Almost 30% of retailers use facial recognition technology to track consumers in store

Retailers are using more technology in store to track customer behaviour, with the younger generation finding it useful for their shopping experience

Around 30% of retailers use facial recognition technology to track customers in-store, according to research by software firm CSC.

The study found 74% of shops are using technology to track customers when they are in the store, with a quarter of consumers believing it contributes to a positive shopping experience.

Of those who thought technology aided their in-store experience, 28% were aged between 16 and 24, with around half saying they were quite comfortable with retailers using in-store technology.

However, some argue that the younger generation are more accepting of such technologies because they are not fully aware of how their information is being used or the security implications associated with this.

“There was a real divide between what people found acceptable and unacceptable. Millennials are very accepting of retailers collecting data about them,” said Dave Baldwin, industry general manager of CSC’s UK retail business.

In addition, retailers admitted to using an increasing number of big data techniques, with 31% of retailers using technology to collect customer behavioural data to use for analytics.

However, with most customers wary of how the data is used and 14% of customers not knowing their data is collected at all, it was argued that more effort should go into better informing people about what data is being collected and how it is used.

“There was a big gap between the tech perceived to help customers and the tech that is perceived to help the retailer,” said Baldwin.

“Retailers have to work very hard to educate customers about why they are collecting information and how it is being used for their benefit, not the retailer’s benefit.”

Customers were divided over in-store technology, with more than half feeling comfortable with self-service kiosks and loyalty cards, but many feeling uncomfortable with the concept of data being collected about them.

More than 70% were uncomfortable with in-store technology recording details such as gender, age and time spent in-store, with a majority of over-55s age (72%) claiming they could not see the benefits in-store technology offers and they believed it to be intrusive.

“There is a difference between different age groups and how comfortable those age groups are with the use of tech,” said Baldwin.

When explaining how they use data, retailers were divided on what the term big data meant. Some admitted they were collecting data that may not currently be relevant with the hope they could “think of a use for it later”.

Ramanan Ramakrishna, CSC director and regional general manager of UK, Ireland and the Netherlands for emerging technology, said: “Consumers have concerns around data governance or data ownership. There’s a concern from consumers about who data belongs to.”

However, consumers are more comfortable with some data collection models than others, reacting better to opt-in models such as loyalty cards as opposed to a model where they do not have a choice, such as monitoring footfall or facial recognition.

“The whole concept of opting in versus opting out is taking paramount importance. When technologies are new, people have a level of comfort or discomfort with them, becoming more comfortable as time moves on,” said Ramakrishna.

“As long as retailers educate consumers on what they are using collected information for and give customers an opportunity to opt in or opt out, we will see consumers becoming more comfortable opting in with some of the data they might not be comfortable with today.”

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