The pandemic vastly altered consumer behavior and shopping habits, and the retail industry underwent a drastic change to adapt to serve their needs. Curbside pickup, omnichannel shopping and contactless payment dominated the market. Brands invested heavily in these resources and consumers quickly adapted to these new trends, setting new expectations for shopping experiences that will continue for years. It became clear that companies who adopted technological advances that ensured convenient, safe and faster service would exceed in the ‘new normal’ of shopping. The next advancement retailers can invest in to guarantee a higher level of security not only for consumers, but also themselves, is facial recognition technology.
The pandemic caused an immediate need to avoid coming in contact with a surface someone else may have touched. Sanitation became a highly sought-after differentiator that drove demand for businesses that could ensure their customers would be safe. Contactless payment was already experiencing growing adoption, but the pandemic served as a catalyst, and usage skyrocketed. In fact, contactless payment in this country has risen 150% since March of 2019. While contactless payment is a great option for consumers, it can develop even further when integrated with facial recognition technology.
Minimizing the Risk of Contracting COVID-19
Right now, the main priority for every retail technology company should be the health of its customers. Companies that are able to seamlessly merge safety protocols into the shopping experience have been rewarded with high consumer sentiment and increased sales. Although wearing masks and social distancing is the recommended course of action to limit the chance of virus exposure, contactless payment combined with facial recognition technology can help reduce the odds that shoppers transmit the virus. With facial recognition-enabled payment methods, consumers no longer need to touch their wallets, phones, touch-screen cash registers, or any payment device that someone else might have touched before them. Also, facial recognition companies still strongly advocate for the use of masks, as systems can correctly identify users with an accuracy rate of 96%, according to The Department of Homeland Security. By allowing less contact, facial recognition technology furthers health and safety standards and provides consumers with a seamless checkout experience in stores.
Protection Against Fraud
Facial recognition also offers consumers an additional layer of security against fraudulent account activity, giving some extra peace of mind. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission reported that credit card fraud was the most common type of identity theft. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit its first peak in the U.S. in April 2020, fraudulent transaction attempts rose by 35%. As a standalone payment method, facial verification can stop fraudulent transaction attempts; thieves would be unable to purchase items by posing as someone else. The technology also serves as a deterrent to criminals before they even enter a store. If synced with watchlists of convicted criminals, the technology can alert employees and workers that they should be cautious if someone with a history of retail theft enters their store. Advanced warning and preparation on behalf of retailers can help curb the increasing number of shoplifting incidents in some verticals. Facial recognition acts as secure means of identity protection, as it validates a customer’s identity during a transaction in real-time. Without the consent of a shopper and a positive match to their biometric characteristics, a purchase cannot be completed.
How Consumers and Retailers can Benefit
With widespread rollout of facial recognition transactions, stores and consumers can expect a faster, more convenient and safer pickup or purchasing experience. Stores can see immediate advantages, as well, as facial verification can be used to ensure restricted merchandise is sold to consumers of appropriate ages. Retailers would have a supplementary layer of security knowing that they are not at risk of losing licenses as a result of purchases made using false identification. Also, retailers are protected from another type of fraudulent activity that became more common when retailers deployed curbside pickup and contactless offerings – impersonation. With transactions supported by facial recognition technology, consumers picking up a take-out order or via curbside pickup would have to verify that they are who they say they are, resulting in less theft and retail shrink.
Generation X, millennials and generation Z have already expressed their willingness to pay and share data for personalization that brings them safety, saves time and provides a financial benefit. It is important to understand that while facial recognition comes at no cost to consumers, it delivers an improved shopping experience. In a comparative analysis, fraudsters have more available methods and a higher chance of spoofing a consumer’s credit card than they do someone’s biometric signature. If the health benefits and protection against fraud that facial recognition technology provides was not enough, pairing it with a sense of security that one’s personal bank account is safeguarded makes facial recognition technology second-to-none.