A man looks at a projector screen that has a giant eyeball and a man's face.
PHOTO: Don Relyea

As facial recognition and eye-tracking technologies have emerged for marketers and customer experience  (CX) professionals, privacy concerns persist. We recently looked at the privacy scrutiny and potential new regulations requiring strict consent for facial recognition technology. And giants like Facebook and Google are under constant watch for respecting consumers’ private data.

Is it time to abandon these technologies that may amplify your CX game? Not quite yet, some say. While privacy should be paramount with technologies like eye- and facial-recognition, there are other considerations and lessons for marketers and CX professionals using these technologies to help power their campaigns and prospecting efforts.

Eye-Tracking Testing for Emails

One discovery we learned about is how eye-tracking can distinctively test for performance of emails. Justin Keller, vice president for marketing for email marketing company Sigstr, recently ran a campaign using eye-tracking software to measure the effects of a colorful display ad unit inserted into emails. The goal? Determine if that ad unit would get eyeballs. 

“An email is just a big white square with some text on it, but if you can inject a really colorful display unit in there, it's going to get eyeballs. And so that was our hypothesis,” said Keller. “The test actually born out extremely well. It was no contest at all: everyone's eyes zoomed to the bottom of that email. Every email you're going to send is going to get a really intense impression.” 

Related Article: Privacy Fears Grow As Facial Recognition Use Continues to Expand

Applications for CX Will Increase

Marketers and CX professionals should also know that with these AI-enabled technologies, we will see an increasing number of applications we haven’t seen before, including applications for CX, according to Peter Trepp, CEO for FaceFirst, a facial recognition platform. “With that in mind,” he added, “our point of view is that the goal of CX is to make every customer feel like a VIP. Brands need to understand which perks will achieve this goal and be attractive to early adopters. The answers will be slightly different for each brand, including personalized on-location service, expedited checkout, secure and frictionless transactions, contextual offers and more.” 

Once those factors are prioritized and locked down, Trepp said, then it’s a matter of plugging in API integrations to relevant areas of customer and product data, such as point-of-sale systems (POS), customer relationship management (CRM) and in-store communications. 

Data-Powered Experiences for Omnichannel 

Asked where specifically he sees organizations winning in CX with facial recognition, Trepp cited the retail industry. He said the win there “comes when we solve the biggest problems facing retail today. It’s amazing to think about how little retail has changed since its earliest days. However, it’s about to go through a major makeover.”

Some of the big early wins are:

  • Solving the problem of knowing who the customer is when they walk through the door and being ready to provide a customized service for that individual, much like an online experience today.
  • Using data as a tool to further support a positive and tailored CX.
  • Incorporating facial recognition applications into omni-channel.
  • Reducing checkout lines with pay-by-face technology.

Related Article: How Human-Computer Interaction Can Help Marketers

Getting Smart With Smartphones, Log-In

Rob Krugman, chief digital officer at Broadridge, a data and analytics provider for financial services, said the primary use case most consumers are familiar with is facial recognition within their smartphones. This application reduces friction and allows seamless access through the mobile device — or laptop (for those supporting facial/fingerprint recognition). For most of these applications, facial recognition is not a replacement for a username and password, but rather an association for a corresponding username and password, Krugman added. “Over time as organizations enable users to bring their own credentials, similar to a social log-in, systems will become more robust and secure, and eventually will not require username and password metrics,” Krugman said. “Rather, once systems are able to eliminate the friction, username and password credentials will be replaced by biometrics.”

When designing CX, it is imperative that companies remove as much resistance and encourage users to use facial recognition from the initial sign-up process, Krugman said. “Through this, the user will better understand that once completed, it will be much easier to access an app in the future.” Over time, Krugman added, facial recognition will lead to significantly stronger security and credentials, but the real “win” will be an elimination of friction and making it easier for customers and prospects to interact with your applications.

‘Cornerstone of Solid UI/UX Work’

One marketer is seeing great success with eye-tracking. Alan Lafrance, marketing strategy manager at Lawnstarter, said human computer-interaction, specifically eye-tracking, is a cornerstone of solid user interface and user experience design work. “You’ll get raw unadulterated feedback on what users are really looking for as they complete tasks, including what parts of your site are distracting, confusing or used in important decisions,” he said. “I’ve seen tremendous gains in customer satisfaction, conversion rate, churn reduction, policy awareness/adoption and even brand awareness from implementing lessons learned from these sessions.”