Facebook, Face Recognition Technology and Marketing

Thanks to Facebook, facial recognition technology is now a part of our everyday lives. Our subscription to being face-printed is almost seamless and without thought as we contribute to refining Facebook’s massive face-print database by uploading images to the social network and Instagram, then tagging the images with names of people we know. Marketers have not been left out of the fun. Businesses can now access face-print database systems procured by Facebook and some government agencies to target shoppers and offer them special deals when they walk into a store or are in close proximity.

Why are retailers using face-print for marketing?
According to independent researcher and consultant, Ashkan Soltani, the goal is to know customers and provide the right deals to them that will generate a sale. Some stores are now outfitted with digital signage/cameras that can estimate their customers’ sex and age – information that is then used to generate coupons and deals at checkout.

How can mainstreaming facial recognition improve business?
A key challenge for businesses is getting an understanding of their sales-cycle and what drives their conversion rates. Retailers today can turn to “enhancements” to make better projections and gain a 360° view into their customers’ habits. Data “enhancement” describes the workings of online-offline technology with the ability to observe your target’s online activities and learn how it influences their offline behaviors. For example, through this online-offline technology advertisers can know how many times Jane Doe needs to see an ad online before she walks into a store and actually purchase a product – the loop is completed as credit card companies share their clients purchasing data with Facebook and similar ad trafficking platforms. Even if customers pay with cash, stores can still track their return on investment (ROI) by matching customer profiles with face-print information. This insight is great for making projections and maximizing the value of a business’ advertising dollars.

Do customers have privacy concerns?
Yes, but our guess is that the concern about government agencies sharing the data they acquire for the public good (with retailers), is greater than the worry a customer has over being tracked and marketed to because they joined a social network.

The fact is, at over 800 million subscribers, Facebook is one of the world’s largest face-print database systems. Its effectiveness at remote biometric identification grew with the acquisition of face.com and Instagram. Connecting facebook’s database with sales and marketing data is a win for retailers and is changing the way we market to our target markets.

To learn more about the benefits and concerns of facial recognition software technology, listen to “Using Facial Recognition Software” hosted by Kojo Nnamdi on NPR affiliate, WAMU.