Ivan Temelkov
May 11, 2016

Why Facial Recognition Will Change Marketing Forever

Facial recognition is the next biggest trend – one that digital marketers need to pay strong attention to as it is taking front stage in marketing trends. Recently, MasterCard announced selfie payments – a payment method using a selfie from a smartphone to pay for a bill. A clear indication that facial recognition will also play a huge part in digital marketing with consumers.

In the case of MasterCard, selfie payments will be a new means of authentication. But it is also a clear indication of how personal affinity from a consumer perspective also plays a huge factor in this endeavor. By 2020, the facial recognition market will reach a $6 billion worth. Not a small chunk of change by any means. Companies like MasterCard are obviously making strides towards facial recognition already. Snapchat’s geo filters and special facial recognition effects are also aimed in this direction.

Did you know that companies like Facebook have also been using facial recognition for quite some time now? Sure you do. It was the last time you tagged someone in a photo. Chances are that Facebook even made recommendations on who that person is in the photo using predictive intelligence. Quite clever, right?

How Facial Recognition Technology Works

In essence, facial recognition technology functions on very basic principles. It is a biometric piece of software that utilizes a unique algorithm to identify with facial features of each individual in a digital image and pinpoint certain patterns. For instance, in the case of Facebook, each facial recognition exercise invoked on a digital image entails in pinpointing certain elements of one’s face. The algorithm tends to evaluate the distance from one person’s mouth to their nose, nose to eyes, mouth to eyes, etc. In doing so, it can also predict more easily over the course of time, certain patterns and ultimately, authenticate the identity of an individual.

Facebook’s facial recognition technology has a 97% accuracy rate of authenticity. Mind blowing, right? So much so that it even surpasses the current accuracy of FBI’s security technology. That is actually a bit sobering though.

Facial Recognition is NOT New

Google is one of the other companies that has been using facial recognition technology for some time now as well. Well, maybe not in the literal sense of facial recognition. Data personalization has been a dominant part of Google in their effort to customize the nature of user content. For instance, many of us have a Gmail account these days. The next time you are logged into your Gmail account, perform a search query on Google. Then, open an incognito tab or a separate browser where you are browsing Google publicly and then perform the same search query. Take a closer look at the SERP (Seach Engine Results Page) and how each search result is positioned. Don’t be surprised if both SERP views vary.

Google personalizes SERPs for logged-in users vs public users. Quite evident as to why as well for obvious reasons. This method was also quite intricate in the earlier days of Google+. Especially in the effort to invoke stronger community development and engagement of its users. Other social media platforms such as Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat are also using facial recognition to help boost their user base.

Evolution of Facial Recognition Technology in Business

During the next 5 years you will see a huge inclination towards facial recognition technologies. A good portion of existing technologies, for that matter, will be replaced. Why? Consumers are all about exposure and personalization these days. I mentioned the case of MasterCard using selfies as a payment method. In the same respect, new facial recognition technology will allow the users to personalize their shopping experience. A vast majority of this has to do with authentication and also added security.

You see, geo-fencing is currently a huge part of digital advertising. Especially in the way companies attempt to engage with consumers based on their shopping behavior. That geo-fencing type technology will most likely evolve or even be replaced. As consumers we are willing giving away our personal information to brands. This includes our fingerprints, geo-location, photos, and even storing certain shopping preferences. Many companies are not fully leveraging these features to invoke targeted consumer engagement.

Truth be told a good portion of companies these days including marketing agencies are throwing marketing dollars towards campaigns that are not strategically focused.

Privacy & Consent Debacle

Facial recognition technology faces a plethora of challenges. One of the main ones consists of privacy. In today’s fast-paced digital world many consumers are heavily concerned about the privacy aspect behind it. Accuracy in facial recognition technology also remains a questionable area for many consumers. What if a malfunction occurs and it creates a problematic situation for a consumer? While privacy is one area of concern, consent remains an unresolved territory. Acquiring permission for facial recognition technology usage may in fact be difficult to accomplish. A lot of hinges on privacy from consumer standpoint. However with the transparency in social media, this may in fact be a lot more feasible to accomplish than anticipated.

Snapchat now has over 200 million users of which half of those engage on daily basis. Facebook’s user base is exceeding 1.5 billion people. LinkedIn acquires 2 new users every second with a projected goal of 3 billion (currently 433 million). Pinterest is the largest visual and image-driven search engine in the world.

Sure, on a mass scale there might still be privacy and consent issues with consumers. However, judging by the stats above these are areas that brands will certainly overcome.

Get In While You Can

Early adoption can be challenging for many brands. Truth be told, many companies are hesitant towards early adoption for perfectly valid reasons. For example, there can be ramifications due to unforeseen deficiencies. Sure, any piece of technology, software, or even business tactic while in its infancy may in fact result in some unknown drawbacks. However, for the most part there usually are some advantageous components that will definitely yield new business potential.

Do you remember when Snapchat was deemed as nothing more than a sexting app? Perhaps, you also remember when nobody thought that Facebook would dominate MySpace. How about not realizing that the web is the next greatest thing to sliced bread? Well, something like that anyway.

Technology will evolve. Some old tech will be be diminished or disappear. The same methodology applies to business. Facial recognition technology will play a huge role in day-to-day consumer engagement. Certain industries such as automotive, marketing, and retail will probably be one of the first few to fully embrace facial recognition technology.


Image: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_julos‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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A digital marketing practitioner bringing nearly two decades of seasonality to the table with emphasis on Search, Social, & Content. I'm enthused about helping small businesses increase their digital footprint by utilizing the power of technology, web, strategic thinking, and targeted execution for maximum market penetration. CEO of @RazorSharpDigit, a human-centric digital brand but can be found @ivan_temelkov on Twitter as well.