Facial recognition technology has everyone in an uproar. Privacy advocates and consumers alike are fearful of its possible uses; but, one company believes the controversial technology can be a consumer’s best friend, and has an app to prove it.
Started in the “invention lab” of Redpepper advertising agency in Nashville, Tennessee, Facedeals has developed an app that uses facial recognition technology to deliver local, personalized deals straight to a user’s smartphone.
While the app is still in beta-testing, Facedeals CEO Dave McMullen says the company is looking to launch in multiple locations by early to mid 2014.
“We launched the concept video last September,” said McMullen. Since then, Facedeals has garnered the spotlight from numerous media outlets, including AdWeek, CNN, MSNBC, and Wired along with many others. In May of this year, McMullen was interviewed by Leslie Stahl for a segment on 60 Minutes.
When asked about the privacy concerns around facial recognition technology, McMullen is quick to point out that consumers are already being monitored nearly nonstop, with security cameras in most establishments, location apps tracking your every step and credit card companies collecting exponential amounts of purchasing data.
“Facedeals flips all this tracking on its head by allowing the user to take control,” says McMullen. According to Facedeals CEO the app is 100 percent opt-in, “If you’re not in our system, we don’t record or track anything about you. Consumers have the power to build their own profile and share it with brands when and where they want.”
Marketing Land recently interviewed the much sought after CEO, getting answers to our five most pressing questions about the Facedeals app.
5 Questions with Facedeals CEO Dave McMullen
Amy Gesenhues: Can you explain how Facedeals’ facial recognition technology works?
Dave McMullen: Facedeals, one of the latest technologies to come out of our redpepper lab, uses a camera to scan faces and, when it recognizes the face of a registered, opt-in user, it sends them a special deal from the location they’re visiting.
For example, if I’m a Facedeals user who has opted-in and set my preferences to include Buffalo Wild Wings and Budweiser, when I walk into the restaurant, my face is scanned, and a special offer, such as a 2 for 1 Bud, would be sent almost immediately to my mobile phone.
Facedeals is a technology that makes peoples’ lives easier and helps brands truly connect with consumers.
Amy Gesenhues: How far are you from releasing the official version of the Facedeals app, and have you launched any beta versions with results you can share?
Dave McMullen: We’re still in development at the moment so there aren’t any locations that are publicly using Facedeals. Testing programs are ongoing and we’ll continue to dial in the technology to produce the best possible experience for our members.
The results – based on interest – have been amazing. We’ve had calls from and conversations with large brands across many industries, including retail, hospitality, beverage, grocery, consumer goods and more.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see Facedeals fitting into a business’ social media marketing efforts and impacting their overall online marketing success?
Dave McMullen: Consumers are getting wise and marketers must follow suit. Consumers know how to avoid (or even block out entirely) marketing ploys that offer no redeeming value to them. What we have learned is that people are actually open to marketing if it is relevant to them. Relevant means timely, personal, and local.
Deals, offers and services should arrive when they are ready to consider a purchase. That’s timely. Personal means brands have to know their customers’ preferences, likes and dislikes. And local is important because that’s where we live our lives. Most shopping and eating happens only a few miles from our homes.
We also know that convenience plays a big role in a consumer’s behavior. Coupons, specials and loyalty programs that require too much effort or that we have to remember to use the next time we’re in a shopping environment are just inconvenient and frequently get forgotten.
Facedeals is timely, personal, local and passive. It’s hard to get more relevant and convenient than that. Simply put, Facedeals is a breakthrough in the way that brands can interact and build relationships with consumers.
Amy Gesenhues: What has been the initial reaction from consumers and how do you respond to privacy advocates who fear facial recognition technology is crossing a boundary best left alone?
Dave McMullen: Facedeals has not rolled out to the public, but initial reaction from media, brands and consumers alike have been tremendously positive. We’ve had global media coverage from CNN and 60 Minutes to TechCrunch and AdWeek. Numerous household name brands have also inquired about using the technology – not to mention consumers who are ready to jump on the bandwagon.
In order to use the Facedeals app, consumers must download the app and opt in. Double opt-in technology ensures no one is signed up without their permission.
Although many consumers feel facial recognition as well as other emerging technologies will invade their privacy, it is no different than where we are right now. For instance, as soon as I arrive at Starbucks, or any establishment really, my smartphone determines my location and every app with location “on” knows where I am. As I walk into the store, I stare into a security camera that records my every move, then make a purchase using my Visa or Amex card. But, none of these tactics actually add value to the consumer. Facedeals does and it gives the consumer the ability to control the deals they receive without interrupting their day to day lives.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see facial recognition technology evolving as a marketing strategy; what are the benefits – and challenges – for businesses and consumers?
Dave McMullen: Marketing is changing at the speed of technology. Technology like Facedeals – and our other marketing solutions – give brands the opportunity to connect with their consumers in a more measurable and interactive way. Facebook, check-in apps and services that offer special discounts have not only changed the marketing landscape and consumer expectations, they benefit both the consumer and retailers.
Consumers want deals. Retailers want sales, and these days they also want to learn as much as possible about their consumers. With this particular technology, businesses will no longer need to test which offers will stick. Patrons will no longer plan outings with a deal-a-day mindset, but can simply frequent their favorite spots and count on being rewarded with something they actually value. Brands will be top-of-mind for consumers while they’re in their establishment ready to purchase and consumers will have the motivation to check-in that’s currently missing.