One estimate has facial recognition technology generating $6.5 billion by 2018. However robust the eventual figure, face mapping has been beneficial for retail, in particular as increasingly sophisticated software simultaneously enhances security and improves the shopping experience.
The CEO of 3VR, a video intelligence software provider, explains that ‘the same platform that investigators use to identify shoplifters [also] helps retailers figure out which displays are working better, and where the customer traffic is.’ Roughly 59% of fashion retailers in the UK are already using the technology to track customers’ faces.
A personalised experience
Nearly nine out of ten of us will be shopping online by 2020, while visits to brick and mortar stores are declining in kind. As such, a focus on personalised consumer experiences becomes crucial for retailers maintaining their relevance and competitive position.
In-store face mapping augments the customer experience by alerting staff to immediate opportunities to assist, by tailoring advertising and deals to the individual, by integrating prior shopping experiences, and by going so far to analyse expressions and emotions so staff can adjust their approach accordingly.
Specific advantages for beauty
The benefits of such personalisation can be applied by retailers generally, but these days the beauty industry is poised to get even more out of it.
Shoppers can now sample beauty products without having to physically apply them. L’Oréal has enjoyed solid success with the release of its app Makeup Genius, which has already been downloaded over 11 million times. It works like a mirror that applies cosmetics to the reflection staring back at you. The effort and time this saves serves to create a more convenient and enjoyable shopping experience and encourages customers to try more products.
L’Oréal’s chief digital officer has suggested that the technology could be incorporated into actual mirrors in the future and bolstered even further by integrating round-the-clock advice from live professionals.
A recent collaboration between YSL Beauté and Google Glass saw beauty sessions recorded from the makeup artist’s perspective. The session takes place on the department store floor, and the video is then sent to the customer as a very handy reference. Stephan Bezy, international general manager for YSL Beauté, describes it as a ‘personalised service. The video is a gift for the customer. It’s a very consumer-centric approach.’
On the cusp
What if shoppers could generate their own cosmetics? For now it’s a prospect that is over the horizon, but increasing sophistication in 3D printing technology will mean that customers can handle the raw materials with which to create their own completely bespoke cosmetics. The beauty industry will sell the components and instructions for these bespoke-as-it-gets items. It certainly solves the tangibility problem: the idea that beauty products need to be held in the hand and tested on the face.
The impact of all this technology is not prone to overstatement. With 45% of us shopping on our mobile phones by 2020, it is natural to expect us to integrate them more completely into self-care and cosmetic regimes.