry, people can, for example, pay their tab, confirm reservations or get special perks.

Among the vendors at NRF 2020 Retail’s Big Show is Worldline, which is touting its facial recognition payment product. Worldline says it collects three-dimensional biometrics while ensuring data control and privacy for consumers. Also on the floor is Elo, maker of an architecture for point-of-sale and interactive-retail systems.

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