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Facial recognition in retail

Posted 21 June Allan Gallop

Not to give too many spoilers away for those who haven’t yet watched/ finished BBC TV series Years and Years, which I suggest you give a watch if you haven’t heard the hype. Through each episode, it fast-forwards a few years in the future. The effects of Britain post-Brexit, political uproar and economic terror.

Now I must admit, as the episodes go on it does ingest a slight fear of what’s to come. But what is interesting is the predictions of technology advances. Breathing into a tablet as a form of ID, well I guess everyone’s breath is unique? Holographic filters, how far will the snapchat filter hype go? The introduction of ‘Transhuman’ wanting to become your data self, existing in the cloud rather than the flesh. As far-fetched as some of these may seem, the way we’re seeing retail and hospitality environments adapt, I believe technology is going to become even more prominent in our everyday lives.

The French retailer Carrefour is currently trialling their new concept store ‘Flash’. The store is situated in their head office and only available to employees through the trial period. What’s so special about this concept from any other? Just like Amazon Go, it’s cashier-less. However, instead of payment through an app, it’s from your face. The store has facial recognition technology. Meaning gone are the days of forgetting your wallet or phone and having to leave the store empty-handed.  Just pay by your face!

So, how does it work? When shoppers enter the store, they’re tracked by cameras and sensors. When they pick up items, the camera will scan their face as payment and it’ll be charged to their account, no phone, card, cash or even staff member required! With Carrefour announcing in May that 250 of its supermarkets were at risk of closure. Taking this bold stand to transform their store experience, partnering with Tencent, a Chinese internet company. The brand has recognised the importance of adopting technology to make the shopping experience quicker and easier for customers.

The laidback consumer who doesn’t mind waiting in a queue is slowly becoming non-existent. Consumers attention span is on average 8 seconds long, bearing in mind a goldfish is 9 seconds brands therefore need to up their game to catch our attention. For retailers to encourage consumer interaction they need to be integrating techniques that reduce wait times and speed up mundane processes.

The future of retail is steering towards cashless but could the need for a purse/wallet soon be non-existent? With Carrefour hoping to integrate ‘Flash’ into their stores in the near future, I imagine more retailers will begin to investigate this approach. Who knows, maybe Years and Years have predicted correctly and soon our breath will become a way to make transactions- watch this space!

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