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In March 2018 convenience store chain 7-Eleven introduced facial recognition to all its 11,000 stores in Thailand. The stores will use KanKan AI technology by US-based firm Remark Holdings to identify loyalty members, suggest products to customers, analyze in-store traffic, monitor product levels and even gauge the emotions of customers as they browse.

Sounds a bit Black Mirror, sure. But use of facial recognition technologies in retail has already gained traction in Asia, particularly in China. Examples like BingoBox’s staffless store in Shanghai, KFC’s facial recognition pay station in Hangzhou, and more recently Alipay’s Future Pharmacy in Zhengzhou all helped set the standard. The crucial point to remember? While China sets new customer expectations of tech-driven, in-store personalization and service, the rest of the world will follow. We recently featured US candy store Lolli and Pops, which announced it will launch an in-store facial-recognition-enabled experience for its VIP customers this year. How long before bigger brands pick this up?

In-store facial recognition technology also means access to a goldmine of consumer data. Information on customer journeys around the store, shopping behaviors and emotional state will allow retailers to build detailed models of the individual customers they serve. Pretty soon, these retailers will start to know customers and their deep, often unconscious preferences better than customers know themselves – a trend we called DEEP RETAIL in our recent report on The Future of Retail. So, two questions to consider. How could you put facial recognition technology to work to deepen your understanding of your customers? And how will you meet rising expectations that you know customers better even than they know themselves?

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