November 15, 2018

Facial recognition is about to go mainstream: what does this mean for marketers?

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Facial recognition has hit the headlines over the past few weeks for a couple of reasons. The first – as I’m sure almost everyone will be aware of – is Apple’s adoption of the technology for the iPhone X. Instead of unlocking the phone with a passcode or fingerprint, iPhone X users will be able to access their device simply by looking at it.

At the same time in China, K Pro (a healthy offshoot of fried chicken restaurant, KFC) has launched a ‘smile to pay’ payment system. Customers walk up to a screen, it scans their face and if there is a match then the amount due is deducted from their account. This follows the use of facial recognition in Chinese KFCs earlier this year to predict what customers might order.

Clearly, with Apple’s integration of facial recognition into their latest smartphone and brands like KFC finding innovative ways to utilise the technology it is being propelled up the adoption ladder and will hit the mainstream sooner than it might have otherwise.

For facial recognition technology there are two stakeholders: the implementers (brands/organisations) and the end users (consumers). Clearly, with a behemoth like Apple on board the rate of organisational adoption is likely to accelerate quickly as other companies look to find ways to integrate the technology into their offering.

Additionally, consumer awareness and adoption will also grow quickly as the iPhone X percolates through society. It is not inconceivable that the late majority will be using facial recognition technology by the end of 2018 – an incredibly fast adoption rate. This demonstrates just how fast-moving the marketplace can be and how important it is for marketers to keep an eye on the macroenvironment – or risk being left behind.

Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow About Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow

Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh Business School. Part of the Marketing team, focusing on digital marketing.