Biometrics are biological measurements – fingerprints, facial recognition and even certain demographics – used to identify us, and their impact on retail analytics is popping up in surprising ways.

What can biometrics do?

Whispers abound of a potential revolution in the way the retail industry engages with consumers. When they are applied to determine demographics such as age and gender, biometrics bring the in-person, in-store shopping world more in line with digital. Whenever consumers shop online, retailers can see what we’ve browsed for, how long we’ve spent clicking around, and which items we’ve put into our basket. When shoppers arrive in-store, on the other hand, short of following people around the shop it is simply not possible to gather this decidedly valuable information. Enter biometrics.

Seamless shopping

Envision the purchase journey starting online, at which point data on shopping habits and demographics are automatically collected. When customers subsequently enter an actual shop, they are identified using facial recognition or a ping from their smartphone. Pertinent information about their history and preferences is immediately beamed to a sales associate’s tablet, which arms the associate to provide a personalised shopping experience, including one-off promotions and tailored product suggestions. While the customer enjoys the personalisation, the retailer encourages repeat business. The more customers shop, the more developed their data profile becomes.

Some banks have already caught on to the technology. First Direct uses voice recognition (no digging out that pesky password), and the likes of Carphone Warehouse are using biometric signatures to bring customers into the fold much faster and to reduce fraud. For retailers with bigger, pricier wares, expect to see the technology applied to a stylus that recognises hand pressure, saving time and adding an extra layer of security.

More new tech

Biometric innovation is being applied to security tags, smaller than the current batch, which can be removed by employees only. Each tag is allocated to the employee who sold the item, so if it goes missing it is easily traceable. Biometric clocks can sign in employees automatically and curb the over-payment of wages due to aggressive early sign-ins and late sign-outs. Given the way that technology typically moves, which is to say in directions that are often difficult to anticipate, the possibilities for applying these advancements to enhance the retail experience, both for shoppers and the businesses that serve them, feel rather countless.