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In our latest research into emerging tech trends, we identified facial recognition as an area to watch. The technology hit the headlines recently with the news that Apple will use facial recognition in the iPhone X to power Face ID, the ability to unlock your phone and authorise payments simply by looking at it!

Of course, facial recognition is not new. The technology has been used for surveillance, security and law enforcement for years! But recently a number of consumer-facing applications of facial recognition have emerged, with leading brands making use of the technology. Let’s take a look at three: identity verification, personalisation and consumer research.

Verifying customers’ identities

This is by far the most common use case for facial recognition technology at present. In travel, airlines JetBlue and Delta are harnessing facial recognition to speed up the boarding process, whilst in financial services the technology is being used to verify customers’ identities across a range of use cases.

Long before the launch of Face ID, Mastercard introduced “selfie pay”, a way for customers to verify their online payments by looking at their smartphone camera. And since 2016, HSBC has allowed its business customers to open new accounts by selfie, with these images being checked against a passport or driving license to verify the customer’s identity.

Innovation in this space looks set to continue apace, with the Royal Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax and Tesco Bank all having updated their banking apps to incorporate Face ID. And it’s easy to see why. Not only does facial recognition save customers time and hassle, it also offers greater security benefits for banks and customers alike.

Personalising marketing and the customer experience

Another application of facial recognition technology is to power personalisation of both the customer experience and marketing campaigns. Already, there are some fascinating examples of this.

In China, KFC is using facial recognition to predict customer orders. Simply look up at the screen and it will serve up intelligent recommendations based on the gender, age and, interestingly, mood of the customer. Powered by AI, the technology is even said to be able to recognise repeat customers and recall their orders!

Facial recognition also plays an important role in Expedia’s Discover Your Aloha campaign. At the campaign’s core is a series of videos, each representing different holiday experiences in Hawaii. Through facial recognition technology, the brand can identify which videos resonate most strongly with each viewer and deliver tailored holiday packages based on this insight. The result? Memorable and compelling advertising for the viewer and a higher opportunity of conversion for the brand.

Conducting consumer research

Finally, facial recognition also has applications to consumer research. The use of facial coding to understand reactions to media content and advertising has long been commonplace. But now facial recognition technology is being taken out of artificial or in-home testing environments and into store.

A great example of this comes from Reebok. The sports brand installed face detection software in its New York store. The technology, capable of scanning faces up to 25 feet away, is able to track the eye movement of customers in store as well as their age and gender to 90% accuracy. These insights have been invaluable to Reebok, allowing the brand to understand which customers show most engagement with the shoe wall and which leave the display quickly, so they can optimise it accordingly.

And with Apple’s building the technology into its products, the use of facial recognition technology to aid consumer research will only increase. We believe that this will be transformational for our industry, allowing us to understand emotional reactions in-the-moment and in context.

Facial recognition is just one of four trends that we believe will reshape the insight industry covered in our latest report. To find out how chatbots, voice and AR will open up new opportunities for insight professionals, read the full report.