Tesco’s future SuperMarket(ing) wants your face

Retail giant Tesco has been on a mission to modernise their business since investing £1 billion late last year into moving beyond the age-old ‘take a shelf-item to the checkout’ model used in stores for decades. Now they want to personalise the experience, by scanning your face.

Let’s take a look back at Tesco’s modernisation; the first step was “self-scan” checkouts, a fairly self-explanatory name where you scan and pack your own items.

This was followed by the “Scan as you Shop” initiative, again, fairly self-explanatory. Shoppers scan and pack their items into bags as they take them off the shelf - then pay at the designated checkout at the end.

Both of these new implementations has reduced checkout times and customer frustration, but Tesco is a retailer, and boosting those profits is of its foremost concern.

The latest innovation – being rolled out across all of Tesco’s petrol stations – uses technology from Sir Alan Sugar’s Amscreen company. In simple terms, the tech, called ‘OptimEyes’, will scan a customer’s face whilst they are fuelling up their vehicles – offering customised in-store ads.

Simon Sugar, CEO of Amscreen, told The Grocer magazine: "Yes it's like something out of Minority Report, but this could change the face of British retail and our plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible."

An example given is if a group of women enter at once; adverts for women’s magazines may be displayed around the store. The danger for unintended sexism, racism, ageism (or any of the other nasty discriminations) here is obvious.

It’s something which has been picked up quickly by the best place to gauge public reaction – the comment section of articles...

Grant Beckerleg, on the lack of an opt-out, says: “and if I don’t want my eyes scanned...?”

Alan Brinkworth has a clear stance: “I won't be going to Tesco for petrol anymore.”

Whilst Linda Clinker makes a point about the technology being potentially stereotypical: “Great. I HATE women’s magazines!!!”

With all the recent privacy concerns spurring from the NSA revelations – now may not be the best timing for Tesco to start scanning customers’ faces. The firm wants to assure that no data is held after the scan has been utilised for the marketing purposes - but is that enough?

Undoubtedly it will have its teething issues with the wider community, but it’s almost inevitable in a couple of years this kind of technology will become the norm and widely-accepted as the rise of M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and the “Internet of Things” comes into play.

Tesco should, perhaps, be given some due for trying to bring a modern-stance on a stale system.

What are your thoughts on Tesco’s new face scanning system and overall modernisation?

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