The answer to retail’s problems might be written all over the customer’s face – literally!
The massive shift we’ve seen towards online buying in recent years isn’t going anywhere – online sales figures are growing by over 10% every year, leaving traditional “brick and mortar” retailers struggling for answers. The best and brightest minds in retail seem to be arriving at the same conclusion – just as independent, mom-and-pop businesses around the globe have met the challenge of competing with franchises and supermarkets by placing a new emphasis on customer service, tomorrow will belong to the businesses that are the best at creating unique, personalized customer experiences.
Reading a “poker face”
As with nearly everything in life, there’s an app for that. Back in the 1970’s, Doctors Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen postulated that there are seven core emotions that are universally conveyed by facial expressions - happiness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust, contempt and sadness. Fast forward to today, and with the development of modern facial recognition technology by companies like Emotient, a San Diego-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to identify how people are feeling, it’s now possible to capture and record “micro-expressions” – the tiny emotional “tells” that show on people’s faces before they can control them. Emotient’s software can, for example, tell you if someone is smiling with only their mouth but not with their eyes. How useful could this kind of info be to a business seeking to understand its customers and creating a unique, personalized experience for them?
The “moody” blues
Apple, for one, seems to think that it could be priceless – they bought Emotient in 2016 and are currently offering advanced emotional analytics in the form of their Moodies app, which can reveal the true feelings of anyone who talks about their thoughts for 20 seconds. It doesn't analyze the meaning of the words – in fact, it doesn't even listen to them, which is why it’s adaptable to almost any language on the planet. Instead, it listens to the intonations and nonverbal clues behind the words. The company is licensing the app to software developers and device makers, and a wide variety of third-party apps are already on the market.
ITMAGINATION has also taken our first foray into the field of AI and customer behavior through our “Behaviolytics” concept, which is aimed at the financial services industry. The goal of Behaviolytics is to use sophisticated predictive AI to create a reliable, individual model of customer behavior so that the system can be a helpful assistant, taking care of a customer’s finances and showing them the best actions to take. It matches, to the maximum possible extent, the bank’s offers and proposals to a customer, predicts the customer’s future needs, and creates new ones. Of course, it doesn’t forget about regular everyday tasks either – with a bit of tweaking, it can remind you to buy flowers for your significant other or pay your electric bill!