The retail industry is struggling, especially as consumers shift to shopping online.
A Morgan Stanley report from May claimed that by 2020, Amazon would hold 19% of the apparel market share.
Retailers are desperately trying to figure out how to salvage sales and get people into their stores.
One way they’re doing that is by trying to making shopping more “personal” and tech-savvy.
According to a report from The Guardian from earlier this year, department store Saks utilises facial-recognition technology. It’s “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,” video intelligence firm 3VR’s CEO, Al Shipp, said to The Guardian.
But some of these potential ways to engage consumers could backfire — and consumers think they’re kind of terrifying, too. Most concerning? The aforementioned facial recognition technology.
Retail Touch Points cites a recent study from RichRelevance which surveyed 1,018 U.S. consumers. The study revealed that a whopping 67% of the surveyed consumers “think it’s creepy when retailers use facial recognition technology to identify prior shopping habits and relay this information to a salesperson.”
Things that seem benign on the surface may be more of a subject for concern than general use of tis kind of technology, though.
“Much of the excitement about facial recognition comes with putting a face to all those aggregated bits of data collected through loyalty programs, point of sale records and other sources,” reporter Chris Frey wrote in The Guardian. “Make a purchase at a Saks store and the clerk will likely ask for a driver’s licence or credit card, presumably to create a customer profile.”
And what if that customer profile led to salespeople saying hello to you by name? It may make shoppers uncomfortable. RichRelevance’s report also notes that 64% of the surveyed shoppers would be unpleasantly surprised — or “creeped out” — should a salesperson use an app that cues them to say hello to them by name, as hospitable as that may seem to be.
These efforts to personalise the shopping experience — or simply collecting information — raises concerns about privacy.
“What happens once you’ve stored someone’s data with a profile based on their face?” Ottawa-based privacy expert Geoff White said to The Guardian. “How safe is it from hackers? Who has access to that information, and what other types of information is it being correlated with.”
Other new technology might be making consumers uncomfortable, too. According the RichRelevance report, 41.9% of consumers surveyed said that digital screens inside dressing rooms were also “creepy” — but 41.5% said they were “cool.” 37% said that offering location-based information was also “creepy.”
That’s not to say that consumers are completely averse to using technology when they’re shopping. Retail Touch Points notes that 79% aren’t bothered by the notion of scanning a product to see reviews and recommendations.
It’s just that there may be such a thing as getting too personal and too close for comfort.
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