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data technology

Your future in-store loyalty program will be fed by facial recognition

Lolli & Pops is using facial recognition
Lolli & Pops is using facial recognition

Imagine this: You walk into your favorite store and the sales associate welcomes you by name. She or he lets you go about your business, but on-demand shares with you which of their latest products you would most likely be interested in.

Such recommendations, powered by artificial intelligence, are a very familiar experience online these days, but they’re also increasingly being worked towards in the brick and mortar retail world.

A multitude of different technologies lie at the heart of achieving this, but namely it’s a connection between CRM and machine learning, all with that layer of identification placed on top to deliver results for the specific customer in question.

Your mobile device usually plays a key role in making the ID part possible, but facial recognition is another such way.

Lolli & Pops, a candy store based in the US with roughly 50 doors, is one such retailer experimenting with this. A proof of concept called Mobica, which is powered by Intel, was on show at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week. Using computer vision, it’s a facial recognition loyalty scheme designed to drive VIP consumer engagement.

The opt-in experience (shoppers literally have to enrol their face to be a part of it), means anyone entering the store is recognized in real-time by an app the sales associates are using on their tablet devices. From there, they are able to tell the individual’s taste profile, know for instance if they’re allergic to peanuts, and be able to personally recommend great products to them via AI-enhanced analytics accordingly.

“It’s designed for their loyalty shopper, so about wanting to make them feel really special,” Stacey Shulman, Intel’s chief innovation officer for its Retail Solutions Division, told me. “Privacy isn’t an issue because they have such a strong relationship with their customers and are trusted by them already. It all starts with service and a connection to the customer.”

You can easily imagine the same VIP concept being applied at the likes of Sephora for beauty, or even in an apparel merchant.

Other facial recognition technology on show at NRF enabled special, personalized deals to surface on screens in real-time, demonstrated a restaurant that allows customers to pay by face, and also touted broader data collection opportunities around demographics and store-traffic patterns.

It was the customer service piece that felt particularly pertinent however. As Shulman explained: “Technology today needs to not be at the forefront. It needs to be the helper at the back. When done right, it enables people to get back to the customer and back to what’s important. That’s what we see here; it’s not about the facial recognition or the AI, it’s about the experience the customer then has. The differentiator between a brick and mortar store and Amazon today is customer service. We can’t compete on price and selection anymore, so we have to go back to service. If we don’t we will have a problem.”

The Lolli & Pops facial recognition initiative will roll out to stores in the coming weeks, according to Shulman.

 

Categories
data e-commerce technology

Four quick highlights from NRF 2018

NRF 2018
NRF 2018

NRF’s Big Show hit New York once again this week with an expo floor covering every form of technology modern retailers need today*, and big topics of conversation pointing to the future of the industry.

From a topline perspective, focus was on everything from personalization through artificial intelligence, to the need for speed, enabling a frictionless experience as well as the increasing demand for invisibility in technology.

Personalization

Artificial intelligence remains one of the hot terms in the industry today – machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing and chatbots were found left, right and center across NRF. Underlying that in terms of the reason it matters, however, was a focus on personalization for customers. Neiman Marcus’ president and CEO, Karen Katz, talked to the challenge of shifting from being a retailer that nails this in store through the human-to-human experience, and now trying to replicate that in the online world. “Online is where the next level is presenting itself for [service-oriented] personalization,” she said.

Speed

Spencer Fung, CEO of Li & Fung, talked to the idea of the industry shifting from being optimized by cost, to finding competitive advantage in speed. As an industry, the time it takes to get from ideas to stores has only extended by virtue of parts of the supply chain located further and further away. “This cost optimization model in a world where consumers are moving 10x faster is no longer valid. You can no longer make decisions today on what will sell in 40-50 weeks time,” he said. The supply chain of the future, underpinned by new technology, is predicated by speed.

Invisibility

While technology is so central to the NRF scene, the discussion for retailers is increasingly around how to make this invisible for consumers. “The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see,” said Levi’s brand president James JC Curleigh. He talked to the idea of complete simplicity on the front end, all the while there’s increasing sophistication behind-the-scenes. Intel’s chief innovation officer, Stacey Shulman, agreed with this point, telling us: “Technology should never be at the forefront from a consumer perspective, it just needs to be the helper at the back. It’s what enables sales associates to get back to the customer and back to what’s important.”

Frictionless

In the context of NRF, the word “omnichannel” is an oft-overused one. This year, however, it was the idea of making retail frictionless that was bandied about more predominantly. Neiman Marcus’ Katz talked to this as being one of the organization’s greatest challenges. Calling it frictionless retail is about having greater scope for every touchpoint, she suggested. Nordstrom’s SVP of customer experience, Shea Jensen, meanwhile, told us her focus is on providing convenience; doing things in the context of continuously solving customer problems.

*Want to know which technologies we deemed most relevant from the show floor? Our team of startup scouts combed through the innovations demonstrated, examining and analyzing those of chief importance to retailers and brands today. Get in touch to find out more.