A new report from Transparency Market Research estimates that the facial analytics market is set to reach nearly $2.7 billion by 2022, growing about 10 percent per year. While increased demand for surveillance systems is a big part of the jump, demand from industries like retail are also driving the growth.
There are various types of face recognition, The Atlantic notes. Face detection software recognizes a face—like how software in smartphone cameras auto-focuses on faces. In addition to the presence of a face, facial characterization technology can determine other characteristics like race and age, prompting “smart billboards,” like a German videoscreen billboard for Astra (a beer brand) that only serves up ad content when a woman walks by.
Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and web cameras, companies are able to play around with recognition technology in new ways to make tasks easier for consumers or enhance their shopping experience. Warby Parker, for example, has employed face recognition to let buyers try on virtual pairs of glasses. Users simply upload a picture of themselves to virtually try on as many frames as they like.
Sephora’s augmented reality mirror, available only in its Milan store, is perhaps a precursor of what makeup shopping could be like one day. A screen captures facial features and virtually applies makeup to the image, allowing the user to try out as many looks as she desires before buying. Such technology could lift store traffic by 120 percent, the mirror’s creators claim.
But recognition software isn’t just about shopping. Brands are using the technology to create unique experiences that enhance users’ lives. Listerine created a mobile app that helps people with blindness “see” smiles by detecting when others around are smiling. The video content describing the app is highly emotional, featuring four blind people who talk about the how not knowing how whether someone is smiling affects them. Their reactions to “seeing” smiles is especially moving.
While recognition technology seems poised to be a marketing game-changer, consumer skepticism about the use of that technology should give companies pause. Seventy-five percent of consumers would not shop at a store using face recognition technology for marketing purposes, a First Insight survey found. However, 55 percent said they would be open to the technology if they knew a benefit was associated with it, such as discounts.
The data suggest that face recognition can be embraced by consumers, as long as they understand how it will be used and what benefits it can bring. That could be a boon for marketers who can think creatively about using the tech to serve consumers.
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