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Your Face is the Future of Targeted Marketing. Here's Why Businesses Should Use Facial Recognition Facial recognition technology compliant with global data privacy laws can open new doors for targeted marketing campaigns.

By Yasin Altaf Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Targeted marketing is nothing new. Many businesses use acquired data to target advertising and awareness toward a specific audience group. By gathering demographic and behavioral data, they define the subset of the audience most likely to be interested in a product or service and only send out ads through targeted social media campaigns, SMS marketing, email marketing and PPC campaigns.

Using facial recognition to target advertising is a newer phenomenon that is getting a lot of traction in different industry verticals but has not been widely adopted by businesses yet. Even companies that have introduced them, like Walgreens, have faced backlash because of privacy and ethical concerns.

Related: 17 Amazing -- and Surprising -- Uses of Facial Recognition Technology

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition is an application of computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) that identifies human faces in images and video feeds.

Machines today can establish patterns in visual data and take intelligent actions based on these learnings. These smart algorithms identify either general classes of objects or specific objects within visual data. The insights that the programs gather from the data are then acted upon in the form of intelligent decision-making.

In the present day, there are countless applications of AI-driven facial recognition across various industries. Examples include biometric identification and verification, home security, automatic photo tagging, healthcare and pharmaceutics, cashier-less checkouts, and, of course, targeted advertising.

Facial recognition advertising case study: Walgreens

Walgreens, the American pharmacy store brand, was one of the first big names to roll out a public facial recognition advertising campaign through their 'smart coolers.' These were beverage fridges equipped with facial scanners for determining the age and sex of shoppers and installed in selected locations in 2019. Based on the information that the cameras gathered, the fridges targeted different ads toward different people.

For instance, if a beverage brand launched an ad campaign for young women and the facial scanner recognized a shopper as a teenage woman, the smart cooler displayed an ad specifically targeting them. The smart coolers also included iris tracking technology to collect data on the items most looked at.

Walgreens, however, faced public backlash and lawsuits under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

But is facial recognition advertising a bad thing? No. Despite the outrage against facial recognition technology based on data privacy concerns, we must understand that solid data privacy laws like GDPR regulate the use of personal data. If facial recognition technology complies with them, it can be a valuable asset for businesses to target their marketing campaigns toward a specific audience.

Many businesses are incorporating facial recognition software to improve brand advertising, becoming widely popular. Companies are also investing in custom-developing facial recognition software that is secure and compliant with data protection regulations.

Related: What Do Walgreens and the Cleveland Cavaliers Have in Common? They're Leading the Way in AI

Why businesses should consider facial recognition advertising

With proper privacy protocols and compliance with data protection, using facial recognition for advertising can be a valuable asset for businesses. Research shows that in the near future, facial recognition technology will make significant headway across industries.

Businesses using facial recognition to target their marketing efforts toward their potential user base can benefit in more ways than one. Here are the many advantages that you can achieve.

1. Define regular customers

Facial recognition technology can be used by businesses to identify customers or users who frequently make a purchase. This information can offer them deals and discounts to build customer loyalty. Companies can analyze common traits of their regular customers, such as their age and other demographic characteristics, to target their marketing toward people with similar attributes.

2. Conduct targeted product promotions

Businesses can make their advertising campaigns more effective by targeting a specific group of people in their product promotions. Like Walgreens's smart coolers, most organizations can adopt facial recognition technology to improve their advertising strategy and get the most out of their marketing budget.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

3. Run effective trials for new product

When a new product is launched, businesses can use behavioral data gathered through facial recognition to test it with a selected audience before rolling it out on a large scale. Several advanced face recognition software can detect and measure human emotions, evaluating how people respond to and interact with a newly launched product.

4. Evaluate store traffic at different locations

Facial recognition technology can be valuable for brick-and-mortar businesses with stores at multiple locations. Businesses can use AI-powered systems to count the number of store visitors at each location and determine which locations get the highest footfall numbers. They can investigate reasons for sluggish sales at locations that get less foot traffic and improve their retail.

Final thoughts

Facial recognition technology is a game-changer for businesses. It is the future of targeted advertising, and many organizations are gearing up to adopt facial recognition to improve marketing efforts and win over the competition. With the ability to scan faces and determine key attributes like age and emotions, face recognition technology empowers businesses with essential consumer data that can target product promotions and subsequently improve product offerings.

Yasin Altaf

Executive Director of GoodCore Software

Yasin Altaf is a co-founder of GoodCore Software, a leading software development company in the UK. With an entrepreneurial career of 20+ years and extensive experience in the B2B and tech industries, Yasin specializes in helping businesses overcome complex technological challenges.

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