The global pandemic changed our world in so many ways — some good, some bad. Retail and hospitality industries were hit particularly hard. CoStar Group, a commercial real estate firm, estimates there were a record-breaking 12,200 brick-and-mortar store closures in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
The retail industry had to reimagine ways to reach customers that sparked a digital transformation. The industry experimented with new approaches to how we do business in order to streamline the customer experience. As a result of these new approaches, customers now expect a secure, seamless shopping experience whether they are shopping in-person or online.
One of the most common complaints customers have is waiting too long in checkout lines. It has been estimated that U.S. retailers that keep customers waiting in line can lose up to $100 billion annually — people leave or avoid the store completely. Retailers are now exploring innovative approaches, such as biometric authentication through facial recognition, to make the shopping experience faster and more enjoyable.
The Allure of Facial Recognition in Retail
The retail industry is built on the ideal of service. In its simplest form, the goal is to enable customers to purchase the products they want quickly and easily. Instead of the typical time-consuming payment process in stores, facial recognition technology can identify the customer and automatically charge their account for a fast, secure self-service checkout experience.
Identifying customers also can help retailers discreetly personalize their shopping experience. It’s an opportunity to advertise relevant products to the right customers to increase sales and create unique VIP experiences. Retailers can build positive relationships with shoppers at each in-store touch point as they shop, accelerate the checkout process and avoid credit card and identity fraud, since shoppers are accurately identified prior to each transaction.
In addition to improving overall customer satisfaction with a convenient and secure contactless checkout, facial recognition makes it easier for retailers to manage workforce productivity. Stores can be managed with a smaller ratio of staff to customers without sacrificing customer service.
Operationally, employees are able to quickly log in and out of POS terminals to assist customers with their purchases yet keep access to critical financial systems secured. Facial recognition is also a valuable addition to time tracking systems that prevents “buddy punching” when an employee is not actually in the store working. Access to secured areas in the store also can be effectively controlled with facial recognition technologies.
It’s not all Roses: Considerations of Facial Recognition
In simplest terms, facial recognition uses artificial intelligence (AI) to measure the features of a person to identify them. Concern has been expressed about potential privacy violations through undue tracking of individuals. Since the technology is not 100% accurate, some speculate about the potential risk of being misidentified.
Although facial recognition does not always accurately capture and match faces of certain ages, genders, skin tones or a combination of factors — especially in difficult lighting conditions — advances in AI and high performing face-match algorithms are closing the gap to an error rate of just 0.08%.
Common biometric “spoofing” tactics, like holding up a picture to fool the system into authorizing a sale, are no longer a threat. Cameras are now able to acquire and deliver live data that enables machine learning algorithms to perform Presentation Attack Detection (PAD) to reliably detect and reject fakes.
Retailers deploying facial biometrics must make a commitment to data responsibility principles based on security, privacy, transparency, control, accountability and integrity. Any facial recognition solution should include anonymous templates that ensure no facial images or other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is ever stored, networkwide encryption that protects sensitive data against breaches, and secure end-to-end transmission between data points to prevent data leaks.
All things considered, most agree the benefits outweigh the minimal risk. Facial recognition is a simple approach to ensure environments are monitored closely and to process queues that require identification quickly and securely.
Widespread Adoption of Facial Recognition Tech
Biometric authentication solutions are the best way to positively identify a person these days. IDs and documentation are good in most situations, but when making a positive identification is essential for the financial security of your business or the safety of other people, there is no room for error. Facial recognition technologies are the simplest way to dramatically reduce wait times and serve as a preventative security measure in access-sensitive locations, such as banks and airports.
Facial recognition is gaining traction in the banking and financial services industries because it adds a layer of protection against fraud and account takeover while delivering a more streamlined and stress-free customer experience. Banks are now able to offer next-level service through KYC (Know Your Customer) and enhance the banking experience for each customer at every touch point.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been using facial recognition technology as part of its Simplified Arrival program at its airport border control stations for years. Beyond better monitoring of people coming into the country, facial biometrics was chosen for its simplicity and speed. Verification now takes two to three seconds, rather than the 10 to 30 seconds required for manual verification. The program is so successful that the CBP is committed to expanding it to confirm the identities of at least 97% of international passengers using facial recognition technology by the end of this year.
Competitive Advantage of Facial Recognition
Implementing facial recognition in retail environments can clearly improve the customer experience with faster checkouts, better account security and personalized service. Ultimately, making it easier to do business with a retailer provides a competitive advantage that builds loyalty and keeps customers coming back.
Vito Fabbrizio is the Managing Director of Biometrics for Extended Access Technologies at HID. He has more than 20 years of experience in high-tech security hardware and software, driving strategic growth and product visibility for both mature and emerging markets. His unique blend of strategic and hands-on tactical skills has generated proven results to partners and customers in the security industry. For more information, go to: https://www.hidglobal.com/solutions/biometric-authentication.