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Consumers: Facial Recognition is Still Creepy, Personalized CX Not So Much

Posted on 6.27.2017
As far back as 2015, more than half of consumers said it was important that retailers recognize them as the same person across all channels and devices that they use to shop. There has always been a theoretical line, however, that consumers do not want retailers to cross when it comes to what degree their data is used to create unique experiences for them.

RichRelevance_CoolCreepy_US-FINALMeasuring this "creepiness" factor, RichRelevance has released the findings of its third annual “Creepy or Cool” international survey. Some of the highlights of the report can be found in the infographic on the right (click to zoom). Among the most notable stats, is that the majority of U.S. respondents (63 percent) said they would allow retailers to collect more customer data to improve the customer experience – and most say it should be collected anonymously (40 percent).

Consumers are certainly warming up to data collection, but not all practices are welcomed. When asked about facial recognition technology that identifies them as a loyal customer and relays their preferences to the salesperson in-store, 69 percent of respondents said it was "creepy" and 18 percent said it was "cool."

To gather more insights on this report, Website Magazine caught up with RichRelevance Chief Marketing Officer Diane Kegley:

What were some changes in this year’s study that surprised you compared to either previous years’ results or current trends?

Kegley, RichRelevance: The store is changing as retailers embrace digital experiences to attract and engage shoppers. The same level of data, analytics and personalization that have defined the rise of e-commerce are being applied to the physical environment. It is an incredibly exciting time as new mobile experiences, robots, virtual reality enter the mainstream.

We started this study three years ago to help marketers identify which digital experiences are resonating with shoppers today – and to understand the fine line between creepy and cool when it comes to new technology. Year over year, the study has consistently shown that what shoppers like it terms of new digital experiences are the ones that deliver value on their own terms, when they choose to engage.

This year, we explicitly asked about customer data and we were surprised at how willing consumers are to share more data in exchange for a good customer experience. This is further proof that consumers crave a good experience and are willing to participate in making that happen.  This is a huge finding for marketers looking at every channel, not just the store.

Facial recognition has been the creepiest technology for consumers, and this year was no exception. However, we were surprised to see that fingerprint scanning, on the other hand, was one of the coolest. Marketers need to fight the temptation to look at categories like biometrics or artificial intelligence as broadly good or bad, useless or valuable, and pay attention to how specific applications of technology can benefit (or alienate) different parts of their customer base.

Looking to holidays 2017, what can this year’s study tell retailers about where they should be focusing their attention this summer?

Kegley, RichRelevance: With all the recent news on store closings, and now Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, everyone is going to be watching the store this holiday.  Digital experiences in the store offer a tremendous opportunity to stand out, but it is essential to really look at your audience as you implement new features. Our survey shows that what shoppers find valuable often varies significantly depending on age. For example, a Millennial-focused brand may want to invest in new virtual reality technology while this is less important for a mass market retailer who serves all ages.
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