Personalized Shopping Experience

Face recognition technology is used by retailers to identify known shoplifters as they enter a store and alert security staff to their presence.  The same technology can be used in stores to support customer relationship management and offer a personalized shopping experience. 

As more customers choose to shop online, retailers need to identify opportunities to bring customers to the high street store.  In addition, when customers enter a physical store, retailers need to maximize the selling opportunities to the individual when they enter the store.  Click and collect type services provide the opportunity for customers to benefit from the convenience of online shopping, and collect or return items to a physical store.  This also provides retailers with the opportunity to promote related products and services to the customer when they visit the store.

Whilst the security applications of face recognition are becoming well established, interest is now moving towards exploring how face recognition could be used in other commercial applications, such as how to improve customer relationship, promote products and provide context aware applications.  Some retailers are trialling the use of face recognition technology to identify individual customers as they enter the store and then to send details to the customer’s mobile phone about special offers, discounts and new products that may be of interest to them.

Such applications require information to be retrieved about an individual when their face has been recognized entering the store.  This may include their recent shopping transactions, social media profiles, age and gender.  The technology provides the opportunity to use demographic type markers segmentation techniques combined with personalization, in real time to respond to the event of a customer entering a store.

Providing personalized service requires accurate data to be maintained about an individual customer and for the data to be retrieved, processed and acted on very quickly. This requires clean reliable data but also requires an understanding of context so that relevant information can be provided to the customer.  It is important that only relevant information to the shopping trip context is provided.  Inappropriate or unwanted recommendations sent to customers via email for example, irritate customers and if the experience is repeated in store, the irritation will lead to a negative shopping experience.

Information about individual customers can also be provided to shop staff so they can greet customers by name, or enquire about how they enjoyed a previous purchase.  This increases the humanization of the shopping experience, returning to traditional values where a shopkeeper knows their customers and customers feel valued.  However, this relies on accurate information as greeting a customer by the wrong name or enquiring about a purchase they did not make will adversely affect customer relationships.

There is also the issue of privacy.  Customers consent for information about their shopping habits to be analysed in return for special offers rewarding their loyalty.  Using the same information with customers when they are in store adds another dimension to the customer relationship that needs to be carefully considered to ensure confidentiality is maintained.  For example, Mr and Mrs Smith are in the supermarket and the cashier says ‘Hello Mr Smith, were you happy with your recent purchase of our large bouquet of flowers?’ Mrs Smith may be very pleased or this could trigger a range of domestic disputes or spoil some surprises.

Customers want to feel that organizations value their custom and a personalized shopping experience seeks to develop and sustain relationships with customers.  Personalized shopping experiences rely on the appropriate and sensitive use of accurate information.  Information is only of use if it is accurate and presented is such a way that it can be acted upon.  More information is therefore needed about the individual shopping context in order to provide individual customers and store staff with information that is relevant to their personalized shopping experience that they can act on whilst they are in the store.


Further Reading: personalized information is discussed in Chapter 15.

 Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:

Cox, S. A., (2014), ‘Personalized Shopping Experience’, 19 December 2014,, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]


© 2014 Sharon A Cox