What do you get when you combine facial recognition with a GPS enabled smartphone?
If you’re a retailer, the answer is simple. You have an awesome digital media marketing opportunity to immediately send a customized text (SMS) offer directly to an individual’s phone. The real deal-clincher? They’re offers based on information produced by facial recognition software.
Retailers large and small struggle to boost sales by using big data to create target customer profiles and relevant promotions and marketing. facial recognition and geofencing provides a simpler and faster way to identify customer demographics and deliver offers.
Geofencing on its own is becoming increasingly popular as a highly-customized customer-focused digital media marketing tool. The technology recognizes a virtual perimeter or radius around a central point, such as a store. It then delivers messages to smartphones within the perimeter, without the need for customers to download a special app.
When coupled with new facial recognition technology, geofencing becomes even more powerful. Retailers can create and immediately deliver customized special offers to customers based on age, gender, even ethnicity.
Cameras, Smartphones, and Facebook
As 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl reported in late 2013, Redpepperland’s FaceDeal app combines facial recognition, geofencing, and social media to delivery targeted ads to customers who opt-in to the program. Custom-developed facial recognition cameras installed at retail establishment entrances recognize customers. These customers are then automatically checked-in via their Facebook check-in app. At the same time, they’re presented with a customized text offer delivered to their smart phone based on their Facebook “like” history.
According to Redpepperland’s website, the Facedeal app provides a simple way to target customers. “For businesses, there is no easier way to deliver customized deals,” the website says. “Users receive personalized offers simply by coming through the door, which removes the guesswork typically performed by both parties. Businesses will no longer wonder which offers will stick.”
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Mannequins & Vending Machines
Around the world, tools are being developed to further the use of facial recognition and geofencing as a digital media marketing tool for retailers. In Italy, Almax SpA, a mannequin producer developed a store dummy called the EyeSee with a facial recognition camera embedded in one eye, according to a story reported in the Washington Post in late 2012. The software tracks age, gender, and race of passersby, as it attempts to gather pedestrian demographic traffic data.
This data is similar to internet traffic demographic data collected by retailers. This data tracks online activity to websites and social media sites. Special offers may then appear immediately on the individual’s smartphone, based on the data generated by the facial recognition.
And as long ago as November 2010, the U.K based newspaper The Telegraph ran a story on the JR East Water Business Co. Ltd’s Acure vending machines placed in train stations throughout Tokyo, Japan. A sensor-equipped screen offers soft drink recommendations based on a customer’s age and gender as identified through facial recognition software embedded in the machine.
Endless Digital Media Marketing Opportunities
The combination of facial recognition software and geofencing offers unlimited opportunities for highly-customized digital media marketing. This may include POS promotions, e-coupon delivery, a variety of mobile marketing strategies, and customized digital signage. Retailers may also harness the information generated and add it to their big-data analytics to further hone customer demographics, which can then lead to new product lines and campaigns.
One of the issues around using facial recognition is consumer privacy. While the Facedeals apps requires an individual’s consent to take part, if facial recognition in the retail world takes off, how will unsuspecting pedestrians know if their image is being captured? And is delivering special offers based on facial features any worse than the targeted offers grocery and big-box stores extend based on earlier purchases, and loyalty program data tracking?
What do you think? Is the combination of facial recognition and geofencing a gross breach of consumer privacy or the ultimate marketing tool? Have your say in the comments below.
Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Digital Canvas Retail, a UBM tech site. Digital Canvas Retail discontinued publication as of October 8, 2013